Organ Concert in Passau, Germany - Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel

Goosebumps in Passau, Germany

The phrase “last but not least” comes to mind when I think of Passau. My Viking River ship had sailed down the Rhine, turned left onto the Main River near Frankfort, and finally, merged with the Danube just west of Regensburg. Just three miles from the border with Austria, we docked for one last stop in Germany, at the tiny town of Passau, which squats on a narrow peninsula at the confluence of the Danube, Inn, and Ilz Rivers.

St. Stephen's Cathedral is home to the renowned organ concert in Passau

St. Stephen’s Cathedral is home to the renowned organ concert in Passau, Germany

From the waterfront, we climbed to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the cultural and geographic center of the village. Even with twin towers topped by onion domes, the church’s unadorned white exterior was uninspiring. The interior, however, was a much different story. Corinthian columns soared to a ceiling where superb frescoes were surrounded by lavish baroque decorations. Above the main door stood the great organ, which, along with four other organs positioned around the nave, forms largest cathedral organ in the world. Featuring 17,774 pipes and 233 registers, it is played from one central console. This is the reason I had come, to listen to the famous organ concert in Passau, conducted Monday through Saturday at high noon.

Organ concert in Passau

With 17,774 pipes and 233 registers, the organ at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Passau, Germany is said to be the largest cathedral pipe organ in the world

I chose a seat close to the center in order to get the full effect of the five organs and waited. Unprepared for the intensity of the first notes, I jumped in my seat when they burst forth. Tuneless and discordant, the music rose to a crescendo that raised goosebumps on my arms. When the music stopped as suddenly as it had begun, I could hardly believe 30 minutes had passed. I walked around in a daze, taking in the exquisitely carved gold-leaf pulpit as I allowed the reverberation inside my head to fade away.

Stunning Baroque interior of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Passau, Germany

Stunning Baroque interior of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Passau, Germany

With a bit of free time at my disposal, I decided to visit the Veste Oberhaus fortress on the opposite side of the Danube River. Rather than wait for the crowded shuttle buses, I followed a series of stairways and gravel paths up the side of the cliff, stopping every so often to enjoy the increasingly beautiful views.

Veste Oberhaus fortress dominates the cliff across the Danube from Passau

Veste Oberhaus fortress dominates the cliff across the Danube from Passau

With limited time, I eschewed a visit to the inside of the fortress and opted instead to walk to the end of the cliff, hoping for a birds-eye view of the town, perched on its precarious peninsula between the Inn and Danube Rivers. I was not disappointed. For the second time that day, I got goosebumps. Passau may have been the last German town I visited on my Viking River Grand European Tour, but it certainly was not the least.

Passau perches precariously on a peninsula between the Inn and Danube Rivers, making it prone to severe flooding. Note the more muddy waters of the Inn River, at tip, which carries silt from melting glaciers.

Passau perches precariously on a peninsula between the Inn and Danube Rivers, making it prone to severe flooding. Note the more muddy waters of the Inn River, at tip, which carries silt from melting glaciers.

Note: I was a guest of Viking River Cruises during my Grand European Tour, however, the receipt and acceptance of complimentary items or services will never influence the content, topics, or posts in this blog. I write the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Viking offers itineraries on the great rivers of the world, including destinations in Europe, Egypt, China, Southeast Asia, Russia, and soon, in the U.S.

17 Comments on “Goosebumps in Passau, Germany

  1. Hello,
    We are preparing to take the Grand European Viking River cruise in May. We would love to attend the organ concert in Passau. Did you purchase tickets prior to your cruise? We were told by previous travels that several of the excursions where sold out when they tried to purchase. We want to pre book where possible.

    • Hi Kathy. Sorry for my late reply, but I’ve been in Myanmar, where I had very little Internet and even less time. The Concert in Passau was, I believe, an optional tour on the Viking itinerary. That means you only need sign up for it and Viking takes care of getting the tickets. Did the people you spoke to travel with Viking? I clearly remember them telling us that they would have tickets enough for anyone who wanted to attend, and they did indeed.

  2. Once again Barbara i have to tell you i love the way you write with alot of details, i dont knew nothing about Passau before reading this but i am shocked with the pictures

    • Me neither, Izy. If it wasn’t for my Viking River Cruise, I’d never have known about Passau. And thanks again for your kind comments.

  3. Hi Barbara,
    I knew nothing about Passau before reading your beautiful description of the organ concert. Thank you for putting it on my radar. I’ll have to add it to my ever-growing list of places to visit!

    • Thank you so much Gagan. Glad you enjoyed the article and photos.

  4. Passau was a surprise; I actually didn’t expect it to be as interesting and picturesque as it was. The day we were there was a religious holiday (Corpus Christi) so we missed the concert. We watched the parade for so long we didn’t have time to visit Veste Oberhaus. Thanks for giving me a virtual tour of what I missed; I appreciate it.

    • That’s my one problem with the cruises, Linda. Viking River does an amazing job, but there just is never enough time in each of the towns. How fortunate that you arrived on Corpus Christi Day. I know it meant you missed some things, but the local customs and festivals offer a rare opportunity to really connect with the culture of a place.

  5. When I saw your title, Barbara, it reminded me of a different kind of goose bumps — I nearly froze to death in Passau back in my student days when I spent a freezing cold January night in the lovely, baroque town town. I remember wearing two sweaters and a coat and putting my stockinged feet on the old-fashioned radiator to keep warm…

    It was 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Ah, yes, those were the good old days!

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful trip and photos and bringing back a fond memory from my time in Germany.


    • You’re very welcome, Jina. I can well imagine that it might be pretty frigid there in the winter, as exposed as it is on that peninsula between two rivers. Glad you made it through, and came away with fond memories.

    • I think my body was still vibrating 20 minutes after the concert had ended, Sand in My Suitcase.

  6. Did Passau to Budapest cruise with Viking last month. Did your day in reverse, climbing to the top of Veste Oberhausen, enjoyed the view, then back down into town center for some window shopping and high water mark viewing, followed up with organ concert. We all loved Passau. (Trivia: One of Passau’s “sister cities” happens to be Hackensack, NJ. One member of our party had retired from teaching at Hackensack HS in June. Sadly no one in town took note of her Hackensack tee shirt!)

    • Hi Jean: I have to say that Passau was among my favorite stops. Viking is top notch.

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