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May 1, 2022
Passau, Germany: A Confluence of Rivers and Borders

Back in the days of the Roman Empire, the Danube River was the border between the Romans (to the south) and the Barbarians (to the north). For that reason, the Romans constructed forts all along the Danube. Yesterday’s port of Regensburg was one. Today’s port of Passau was another.

The Danube was the border between the Romans and the Barbarians. The Romans erected forts all along their side of the river.

Passau is also notable for being the confluence of three rivers: the Danube, the Inn and the Ilz. Furthermore, Passau is the point where Germany borders Austria (to the southeast) and the Czech Republic (to the northeast).

A confluence of three rivers: the Ilz (lower left of center), the Danube (lower right) and the Inn (upper right)

The rivers are actually different colors! The Danube (bottom of photo) is opaque and gray; the Inn (top of photo) is clear and green.

On the other side of this hill is the Czech border. Our middle-aged guide was born in the Black Forest, and remembers never being able to cross that hill.

Many of the Viking Vili’s guests embarked on an all-day optional excursion to cross the border into Austria for “Salzburg Highlights.” We chose to stay in town to see what is here.

But the forecast was for rain both this morning and afternoon, so Gail took a day off to rest. Cameron took the included 90-minute “Passau Walking Tour.” Russell took the more strenuous four-hour “Hike the Passau Hills.” While Cameron and Russell saw the same sights in Old Town, Russell was able to get a better view from up in the hills.

The morning sky did not look very promising

The hiking excursion began high up on the south side of the Inn River at the Wallfahrtskirche Mariahilf (Pilgrimmage Church Mariahilf). This is where a Medieval King and his people prayed to the Virgin Mary to prevent an enemy attack. The prayers succeeded; hence Mariahilf (“Mary’s help”). Today, people pray along a staircase of more than 300 steps leading up to the church.

Mariahilf sits atop the hill on the southern bank of the Inn River

We descended all the way to the rivers, then climbed the hill on the north side of the Inn River to the Veste Oberhaus Fortress. This high fortress overlooks the confluence of the three rivers.

The fortress sits atop the hill on the northern bank of the Inn River. Note the date inscription: 1499.

Half of the fortress windows (and trim) are just painted on!

Both excursions ended in Old Town, where St. Stephen’s Cathedral hosts the largest organ in Europe (and the second largest in the world). Each organ key is connected to its individual pipe using more than 120 kilometers of cable.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral exterior

St. Stephen’s Cathedral interior

After lunch aboard ship, Cameron and Russell took the optional afternoon “Bavaria by E-Bike” excursion. This took us from Passau along the Inn River, which separates Germany from Austria. We rode on the Austrian side to the village of Wernstein for a snack, then back up on the German side to Passau. The total ride was more than 14 kilometers over three hours. The good news is that we were extremely lucky with the weather. We had clear skies for all of our outings.

Our e-bikes

Our route took us from Passau (upper middle) down the east side of the Inn River to Werstein (lower left), then back up the west side of the Inn River

Crossing the border into Austria

We rode on dedicated bike paths through scenic woods adjacent to the river

The bridge at Wernstein is the border between Austria and Germany

A medallion on the bridge marks the international border between Austria (Ö) and Germany (D)

Russell is standing in Germany; Cameron is standing in Austria

And to cap off our full and cultural day, we were treated to a special Austrian dinner aboard ship.

Ria the Maitre d’ offered a special Bavarian beer with dinner

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