We are in Passau, Germany!!
As you can see on the map, Passau is located on the German-Austrian border, southeast of the country. Because of its location, Passau has become a major migrant entry point into Germany. Refugees and migrants flee here from the Middle East, Asia and Africa. After driving them through Austria, traffickers drop migrants off on the other side of the autobahn where they then walk into Passau, the first German town heading northward. Because of this large influx of people, and rather than turning these refugees and migrants away, the government of Passau diverted funds previously allocated for city flood prevention to pay for their housing and food. 10% of these refugees and migrants are unaccompanied children.
Passau is in the German state of Bavaria. Founded more than 2,000 years ago by the Celts, Passau is one of Bavaria’s oldest cities. It is located at the confluence of three rivers: the Danube, Ilz and the Inn. Look closely at the aerial photo above of Passau and you will see that the three converging rivers all have different colors of water, ranging from green to black.
Viking ships dock at convenient locations to the towns visited, in most cases within walking distance from the sites. This opportune position allows guests to freely explore the town at their own pace when time allows. Passau is small and very easily traversed on foot.
Castles on Strategic Overlooks
As mentioned in a previous post, fortified castles overlooked medieval towns. Their strategic location on ridges and mountain crests enabled the leaders to detect oncoming enemies from a distance, allowing time to prepare their defenses. This elevated site gave them a tactical position to view oncoming vessels along the river, providing them the ability to control the waterways. More details on this in a future post.
Veste Oberhaus, shown in the photo above, a castle founded in 1219, is located on the other side of the river in Old Passau. It was primarily used as a stronghold by the Bishop of Passau. This fortress, however, was used not only as protection for the townspeople below, but also to protect the bishop himself from those same people. The bishop was not popular with the citizens he was supposed to protect primarily because he levied heavy taxes on them to support a lavish lifestyle. In rebellion, the townspeople attempted to storm the fortress in efforts to overtake the castle.
Because of this strategic and accessible location at the confluence of three rivers, Passau became an important medieval trade and shipping center which provided great prosperity for the city. This wealth can be seen today throughout its medieval buildings, with many beautiful and brightly colored homes as well as Passau’s extravagant and richly ornate cathedral. St. Stephens Cathedral is not only a masterpiece of Baroque style, but it also contains one of the world’s largest organs, with more than 17,000 pipes. Today, Passau is the cultural and communications center of southeastern Bavaria and continues to enjoy economic prosperity and power.
Old Passau is just across the bridge from where the cruise ship is docked. Its remnants of centuries old city walls and turrets have been incorporated into modern structures and outdoor spaces for all to enjoy.
A Boatride in Bavaria
When I think of Bavaria, I think of their traditional costumes; Lederhosen for men and Dirndl for women, which are still worn for special occasions today. Lederhosen are leather, decorated shorts, that last forever. They are passed down from father to son, and even beyond that and are never washed. Instead, placing them in the freezer is believed to kill any bacteria on them. For women wearing Dirndls, you can tell if they are married or single by what side their bows are tied on. This couple shown here were our hosts on a boatride tour on a river in Bavaria.
While on the boat ride, we were served a traditional German snack; freshly baked pretzels with a soft blended cheese for dipping, accompanied with a light, cool, crisp local beer. Germans find it appalling when they see Americans dipping their pretzels in mustard, by the way. “Mustard is for sausages, and cheese is for pretzels!!” I was told.
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Delicious Lunch on the Viking Gefjon
Up next along the river: Regensburg, Germany