At the Confluence of Three Rivers

One of five pipe organs at St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Passau, Germany is a charming city on the border with Austria where the Danube, Inn, and Ilz rivers flow together. We’ve been told that the water of each river is a different color, but today it all looked the same – gray.

We had a dark, cold, wet morning for our walking tour of Passau, but it was still lovely. Our tour guide was Sofia, a native of Passau who attended high school and university there and clearly loves the history and baroque architecture of her home town. Passau’s location at the confluence of three rivers is, in Sofia’s words, a blessing and a curse. The rivers are a boon for commerce, but they often flood, leaving much damage behind. Many buildings have high water marks on their facades, and it was apparent that, had we been walking the streets during the flood of 2013, we would have been several meters under water.

The highlight of the tour was St. Stephen’s Cathedral (there are many St. Stephen’s churches in this part of Germany and Austria). We have seen many churches in our travels, but what sets this one apart is its spectacular pipe organ with 17, 974 pipes, the largest in Europe. It’s actually five organs (one in the framework of the ceiling!) that can be played separately or as one. Had we come to Passau even a month earlier, we would have been able to attend an organ concert here, but we missed it.

Gingerbread Demonstration

Our tour of Passau ended at Cafe Simon where we were treated to a cup of hot spiced wine and a Lebkuchen (gingerbread) demonstration and tasting.

In the afternoon, we took a bus to Gut Aichet, a beautiful Bavarian farm that has been run by generations of the same family since 1472. The farm has become a riding center, with more than 50 horses in its stables and facilities for dressage and show jumping training. The hunting lodge on the property was the site for our Bavarian Beerfest where we were served beer and pretzels and entertained by a very talented fourteen-year-old accordion player.

At the Bavarian Beerfest

The owner of the farm demonstrated some traditional dancing and even taught the dance to a few volunteers who may have been more successful if they had learned the dance first and then consumed the beer. (I have some video clips that I’ll add when I have more robust WiFi.)  It was the perfect way to spend a cold rainy afternoon.

Back on the boat, we had dinner with two couples, one from Georgia and the other from New York. We leaned all about farming in Georgia, shared opinions about our health care system, and only occasionally talked about sports. Paul and I skipped the evening’s festivities in the lounge and turned in early.

Tomorrow we’ll stop in Regensburg for another city tour on the beautiful blue Danube.