Passau, Germany and home. 11/12-13/2022

Today is our last day and we have planned to take the guided walking tour, look around a bit on our own, and then return to the ship to pack. It is very cold and foggy today and even though we are equipped with coats and gloves and warm scarves, we are happy when the guide tells us that she will keep it short and we will spend some time in the cathedral where it will be warmer. She mentions various places as we pass through them but I am too intent on getting to somewhere warmer to take pictures. Sarah and I agree to retrace our steps and take pictures a little later in the day when I can imagine taking off my gloves.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral is on a site that has had a church on it since the early 8th century. A Gothic cathedral stood here until it was destroyed in a 1662 fire. You can still see the Gothic eastern wall from the outside. This church is Baroque in style. Its organ used to be the biggest in the world and is still the biggest in Europe. The U.S. has captured the biggest organ in the world race.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral on a sunny day (photo by Aconcagua)

Interior of St, Stephen’s Cathedral

After leaving the cathedral Sarah and I backtrack to take some pictures of Passau. The big thing about Passau is the fact that it is on a peninsula where three rivers join to create the lower part of the Danube. In fact the city is also known as Dreiflussestadt or City of Three Rivers. In June, 2013 the city experienced the worst flooding in 500 years. The height of the flood waters throughout history is recorded on the sides of buildings.

Sarah in front of the flood measurement at the town hall. The 2013 flood is second from the top.

This is a picture I found online of the 2013 flood. Sarah is standing in the picture above near the buff colored part of the building with the clock.

Colorful Town Hall in Passau

Artsy shot of the Town Hall clock tower from a side street

In the town square a market was being held. It was still fairly early and not too many people were out braving the cold to buy their winter produce.

Town square with market

Colorful squashes

As we head back towards the boat we finally are able to see the castle/fortress across the river. Until now it had been totally hidden by the fog.

Emerging from the fog is the fortress, Veste Oberhausen, the former residence of the the Prince-bishops of Passau. Founded in 1219 it is one of the oldest surviving castle complexes in Europe.

We spend the rest of the day having lunch and getting organized for the trip home. We need to retire early since we must meet for our bus ride to the Munich airport at 2:45 AM.

The trip to Munich airport takes about two hours and we manage to arrive before anyone is manning the desks to checks us in. We have two flights on Air France. The first is to CDG in Paris and then the longer one to SFO. We have one and a half hours to make our connection at Charles de Gaulle and we need every minutes of it. It seems like we walk miles, go through a scan, and think we are finally to our destination gate when it turns out to be a bus stop where we will ride to what seems like the next town to get to the international terminal. It is all very stressful but at least we have comfortable seats on the plane and some excellent food and wine!

The best part of coming home is knowing that John will be waiting to pick us up. I think this is the longest time we have ever spent apart. It was a really enjoyable trip but it is good to be home!

Linz, Austria. November 11, 2022

We start off the day in chilly and foggy Linz with a walk-around tour of the city. We learn from our guide that Linz was the city that Hitler had the fondest memories of. In fact he hoped to make it the cultural capital of the Third Reich and the diamond of the Danube outshining Budapest and Vienna. He particularly disliked Vienna since it was there that he had been rejected from art school. He drew up elaborate plans for Linz along with scale models of future buildings which never came to fruition, thank goodness. Linz since the war has become a modern city with much emphasis on high tech.

We walk around the large town square where there is a throwback to an older bad time for Linz, the Holy Trinity or Plague Column.

The Holy Trinity or Plague Column in Linz

At the base of the Plague Column is a beautiful planting of chrysanthemums and decorative kale.

We continue our walk-around. Our guide points out good places to eat and to have beer. We take note. We end up at the old cathedral which opened in 1669. Like many other churches we have seen in this area wood is the predominant medium to work in.

Altar at the Old Cathedral

Sarah and I go off on our own after the tour. We have a debate over is it too early for a beer. It is only 10:58. Sarah remembers an article from The Onion where the headline was “Area man says, F—— it, eats lunch at 10:58 AM. So we go into Bruckner’s, the place that the guide has recommended for a beer and a pre-lunch snack.

Sarah enjoys a pre-lunch beer

During our pre-lunch we make our plans for the afternoon. We decide to check out the Schlossmuseum or castle museum. According to the website, “The Schlossmuseum Linz provides a comprehensive insight into the natural, cultural, and artistic history of Upper Austria from prehistory and early history to the 21st century.” Obviously we cannot see everything. What we are interested in are the exhibits of medieval religious art.

It is a long trudge up a cobblestones street to the museum perched at the highest point in the city. Sarah takes good care of me, holding my arm or hand all the way up the hill. We stop and take some pictures at the view of the city.

View from the castle grounds over many-steepled Linz.

As we step into the area of early Germanic religious art, we think, YES! This is what we have been looking for!

This area has art from the 13th to the 15th century. Most of. It is carved and painted wood.

Making a deal with the devil?

And who doesn’t enjoy seeing a cephalophore? When St. Denis was beheaded in the 3rd century he continued on his way for several miles carrying his head and giving a sermon on repentance.

After quite a long time in the museum we make our way down the cobbled hill to the town square in search of some post-lunch. We settle into The Glockenspiel where we get a yummy coffee drink plus a sausage and roll.

Fancy coffee with cookie

Happy sausage on a plate with a roll plus mustard and horseradish, We give up on trying fit the hot dog into the roll.

We find our way back to the boat and the rest of the day is given into going to an explanation of how we are disembarking from Passau, our next stop. For dinner we find nothing of interest so choose to have a steak off the every day menu. It is actually quite good!

