Linz to Passau
Where the hills are no longer alive with the sound of music
Very often on a European river cruise the cities of Linz in Austria and Passau in Germany will mark the point of some important decision making. Back in 2014, with APT, it was a choice of whether to disembark for a side tour to Salzburg, where the flavour of the day was Sound of Music schmaltz, or for a more cultured event there was a side tour to Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic.
This time around, Scenic were only offering the Salzburg option, however they had divided it into two groups, one which promised the full Sound of Music experience, and another which offered a chance to acknowledge that there was nearly two thousand years of recorded history happening in Salzburg before any lonely goat-herd ever yodeled from high on a hilltop.
We’d opted for tour B as Vanessa had already seen all of the Sound of Music sights during her infamous 2014 tour, and I was keen to see one of Europe’s most beautiful cities with as few do-re-mi’s as possible. That morning however, as we glided through Linz in the dark, Vanessa was still coughing like crazy, my head cold was starting to flare up, and to top it all off, it started pouring with rain. Suddenly, the thought of an 8 hour trip which may or may not involve a sing-along to ‘Edelweiss’, didn’t sound all that attractive, and with the rain showing no signs of ceasing by breakfast time, we made the decision to pull the pin and remain on board for the day.
As we glided our way towards ABL (another bloody lock), the thought occurred that we still had a €200 on-board credit to use in the wellness centre, so Vanessa booked in to get her aching feet the full treatment, and I booked a full body deep muscle massage. This decision would prove to be inspired, and as we returned to our cabins we both felt better than we had for days, despite still being in the throes of these blasted colds.
Funnily enough, most of the crew that we spoked to that morning said that given the choice, they would remain on board for this section of the cruise every time, as it is an opportunity to witness some of the most beautiful scenery of the trip, away from all of the crowds. Not long after setting sail again following a stop in Brandstatt for those doing the coach tours to disembark, we began to get an understanding of what they meant.
The Danube River narrows down through this section, with steep sided cliffs covered in gorgeous autumn colours. On the flatter sections of the inside bends, cows roamed through lush green paddocks, and despite the rain, a number of brave Austrians remained dedicated to the cause of catching carp, sitting themselves on the shores in full wet-weather gear.
So although I was disappointed that I still haven’t seen Salzburg, I’m actually really glad that we stayed onboard for the cruise. Ness and I had already discussed coming back to Austria again sometime, so there’s every chance we will get to Salzburg in future, however the chance to see this stretch of the river from a boat doesn’t come along every day, and even through the rain it was clear what the crew had been referring to.
As the morning wore on and we started our approach towards Passau, the rain began to ease, with the promise that it should stop some time around the point where we would be arriving at our destination. We headed down to the dining room for a quick lunch before returning to enjoy some more of the stunning scenery.
By mid afternoon we had well and truly crossed the border into Germany, and soon the spires of Passau’s many churches would start to come into view. One thing I really love about this part of Germany is the lack of urban sprawl – cities and towns exist all the way along the river, but they seem to be contained in their footprints, with plenty of beautiful scenery in between.
As promised, the rain dried up during the last half hour that it took for the ship to round the final bend into Passau and tie up in position directly below and on the opposite shore to the 13th Century Veste Oberhaus, the giant fortress and former residence of the Bishop of Passau that dominates the northern bank of the Danube. We waited patiently in the lobby as the crew slid the gangplank into place, eager to start part II of our day on dry land.