Friday, October 2, 2015

River Cruising in Europe (Part 3)

A symbol of Passau
At the end of Part 2 of this continuing blog, we were leaving Melk in Austria and crossing the Austria-Germany border heading for Passau in Bavaria. During breakfast, we docked outside the city and boarded motor coaches bound for the town center to meet our tour guide.  This was a walking tour of the city known as Dreiflussestadt (City of Three Rivers) as
High Water Flood Mark - 12.89m
it is situated at the confluence of the Danube, Ilz and Inn Rivers.  With the three rivers, Passau has been the unfortunate victim of many devastating floods.  The latest major flood hit on 3 June 2013 and rose to a depth of 12.89 meters submerging the lower two stories of some of the river level buildings.

Town Hall
Passau has recovered from that devastation and, especially at the higher elevations, is a beauty to behold. There is still some repair work taking place on the lowest levels along the Danube, but that seemed to be minimal. One building had a history of flood levels etched into it's facade, going all the way back to 1501.

St. Stephen's Cathedral
Our walking tour took us to see the 14th century Town Hall and the Bishop's Residence. We also quickly toured the Hotel Wilder Mann which houses the Passau Glass Museum (which was opened by Neil Armstrong - yes, the astronaut -  on 15 March 1985!)

Europe's Largest Pipe Organ
The real high point of the tour was the 17th century St. Stephan's Cathedral which houses five organs, one of which is Europe's largest.  The guide said that a full grown man could stand inside its largest pipe.  The official tour ended in the Cathedral. If you wanted to stay behind you could not only see the organ, but hear it as well.  Each day, except Sunday, between May and October there is a concert given using this massive instrument. 
the concert fully exercised almost every capability of the organ...from earth shaking low pitches to the highest of high notes.

A Beautiful Garden in Passau
Dianne went back to the ship and I stayed in town, had a brief lunch and did some more roaming.  Some of the gardens were gorgeous and the sights wonderful.  

From the Lower Level
Later in the afternoon I headed back to the ship for a relaxing evening with the usual cocktail, dinner and night cap. 

However, the next morning, things were looking a bit strange as we had not departed our berth just outside Passau and were still there for breakfast?

Regensburg's St. Peter's Cathedral
At breakfast it was announced that we would be "motor coaching" our way to the next venue - Regensburg. No explanation beyond that.  So, we all boarded our assigned busses and took an hour or so ride to our next tour. We were met by our guides (microphone ready!) for our walking tour.

Regensburg Rathaus
Regensburg is probably Germany's best preserved medieval city. We saw the Gothic St. Peter's Cathedral with its twin spires as well as the Old Rathaus (Town Hall). The best part of the day was spent in the shops viewing the Bavarian Cuckoo Clocks and the numerous beer steins in all shapes and sizes.  

Old Sausage Kitchen
For a truly Bavarian lunch we found Germany's oldest kitchen, the 800 year old Alte Wurstkuche (Old Sausage Kitchen) which served sausages (at least three) on a roll with sweet mustard. We were served at open air tables (some with umbrellas to shade from the sun) by gaily costumed Bavarians. Of course, with the tiny
sausages - usually ordered in batches of 6 or 8 - we were served ample portions of good German beer.  The combination of the Sausage, sweet mustard, freshly baked rolls and beer was outstanding!

Shopping for Steins
After lunch, we wandered about a bit more until the time of our duly appointed rendezvous with our bus, hopped aboard and were taken back to our dockage, still just outside Passau - a bit disconcerting?!?  Had our usual cocktail, dinner and night cap and dozed off.

Awakening the next day, we are supposed to be in Nuremberg...but we are not...and are still tied up just outside of Passau...this is starting to concern us as we have - to this point - been told nothing as to why the ship is not moving. Well, as with the previous day, we are loaded onto busses for a ride along the river to our next tour stop - Nuremberg. 

WWII Trials Site
A couple of hours later we arrive for our escorted tour of this German city, famous for its hosting of the World War II war crime trials.  

The central city is surrounded by a 13th century medieval wall that is an architectural marvel for its time.  Because of the arrangement of the walls, there is nowhere an approaching enemy can be "out of site" of someone on the blind corners for an unseen attacker to hide.

Given that we had been bussed this far, Viking provided a very nice lunch in a local German restaurant with very typical dishes including potato salad, sausages and kraut. Of course there were ample portions of good German beer and, for those that preferred, Wine to accompany the meal.  

Formidable City Wall
After lunch, the tour continued on foot and we were able to walk part of the medieval wall and view the well armored entrances to the ancient center of the city. Once the tour finished we bid Auf Wiedersehen to our guide and once again boarded the busses, hoping to find the Viking Mimir close by. 

Passau (again!)
Unfortunately, we headed all the way back to Passau - really wondering what was going on and what was preventing the ship from advancing further on its journey. We got back to the ship and were advised that there would be an announcement, important for everyone, during the cocktail hour.

Viking Mimir Ship's Bell
The announcement was straight forward and direct: The water levels between Passau and Bamberg (on the Main-Danube Canal) were dangerously low due to drought conditions.  Viking decided that it was too risky to attempt to take the ship through, and had developed an alternative plan.

I'll reveal that plan and the results in the next chapter of this continuing blog!  Enjoy and please comment! 

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