Viking Danube cruise, Passau

The boat docked at Passau, Germany and we took our usual walking tour. Passau is called the Dreiflussestadt (City on Three Rivers) which explains the residents obsession with water. The buildings have signs showing memorable high-water marks and the years they occurred. The most recent was 2013 and they’re still cleaning up. Lots of workmen were repairing plaster on the buildings. The flood destroyed up to the second floor on anything near the Danube. The guide pointed out that the river was high after the recent rains. Then we toured the Bishop’s Residenz, the 14th century Town Hall, and St. Stephan’s cathedral (I must look up St. Stephan; every town seemed to have a church named after him) which has the largest pipe organ in Europe. The guide explained that Passau is a Catholic town (no kidding!) and that people were taxed 8% of their income tax for church use. She said she was one of the few Protestants around and didn’t pay the tax but she couldn’t receive communion either. It’s a pay-to-play system. She also explained apologetically that taxes were so high because there were people who chose to live on welfare instead of work. As a German she found it hard to fathom such an attitude and seemed ashamed of it. We assured her we had the same problem in the USA and she felt much better. She dismissed us and we attended a 30-minute organ concert in St. Stephan’s. The priest glared at us and instructed us not to take pictures during the concert and not to talk. I don’t know if Americans had been the problem or if it was just a general directive but our group behaved themselves and waited until after the concert to take pictures. The organist was good but Mark Robsen, the accompanist Jim brings in for our special concerts, is better. Boy, have I been spoiled musically. LA attracts some of the most talented musicians in the country–but I digress. We had lunch then took a tour of the other side of Passau. Sebastian, our new guide, wore Lederhosen and was a jolly Bavarian–a little too jolly for my taste. He showed us a ruined castle and performed a mock wedding to demonstrate society rules and history of the time. It was heavy-handed and embarrassed the tour members dragged into it but the man who played the groom was quick on his feet and made it work. We got some ice cream, toured the town square, then got on another little boat for a brief tour of the Ilz river, I think–anyway, one of the Danube tributaries. We drank beer while Sebastian sang accompanied by an accordian-playing friend of his. We saw swans in their nests and got another lecture on the recent flood. Then we took the bus back to Passau. Sebastian sang (he really liked to sing) the Bavarian anthem and asked if any Texans aboard knew the Texas anthem since Texas was a sister state of Bavaria. One couple sang “Deep in the Heart of Texas” which another Texas couple later told us was wrong but nobody cared. Then Sebastian asked if we knew the American National Anthem–he really wanted us to sing; maybe to wake us up–so we gave him a rousing rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. That made him happy. Our briefing before dinner that night warned us that the river was running high and we might have trouble. I didn’t think much of it at the time. Gordon and I stayed up late enough to enjoy the going through the locks again but appreciated the rest. Playing tourist is exhausting.

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About Barbara Schnell

I've dedicated my life to full-time employment avoidance. I've been an actress, renovated a 1921 California Bungalow, set a cash-winning record on $25,000 Pyramid, and came in last on Jeopardy. I live in Los Angeles with my patient husband and two cats.
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