City of Three Rivers
As soon as we were able to leave the ship, we headed onto shore to explore the fascinating city that is Passau, our first stop in Germany. With the terrible flooding that we have been hearing about back home, it was somewhat fitting to be in a town that has also seen its fair share of devastating floods.
Passau is built at the confluence of three significant rivers – the Danube, the Ilz and the Inn and is also known as Dreiflüssestadt (“City of Three Rivers”). Because of this, it suffers flooding on a regular basis – a wall at the old City Hall shows flood heights going back as early as 1501. On average, floodwaters reach at least to the base of the wall once in every five years, with 2013 being the most recent severe flood.
We started our walk along the River Inn, which has its headwaters high in the Swiss Alps – it is the only watershed in Switzerland that discharges into the Black Sea (via the Danube). At certain times of the year the Inn turns a milky blue as it carries snow melt waters into the Danube, and often the waters of the three rivers (the Ilz enters from the north side) run side by side in three distinctly coloured lanes in the same stream bed before converging almost a kilometer downstream.
Eventually we made our way back into the heart of the main town, skirting around the side of the large cathedral that dominates the skyline here. There is a great little cobblestoned street here that houses some really quirky shops, including a museum and store dedicated to the humble Dachshund dog. As luck would have it, the second we stepped out of the Dachshund shop, we had to step back to make way for a local gentleman walking his three little Dachsys.
For the next hour we just wandered up and down through the narrow streets, admiring the beautiful buildings, stopping to look in at the occasional art gallery and general just enjoying being out and about in dry weather, although the threat of rain was never too far away.
At one stage we came across a very narrow cobblestoned lane with many of the stones having been painted in bright rainbow colours, possibly as some sort of street art. Groups of students filled the lane in parts – from what we could work out, each group seemed to have been given an assignment to count the number of times a certain colour appeared. It also seemed pretty clear that they were having difficulty keeping count.
Our final lap brought us out onto the Danube River again, where stately homes clung to the cliffs on the far shore, under the watchful eye of the Veste Oberhaus. We resisted the temptation to stop for a beer, as there was plenty of good (free) beer back in the bar on the ship. That turned out to be a wise decision, as no sooner had we mounted the gangplank to reboard the ship, than the heavens opened and down came the rain again.
Soon after our fellow travelers returned from the Salzburg tours, and by all accounts it sounded like we’d made the right choice to skip it – a number of those who did the historic tour were muttering about how light on in information other than Sound of Music locations it had been. As the sunset lit up the far shore, we watched the crew untie the ropes and we started moving again, heading off on an all-night cruise that would see us arrive in Regensberg around lunch time the following day – our last day on the Danube before entering the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal.