Passau is small–50,000 people, and our ship is double parked on a little peninsula surrounded by steep wooded hillsides. I’ve been yearning to see the forest from the inside, so I took advantage of a trail, just over a bridge, to a castle on the hill. Steve took advantage of the opportunity to groan over being “forced” to climb it with me. It was of course, terrific. At least one pretty little vine of ivy graced almost every tree, and the fortress walls were covered with it. After a couple flights of steps the view grabbed even Steve–the old city with Terra cotta roofs between the Danube and the Inn Rivers backed by fluffy green hills. After we explored the old stone castle, a van ride down the hill eased Steve’s suffering.
Though Passau is small its venerable buildings rival those of historic meccas. The finery in the old rathaus, or city hall, is overwhelming. When our guide mentioned that community events such as high school graduations are held there, I thought of the graduations back home in a football stadium. Do kids in Passau appreciate this incredible heritage, or would they rather graduate on a football field where they could blow bubbles volley beach balls, and toss their mortar boards?
The guide also explained where the riches came from to fund these treasures. Salt from Salzburg could easily be shipped in all directions using the three rivers that merge here. Salt was so essential in preserving food that it was called white gold. We needn’t worry, she continued, about getting run over on the narrow cobblestone streets because we tourists are the new white gold that comes down the river on ships.