The tourists in the high castle


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Europe » Germany » Bavaria » Passau
May 2nd 2018
Published: July 24th 2018
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Gasthof Zum KirechenwirtGasthof Zum KirechenwirtGasthof Zum Kirechenwirt

We woke up to yet another perfect day of weather. Our room was on the lower balcony at the far left.
We slept in an extra half hour and didn't take breakfast until 8:30. No need to explain how much I enjoyed it. There was only one other couple in the breakfast room. It's the custom in Germany to walk into the breakfast room and say “Guten Morgen” to the group in there. Everyone does it and no one even looks at you when you say it. A weird custom that I always forget to do when I enter the room.



On our way to Passau for a day of sightseeing we saw a Viking Cruise boat docked on the Danube miles away from the main Passau docks. We could see crew members swabbing the decks and loading supplies. Across the street was a Lidl store. We made an unscheduled stop.



We love shopping in Lidl. It's a great place for cheap souvenirs, snacks, first-aid and toiletries. We found a large bottle of Coke which is more expensive than beer in a restaurant. Here it was less than 1€. I also bought two chocolate bars which I completely forgot about until the last day of the trip when I found them melted inside a plastic bag
Still looking clean and meanStill looking clean and meanStill looking clean and mean

By now we were closing in on 2000 miles of driving in our new BMW. Now that driving it had become old hat I was beginning to get tired of this car. Just kidding.
under my driver's seat. I also bought a small container of curry powder to make my own Currywürst at home. While shopping in the store we saw a couple of the Viking crew members in their company polo shirts picking up snacks for their upcoming trip.



It was just a short drive from Lidl into Passau. We parked at the same municipal parking lot. Because it was such a beautiful day we paused to take some pictures from the Luitpold Hänge Brücke (Leopold suspension bridge ) which was in the midst of a major construction project. Stradling the riverbanks of the Danube we had a great view of the pleasure boats passing below us. From this vantage point we were able to determine where the sightseeing boats were moored. After taking more pictures than we could ever hope to ever look at we walked up to the

Donauschiffahrt (Danube boat trip) ticket office and bought passage on the city sightseeing boat cruise.



It wasn't all that exciting a cruise since we only sailed up the Danube for perhaps a mile, turned around to head back to the confluence of the rivers and head perhaps a half mile up the Inn River before going back to the dock. But the weather was perfect with nary a cloud in the sky. The breeze out on the river was refreshing and the hour passed quickly.



At this point you'd expect us to grab a couple of beers and/or eat. Even though we were standing in the courtyard of the Rathaus the thought never crossed our minds. That big breakfast was still in our tummies. We instead went inside the city tourism office located next to the Rathaus. We were interested in seeing the big fortress across the river up on the bluff. It just so happened that just a few steps away there was a van taking visitors to the Veste Oberhaus. For around $2.00 per person we were conveyed across the river and up a steep gradient to the castle complex.



Our driver wasn't exactly the poster boy for Passau tourism with his gruff demeanor and maniacal driving style but somehow we survived the 5 minute ordeal and were deposited just outside the fortress walls. My first impression after passing over the old stone bridge then through the heavy
Cassie's boatCassie's boatCassie's boat

Actually the company that Cassie works for runs this ship up and down the Danube. Seeing just how big and well appointed it seemed to be made us eager to add a cruise to our ever expanding travel bucket list.
wooden gate and into the whitewashed walls of the courtyard was not good. Just before us sat a group of junior high school kids obviously on a field trip. Naturally the boys were acting stupid showing off for the girls while the ladies frantically swiped away at their mobile phones pretending to ignore the choreographed preening of the males. But luck was on our side once again. Before they could become too much of an annoyance a teacher gathered the group and led them away from the museum ticket office where we were headed.



We spent a few minutes checking out the tiny souvenir shop before moving on into the castle museum. We spent the next hour and a half walking from room to room being educated on the history of the castle and life in medieval Bavaria.



The self-guided tour began with the somewhat boring display of excavated Roman ruins from the area. Lots of broken pottery, glass, a few old coins and piles of masonry didn't really pique my interest. Before long however, we were learning from interactive displays chronicling the importance of the salt trade traveling up and down Passau's rivers.
One more glance up at Veste OberhausOne more glance up at Veste OberhausOne more glance up at Veste Oberhaus

On the right side of this picture you can see the suspension bridge anchored to the opposite hillside.
Naturally, the clergy wanted a piece of the action and there were impressive exhibits of the Church's power as well as displays of the wealthy merchants' riches and conspicuous wealth. It really demonstrated the expanding power of the merchant guilds and their continuous conflict with the Catholic clergy.



