Dec 19, 2018
Passau has pretty well brought my relationship with my hiking boots to an end. Despite wearing two pairs of socks and rolling one of them down into the top of my right boot, the chafing and bruising on my shin bone is intense. Only be walking and placing my right heel on the ground first gives any relief.
So what do you do when you have set your mind on climbing the cliff behind Passau to photograph the town from above … you grit your teeth.
We visited Passau 5 years ago in summer. Then it was just a week after the highest floods on record and we were told that the 12,000 university students and military had been brought in to clean up the town and that’s why it was fully functioning just a week later. This time we were given a slightly different story by our guide who is a student. She said that prior to the 2013 flood, the relationship between students and residents had been difficult. Students rented the coldest bleakest apartments and landlords were indifferent to making repairs etc. When the floods hit, the students themselves mobilized to help clean up the town, and as a result, the residents developed a greater appreciation.
She also explained that the safest way to prepare for an imminent flood is to flood your house with fresh water. This stops the river water entering the house and depositing mud. It also avoids the risk of the water pressure from the flood waters bursting the doors, windows and even stone work.
As with our last visit, we walked the outer path around the peninsular end of town. My photographs of the monastery and brewery across the Inn river will make quite a contrast to my summer photographs. It was misty and subsequently, my photographs are quite pastel rather than vivid in colour and the edges blurred rather than sharp. Quite atmospheric.
As for the Blue Danube. It’s not blue at any point along its length. Here at Passau, it merges with the Inn and Ilz rivers. The others are definitely greenish but when they merge several hundred meters downstream, the Danube is still, well …. Brown.
I’d climbed the cliff above the Danube on our previous trip, and suggested to a number of people that it was worth the effort. It’s only from the cliff paths beside the castle on the top of the cliff that you can see Passau as a complete town. All the streets are so narrow that when walking around town, you can’t see any major building complete, just glimpse of parts to them. From above, the three major churches thrust up out of the surrounding buildings and you are at the same height as the monastery two rivers across. You have the Danube below, then the town of Passau on its peninsular, then the Inn river and the monastery on the hill top on the other side.
After my fall in Vienna Ches wasn’t too keen on my climbing the cliff. She was also ferful that I’d loose track of time and not be back in time for the ship’s departure. I’d expected others to have taken my advice and that I come across others climbing the stairs and paths. Not so.
I decided that I would give myself half an hour to walk as far up the cliff paths as possible and then to return to the ship. I started with the staircase that takes you three quarters of the way up the cliff to the castle. I’d forgotten that it is a gradient of around 50 degrees. At the top of the steps, my lungs were tight, I was breathing steam and my ankle was ……. I walked along the highest path for around 400 meters and took photographs of the town from the same spots as I did in the summer of 2013. These are quite different with the bare trees framing many photographs and the mist softening the colours and lines of the town.
True to my word, I descended after 30 climbing, taking more photos as I went. As it eventuated, I was the only one to venture up the cliff and consequently, I have the photos that everyone else envies.
I was back on board in plenty of time.
There was time for a quick lunch before we boarded buses for a 30 minute drive to the Bavarian countryside where we were to visit a glass blowing factory and take a ride in a horse drawn covered wagon through the snowy countryside …. but more of that in a part 2 blog to follow.
I should however catch you up on cocktails. Then there is cocktail time. It comes around relentlessly every evening. Too relentlessly because here I am writing this three days later and I can’t remember what I drank on which night. Now I’d had Grand Marnier and Cognac one night, and I mentioned Satan’s Whiskers which I repeatedly miss name as Santa’s Whiskers. It consists of 1oz each of Gin, Sweet Vermouth, Dry Vermouth and orange juice, ½ oz Grand Marnier and 2 dashes of orange bitters. If Ann Marie (the Bar Manager) is mixing it, multiply by three. She also introduced me to B&B (Benedictine and Brandy or Cognac in my case).
Meals on board Uniworld are always amazing. Breakfast and Lunch are always buffet with the option of asking for special omelets or poached eggs with avocado etc. be prepared. Always a very high standard. Dinner is a choice of three entrees, 2 soups, three mains and three deserts with the chef’s special being a combination of the four also offered individually. Always accompanied by white and red wine either from the region where you are cruising or nearby. Never had a bad Hungarian, Austrian or German wine.