Sunday, September 14, 2014

Passau, Germany - Day 10

Saturday, September 13
Every one of our destination cities has had some very distinctive characteristics and Passau, Germany, did not disappoint. It is uniquely situated on the confluence of 3 rivers, the Danube, the Inn and the Ilz, near the Austrian and Czech borders.
Because of this location, it was and is a wealthy city. In earlier history, the city was on the salt route from Salzburg and it could charge fees for docking, storage, distribution, etc. Its strategic location also attracted the interest of the Catholic Church and it was ruled by Prince Archbishops.
In 1662 a great fire destroyed the town and the Bishop enlisted the some noted Italian architects and craftsmen to rebuild the city, giving it the appearance of "the Venice of Bavaria." Their style was very baroque and it survives on almost every corner.
For 8 of us early risers, our Tauck tour directors took us on a hike up the hill opposite the city center to the fortress "Veste Oberhaus." It was built in 1219 to control commerce and protect the city. The fortress has been changed over the centuries and reflects gothic, renaissance and baroque designs.
The views from the fortress are fantastic. In the first you can see 2 of the 3 rivers - the Inn and the Danube - and the massive St. Stephen's Cathedral.

From another angle you can see way in the background a pilgrimage church dedicated to Mary. If you look closely, you can see a covered walkway leading up to the church where people would climb the stairs on their knees for penance. 
Coming back across the river from the fortress was a great view of  the baroque town hall. 
After breakfast we did our group tour of the city. Unfortunately, it started to rain, so we only caught part of it. Along the water we saw this old salt tower from the Middle Ages, but what is really remarkable is the high water line from the flood in late spring of 2013. 
I walked around on my own for awhile, to admire the architecture. Here is a close up of the Town Hall.
I also walked along Hellgasse Street, where artists have their studios. I found a lovely woman who is a bead artist from England and is married to a German. She had some very nice jewelry but I just ended up buying some beads from her.
Then I went to the Glass Museum which is housed in the Wilder Mann Hotel.
It was a huge collection, taking up multiple rooms on four floors. Their collection is home to objects from the most significant era of glass manufacturing of all time. It is an important center of research for "European Glass from 1650-1950" with examples of Baroque, Rococo, Empire, Biedermeir, Art Nouveau, Art Deco and modernistic periods. It would have taken hours to see it all but I'm glad I had a sampling.
At noon we were invited to an organ concert at St. Steven's Cathedral, located at the town's highest point.
This is a huge church and there must have been 3,000 people there for the performance, standing and sitting anywhere they could. It is also the most baroque church I have ever seen.
The organ was built in 1928 and is unique because it has 5 separate organs -- that can be played separately or simultaneously. This is a shot of the "Gospel" organ.
With 17,974 organ pipes and 233 stops including 4 carillons, it is the world's largest cathedral organ. Among the songs we heard were "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desire" and 2 others by Bach. The concert which lasted about 45 minutes, ended with Charles-Marie Widor's "Toccata" and blew us out the door.
We headed back for lunch on the boat and spent the afternoon relaxing and getting ready to disembark tomorrow while the boat cruised up the Danube. It rained a lot, but it didn't matter since we were inside.
Tonight we had our farewell dinner on the boat. The time has gone too fast.

No comments:

Post a Comment