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.
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.
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.
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.
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 was one of those towns where I ached to have more time. Not only does the village scream to be more fully explored from an architectural and historic standpoint, Passau restaurants offer dishes from around the world. It’s definitely on my list for a return visit.
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.