Standing in the front of the cruise ship the lock doors were slowly opening, around to the left was a grand view of Passau and the Christmas Markets. The tall pink church tower loomed over the city and Danube River. In fact in Passau there are 3 rivers that merge together. The Danube, Inn and Ilz Rivers surround the “City of Three Rivers” otherwise known as Passau.
There is more to see than just the Christmas Markets
The day is overcast and cold but that was not going to stop us from having fun! The first view of Passau is the tall pink church of St. Paul’s. Most of the cruise ships dock there and only a five minute walk to town center and activities.
Our group of friends we made on-board decided to go it on our own. At least until the afternoon tour of showcasing how to make traditional German gingerbread cookies. So what did we do first? Well, we went to see what that big pink building looked like on the inside! It was not what we were expecting, the building on the outside is rather plain other than the color but a quick walk inside we saw whole new look. The altar had a huge decorative painting with gold gilded columns and statues. It is one of a kind, showing a richness of black, gold and bright white colors.
The original church was built around 1050, then destroyed by fire in 1512. It took them 150 years to rebuild and was finished in 1668. St. Paul’s was a good start to our day in Passau.
We didn’t know where we were going but decided to explore and see where some of these small roads would lead us. Passau is small and safe so getting lost was nothing to stress about. Around the corner from St. Paul’s was one of the main streets with everything from a supermarket to quality shops. We noticed how Passau enjoy decking out with decorations for Christmas. During this season they bring out a small train ride that takes tours throughout town.
Passau is on a thin strip of land so it won’t take long to go from one side to the other. There is a drastic change of scenery on either side. On the Danube side it’s mostly buildings and shops where on the Inn River has wide open spaces with parks and statues.
It was time for our gingerbread or “lebkuchen” demonstration at Cafe Simon. I think the whole ship was present for this tour! (I’m sorry to say I don’t have my photo’s at this time since they were taken with my video cam and having problems downloading. I will post later.) The demonstration was outside in a tent with heaters so it was comfortable. The chef gave us history on his family who have run this business for over 100 years and short lesson on baking traditional lebkuchen. As the confections came out of the oven they passed trays to try the different varieties. As you leave you can buy more from their well stocked shop that includes candies and chocolates. They make awesome gifts to bring back home!
One more sight to see before checking out the Passau Christkindlmarkt, St. Stephen’s Cathedral. In fact we got a two for one here since the Christmas Market is located just in front of the church. What put St. Stephen’s on the map is their world record largest pipe organ in the world. Now I’ve heard the one in Los Angeles is actually the largest second place still isn’t bad. The organ has over 17,000 pipes in five sections and when they play it, it reverberates throughout the church. Sitting in the pews you will no doubt feel the vibrations.
To say ornate does not do St. Stephen’s justice look at the whimsical Baroque – Rococo ceilings, walls and archways. We never expected such beauty and workmanship!
If you happen to be in here on a Wednesday or Saturday they have free recitals including the organ between 12pm and 12:30pm. Just to experience this I would try to make the time to go.
Finally the reason we took our Viking River Cruise holiday, the joyous Christmas Markets! If you have ever been to one you know how much fun they are. One month out of 12 is full of holiday spirit. People are happily trying out seasonal dishes only made this time of year. Unique arts and crafts, leather purses and belts, warm winter sweaters and special hand crafted ornaments you can only find here fill the booths on each side as you walk through. Bright lights adorning the wooden booths light your way drawing you closer to the hot drinks booths. On any given night this is the most popular place by far as with so many markets in Europe. Why not? It’s a great place to get to know some of the locals and find out more about the way they celebrate Christmas. Their customs can be quite different from ours. I’ve noticed how family oriented this time of year is to them.
One more thing about the Passau market is every day they hold different concerts and choir performances. You can see the famous Regensburger Domspatzen Choir a favorite for entertainment and worth it to stay and listen.
That was our day in Passau, its time to get back to the ship and see what is in store for tomorrow at the Christmas Markets in Salzburg!