A room full of armor and weapons greatly interested me as did the wall of torture devices. There were plenty of buttons to push, maps to read, video presentations to watch and artifacts to play with. Just when I thought we were at the end of the museum another room full of stuff opened for us. It was one of the best museums I've experienced in my forty plus years of European travel.



From there we went outside to take a gander at the views from atop the mountain. They were spectacular especially with the clear blue skies we were experiencing. We could see for miles up and down the rivers below us. Small wonder this strategic location was prime real estate. The only downside was that it was becoming a bit too warm for my liking. We skipped walking up to the farthest end of
Morning traffic on the DanubeMorning traffic on the DanubeMorning traffic on the Danube

Looking upriver from the suspension bridge we watched as numerous cruise ships left on their daily tours downriver to various Austrian cities in the Wachau Valley.
the castle because by now we were in need of a beer.



The ride back down from the castle was no less harrowing than the ascent but we were deposited in our favorite spot in all Passau – in front of the Rathaus and their beer garden. A perfect day for a cold refreshing brew along with Weisswürsts. There was no band today and the cast of characters around us was far less interesting so we opted for only two rounds. With public WiFi available in the square we caught up with friends and family and posted a few taunting photos directed at our friends who still had to be at work. Retirement is meant to be flaunted.



Once we succeeded in getting our bill and immediately paying we took a walk up into the center of the old town. We gradually made our way to the main city church, the massive St. Stephen's Cathedral. Making frequent stops at the any touristy and not so touristy shops leading uphill to the church it was beginning to feel very hot and somewhat uncomfortable. I couldn't wait to get inside the church to cool off.
I hate to fight the temptation to spit over the sideI hate to fight the temptation to spit over the sideI hate to fight the temptation to spit over the side

This daily cruiser passed underneath with us just a handful of passengers onboard. If we had been on a more leisurely vacation I would've enjoyed a 3 hour river trip down to Melk Abbey or Dürnstein Castle. We were able to squeeze one of those sites into our trip later.



By now all these religious sites were becoming just a blur to me. Even though St. Stephan's featured the world's largest pipe organ all I cared about was taking a seat and getting comfortable. I could've easily taken a nap. Meanwhile, Gail was busy flitting about taking pictures of every statue, reliquary, stained glass window and pipe on that church organ. Finally she finished her photo essay and we were back on the side streets of old Passau. Although we ducked our heads into a couple of shops along the way there was nothing that appealed to either of us. I suggested we call it a day and head back to the hotel for dinner.



There didn't seem to be much of a rush hour in Passau so we decided to explore the northern section of town by car. It was much more modern and industrial. Traffic got heavier the further we drove from the Altstadt. After about fifteen minutes of driving and not seeing anything even remotely interesting, we headed back toward our hotel in Kellburg.



On the previous day when we checked into our hotel the little parking lot had
Departure point for Viking's newest competitorDeparture point for Viking's newest competitorDeparture point for Viking's newest competitor

Up and down the quayside we saw many Viking longships docked for the day in Passau. Most were in the middle of their excursions between Regensburg, Germany and Vienna, Austria. All too often we were bumping into the overwhelmed senior citizens that were traveling with them. Gate One is the new kid on the block and hopes to appeal to a more sprightly crowd.
been empty and the outside patio area was deserted. Tonight we had trouble finding room to park our car. I was nervous about parking so close to other cars but reminded myself what decent citizens most Germans were. As we walked toward the entrance of the hotel restaurant the vast dining room was vacant but the outside beer garden seemed to be lively.



After putting away some of our day's purchases and freshening up a bit in our room, we headed down for dinner. Before going to the beer garden we decided to investigate the little church adjoining our Gasthaus. It was a great little diversion. Of course the tiny chapel was beautiful inside but the graveyard was most informative. Monuments dedicated to the local villagers killed in the World Wars were testimonies to just how hard hit these little communities must have been. In a town with maybe 30 buildings there were at least that many names on the memorial. In a few cases we could determine that fathers and sons as well as brothers had died during the conflicts. Flowers were still being placed next to the burning candle nearby.



When you
Someday maybeSomeday maybeSomeday maybe

I have mixed feelings about doling out thousands of bucks to take a river cruise. It would be a different perspective seeing Europe from its rivers and it would be nice to have all our meals and booze paid for in advance, but I know I could do a driving holiday in Europe for twice as long at almost half the price as these cruise ships charge. And not being on a strict schedule also appeals to me.
consider just how small and rural this little village has been over the centuries and when you see how much work and money have been poured into erecting and maintaining this little church you easily see just how devoted to God these peasants have always been. It's like this throughout Bavaria but this simple house of prayer really demonstrated the importance of religion. And it also points out how magnificently talented some of these simple folks must have been. I suppose in the long winter months when not much farming gets done the locals had plenty of time to work on developing their arts and crafts.



