Passau is a charming town in the lower Bavaria part of Germany near the Austrian border. It’s known as The Three Rivers City, because three rivers converge at the town: Danube, Inn and Ilz. And since we were on a river cruise, we got to see them all. And a bunch else. This is going to be a gossipy little post, so let’s get started, shall we?
St. Steven’s Cathedral has the largest pipe organ in the world. It’s also seriously and overwhelmingly ornate, can you tell? We walked in and it was “Whoaaaa! What is THIS?” Let’s take a closer look at that ceiling.
This ceiling kind of freaked me out.
Talk about taking architecture for the glory of God seriously…. German churches seem even more ornate than those I’ve seen in Italy.
Some serious gold. All over the place.
But let’s get down to the gossip. St. Steven’s has a new bishop and Passau is all abuzz about it because he is quite the heartthrob. “Very Thornbird-ish,” judged the grandmother of our guide, according to our guide. Grandmama is obviously a woman around my age, because we’re the only generation who really gets the reference. Richard Chamberlain, the fantasy lover of so many women, all of whom were completely unaware that he was gay. Gay, gay, gay. I was a Ben Casey fan, by the way.
But back to the studly bishop of Passau. And wouldn’t you know it, his name is Stefan and he is bishop at the Cathedral of St. Steven. Here he is, do you agree that he’s a fox?
Passau is very Catholic. And of course, there are paintings and sculptures with religious themes all over the place. On buildings, over doorways, just everywhere.
Notice this is above a kung fu studio.
Our guide called it “Catholic feng shui.” I laughed.
Love the hat!
We were lucky enough to see a bride, but not near the church–at City Hall. Germany requires that couples be civilly married, and this usually comes first, followed by a Catholic ceremony at another time. The bride was so stylish and was greeting her guests right in front of me–so close that I shot this video of her receiving line outside City Hall. That hat. That outfit. And she has that certain Teutonic beauty, right? Take a look at this video. It’s a little slice of Passau life:
So there we had a bit of sacred (although not really, as it was a civil wedding) and now, on to the profane. Look at this house:
Hitler lived in this red house for a few years of his childhood. He fell in the river and almost drowned–except that a neighbor who was also a child at the time fished him out, saving his life. That guy lived to regret it, in a big way. Our guide told us the neighbor felt so guilty that he had to expunge his guilt by wroting several books about the decision he made to save the kid’s life and how history would’ve been changed had he not jumped in the river to help. Just imagine. So I did a little research and found that the good Samaritan became a priest, that this happened when Hitler was four and that maybe it was Hitler or maybe it wasn’t. Hitler never told the story, himself. But in Passau, everyone knows it and also say that Hitler never learned to swim and needed glasses. Take it for what it is.
Passau is an ancient city and I was surprised at just how ancient it is. This pharmacy dates back to the 1300s. Yep. I wonder what they featured, eye of newt?
And this grocery store dates back to the 1600s. We didn’t have time to go inside, maybe another time.
Cigarettes are still sold in machines, both American and European brands. This one was on the street. Notice the slot where an ID card must be scanned in to prove the buyer is of age. There was far less smoking than I’ve seen on prior trips to Europe, but still some.
Note the high water mark.
Being a river town, Passau is prone to flooding. They’re still talking about the 500-year flood that did so much damage in 2013. You can see how high the river went on the photo above.
We loved this little town and were especially happy to have a guide who provided so much anecdotal color to our walking tour.
And best of all, the holiday decorations were simple and elegant. I didn’t miss the crazy displays we have of a zillion lights, massive Santas and reindeer, etc. It was nice to enjoy little festive touches like this window box.