Tomorrow we will reach Passau, Germany which is our last port on this cruise. We will take a look around Passau on Saturday and then head for Munich airport on Sunday. Only one more post left!

Krems, Austria. November 10, 2022

Our half-day stop at Krems, Austria includes a visit to Gottweig Abbey, a Benedictine monastery founded in the 11th century. It has a spectacular setting perched high on a hill overlooking the Wachau Valley and is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Gottweig Abbey ( thanks for the picture Wikipedia)

The current Abbey is mostly rebuilt after a fire in the early 1700s. So it is pretty baroque. It was intended to be even fancier than it is now but due to a shortfall in financing there are a lot of faux features. For instance many of the exterior windows are just painted on and not real windows at all. There is also quite a bit of painted on marble made to imitate the real thing.

This little chapel is the only part of the complex that is original.

While we are getting organized our group takes a look at the Wauchau Valley. The Abbey owns all the forests and much arable land used for growing grapes. The priests service the local churches and the Abbey is used for education, tourism (you can rent a room!), and the monastic life of the brothers. There are about 30 of them living there currently.

Wachau Valley
Sarah and I amuse ourselves with a selfie while we wait

Once inside we are shown the interior of the church. Our guide points out various cost-cutting in the sanctuary.

Altar in Gottweig Abbey church. Lots of faux marble.

We also get to see the famous ceiling fresco painted by Paul Troger in 1739. Emperor Charles VI represents the god, Apollo in the center. The fresco stretches over the grand staircase. It seems rather secular to me.

Paul Troger fresco

Now we have free time to wander down to the gift shop for a buying opportunity. There are bottles of the Abbey’s wine which we are encouraged to sample. There are also lots of religious and non-religious tchotchkes for purchase. Sarah and I go outside and amuse ourselves with another selfie.

Sarah and Mary with parking lot and Wachau Valley backdrop.

We get back to boat around noon and have lunch. We are leaving Krems for Linz around 1PM so there is no time for poking around Krems. Later in the afternoon there is a tea which we attend. I do enjoy the little sandwiches!

Tea with scones, little sandwiches and dessert-y things

Later we have an Austrian/German kind of dinner with charcuterie and cheese boards, sauerbraten which includes sausage and fried chicken (?), and giant soft pretzels. It was kind of hit or miss.

Vienna. November 9, 2022

This morning Sarah and I start off by catching the tour bus into Vienna central. Our plan is to leave the tour as soon as it heads off on foot and instead visit the Kunsthistorisches Museum in hopes of finding some more early Renaissance pieces. We walk along the Maria Theresa platz where the workmen are setting up for the Christmas Market which will start in a few weeks. The Christmas markets are a big deal in Europe. In fact Viking has a whole river cruise centered around visiting them. We went to the market in Milan once. It was crazy busy and filled with all sorts of Christmas gifts and specialty foods.

In the platz there is a big statue of the former Empress. Maria Theresa’s father, Emperor Charles VI, made sure before he died that the succession of the Habsburg Empire would continue through his daughter. She reigned for 40 years during the 18th century and is much revered in Austria.

Empress Maria Theresa

We walk over to the art museum only to find that it does not open until 10 AM. We have almost half and hour to find something to do, preferably inside since it is quite chilly. We decide to do as the Austrians do and have coffee. We find a nearby cafe, Burg.Ring 1, and settle in for some fine coffee drinking. We each order the Franziskaner which is espresso, hot milk, and whipped cream. They even include a delectable little cookie. This is a half hour well-wasted!

The Franziskaner at Burg.ring 1

We head back to the museum and go about trying to find the old stuff we are looking for. Unfortunately it does not seem that this museum has that kind of old stuff. 1500 is about as far back as it goes. But no big deal, there is plenty of other stuff to see. Such as—

The Feast of the Bean King by Jacob Jordaens. Whoever finds the bean in their cake gets to be king for the festivities. Although this festival is celebrated at Epiphany it made me think of the finding of baby Jesus in the king cake at Mardi Gras.
Rembrandt spent a lot of time painting himself. At the Kunsthistorisches Museum there are three Rembrandt self-portraits at three different stages of his life.

I am excited to see this painting, The Art of Painting by Johannesburg Vermeer. The last time I was in Vienna the painting was undergoing restoration.

After several hours, Sarah and I leave the museum and head towards the Cathedral Square, but first lunch! Since we have been having a lot of regional favorites on the boat we opt for Italian food.We stop at Ristorante da Gennaro and have pizza!

My pizza Margarita is less than 9 euros. U.S. pizzas are much more expensive (and usually not as good!)

Sarah and the beer of the day!

Now we head to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Ground was broken for the cathedral in 1137 but it was not completed until 1578.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

The interior of the church looks like it could use a good cleaning. Everything is dark with grime and the interior is not well-lit. On top of that we are barred from getting up close to the altarpieces.

Interior

St. Anthony the Abbot with his pig

On our way into Vienna the tour guide gave everyone very clear directions for how to get around in Vienna. We are given a metro map and see that there is a route from St. Stephens to near the boat. While it will cost at least 10 Euros by cab to get back to the boat, it will take less than 5 Euros for the two of us to take the subway. Since we have found our way around Budapest by subway we figure Vienna will be easy as well. And it is! The ticket machines give you a choice of languages and take credit cards. At dinner a few people had ventured beyond the Viking tours but we were the only ones to have taken the metro. Good job us!!

Dinner is not terribly successful tonight. I opt for rolled, stuffed eggplant which is terrible. Sarah’s Wiener schnitzel is much better.