Once again we took far too many photos most of which we ended-up deleting. I was impressed by the fact that all these varied places of worship are left totally unlocked and open to visitors. There was absolutely no one else around as we walked through this treasury of religious art. Just as there had been no one else inside the Wieskirche earlier in our trip. Even in the big cathedrals there were no guards or priests watching over us as we explored the inner sanctums.



By now
The Viking cruisers wandering through PassauThe Viking cruisers wandering through PassauThe Viking cruisers wandering through Passau

As we headed on our way up the riverbank past the Rathaus tour guides brought groups of cruise ship passengers into old Passau. I hope we don't look so obviously American as we stumble about exploring Europe.
I was starving. We traipsed through the ground floor of Zum Kirchenwirt (the church's inn) and outside to the beer garden. We found a cozy table for two about twenty feet away from a big picnic table with 15 Germans, apparently all co-workers staying at the hotel that night. Throughout the evening the other tables around us were quickly filled then emptied of diners yet that big group continued to order round after round of beers. Try as we might, we couldn't keep up.



Our dinner this night was one of the best of the trip. Gail opted for the Käsespätzle while I had medallions of pork. Both were quite filling and delicious. Just the pre-main course salads would be sufficient for a meal. As per usual neither of us had room for dessert. Beer was our apertif.



We soaked in the atmosphere until after dark. When we reached the witching hour of 10 pm we settled our bill with our waitress; the same nice girl that helped us get our bedding the night before. Back in the room we took a few minutes to watch another dopey quiz show and communicate with our
Cruising uptreamCruising uptreamCruising uptream

We timed things perfectly and once we reached the day cruises' ticket we barely had to wait for our ship to depart. There were plenty of seats on the top deck and we grabbed a table close to the railing.
kids before hitting the sheets. It took awhile but eventually I was able to block out the noise of those Germans at the big table in the Biergarten.


Additional photos below
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Not what it looks likeNot what it looks like
Not what it looks like

This hotel was designed to look like one of the long boats plying the Danube river. Out of our price range.
Believe it or not, that is just one boatBelieve it or not, that is just one boat
Believe it or not, that is just one boat

The Viking river boats amaze me by their size. I find it hard to believe they don't just break in half being so very long and narrow at the same time. They wouldn't last 5 minutes anywhere there were waves. Two of Passau's big churches sit in the background.
Passau Rathaus from a different perspectivePassau Rathaus from a different perspective
Passau Rathaus from a different perspective

After heading up the Danube for perhaps a mile our tour boat swung around and returned downriver as we headed for the confluence of three rivers.
DreiflüsseckDreiflüsseck
Dreiflüsseck

Passau needs to come up with a better name for this point on the peninsula where the Inn and Danube rivers meet. "Three Rivers Corner" doesn't inspire. How about "Drachenkopf" (Dragon's Head) or "Kurfürst Punkt" (Prince Elector's Point)? Or make some money off your biggest customer by selling naming rights to Viking Cruises? "Wikinger Strand"?
Self-absorbed selfieSelf-absorbed selfie
Self-absorbed selfie

By Day 10 of the trip I felt it was time to record the fact that I was actually in this photographic essay of Eastern Germany..
Nice skylineNice skyline
Nice skyline

One of the beautiful things about Passau and many other Bavarian cities is the fact that the old parts of town are kept clear of ugly modern buildings, especially skyscrapers.
Not a pretty mixNot a pretty mix
Not a pretty mix

As we rode down the river we could easily see where the waters of one river reached the other. There was a distinct difference between the spring thaw waters of the Inn and the muddier looking Danube.
The nearly forgotten IlzThe nearly forgotten Ilz
The nearly forgotten Ilz

According to the local tourist office Passau is the city of three rivers: the blue Danube, the green Inn and the black Ilz. The itty bitty Ilz empties into the Danube about 100 meters from the much bigger confluence of the Inn and Danube.
The High CastleThe High Castle
The High Castle

Later in the day we were able to get some gorgeous views of the river from atop this hill. This is the Veste Oberhaus, home of the Prince Bishop's of Passau.
Chugging up the Inn riverChugging up the Inn river
Chugging up the Inn river

Our boat seemed to have to work a little harder steaming up the Inn River on the other side of the Dreiflüsseck. The night before we had walked up along this shoreline on our way to St. Michael's Church.


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