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This narrow passage along the Southern side of the cathedral is easily missed but worth looking for. Photographers who like to play with perspective will especially enjoy the various glimpses and views of the facades, the white steeple high up, etcetera. Due to the topography of the hill and the steep descent towards the Inn bank behind, there was little space to build the bishop's residence and offices behind the cathedral. Only this small alley was left. Access is either from Domplatz thropugh the arch underneath the right steeple, or from Wittelsbacherplatz around the choir of the cathedral.
Updated Mar 25, 2013
The cathedral is the most impressive building in Passau's old town. Passau has been the seat of a bishop since the early middle ages. The present baroque cathedral dates from the second half of the 17th century.
A lot has been written about the history and architecture of the cathedral and of course about its pride, the largest church organ in the world. I do not want to repeat everything. So here are just a few personal observations.
I visited in December, hence night fell early. I found the interior most impressive after dark (photos 2 and 3). There is little illumination, so the gold shines and the vaults disappear in obscure darkness.
During Advent and Christmas season there is a Nativity scene set up in front of one of the altars in the left side nave. The altarpiece depicts the Nativity, too, so this is the right place. Press the button on the left to turn on the light in the showcase.
I attended the Christmas concert of the Regensburger Domspatzen in Passau's cathedral (they tour the region with their Christmas programme and perform in several places) which was fantastic. I booked my ticket in advance. The concert schedule and the how-to are on the website of Dommusik Passau - unfortunately in German only. There is no online booking system, it had to be done by phone.
In case you intend to visit a concert in winter, make sure you get seats on a bench, not on the additional chairs that are put up for concerts only. Why? The benches have heating underneath while the chairs stand on a stone floor without heating. For example, in the middle nave, seats 1 and 2 are chairs while seats 3 and higher are on the bench. Then there are chairs again at the end of the row. Bit complicated. Enquire when buying the tickets.
Opening hours: daily from 6.30 - 19.00 (summer) resp. 18.00 (winter), closed during mass and during concert rehearsals.
Written Mar 24, 2013
To reach Veste Oberhaus on foot, I crossed the Danube on the suspension bridge (photo 1 and 2). A signpost pointed me to a stairway just opposite the bridge which lead up the very steep and rocky slope. In winter the shortest walk along Wehrgang is closed. Only the longer way to the left is open, but it is not cleared from snow and ice. Conditions were a bit icy but not too bad, it was walkable with some care. I was not looking forward to the walk back down, though, but gladly found an alternative, as there is a street down the other side of the hill to the Ilz bank, from where I walked through the tunnel and back to the bridge into the old town.
The uphill footpath leads through the forest, so at first the view is a bit limited because of the trees and bushes - in summer it will probably be mostly obscured. Rather high up the path reaches first a viewing terrace in the forest, then an even better viewpoint just outside the fortifications. The second one (photos 4 and 5) provides the full view over the old town.
Written Feb 1, 2013
I visited Passau in early December and I knew the museum on Veste Oberhaus would be closed, so the options were limited. Seeing a bit of the buildings and the view of the city justified the climb for me, though. I took a footpath on the steep hillside up.
Past the parking lot (yes it is possible to access the castle by car) I entered the fortress from the upper side through a curved gate tunnel under the 17th century bulwarks. This part is higher than the actual castle and protects the most vulnerable side towards the hilltop. The way then leads slightly downhill past the observatory and the economy buildings to the wooden bridge into the actual castle.
Due to the winter closure of the museum, the innermost courtyard was also closed. The larger first courtyard was accessible, though. I hope to return some time in the warmer season to see it all!
On the way down I discovered the street on the other side of the hill which leads town to the Ilz bank. This street is still rather steep and paved with cobblestones and had to be walked carefully but it was a lot easier than the forest path I had climbed up.
Updated Feb 1, 2013
The Biga is a sculpture in the courtyard of Veste Oberhaus. A "biga" is a cart drawn by two hourses, like a "quadriga" which has four. The life-size horses are naked - nevertheless they are controlled by the woman with invisible reins and tied to the cart with an invisible harness and towing bar. The horses obey her and parade in front of the cart. These missing elements which the viewer has to imagine add to the magic of the sculpture.
The Biga is a late work of the sculptor Hans Wimmer. A large collection of his works is on display inside the castle museum. Due to winter closure I could not enter to see it. Photo 4 shows a glimpse into the window: there are more horses inside. Animals, especially horses, were one of Wimmer's main topics, but he also dealt with human figures.
Updated Feb 1, 2013
The ridge and point between the rivers Donau and Ilz is occupied by two heavily fortified castles, Veste Oberhaus on the hilltop and Veste Niederhaus down by the mouth of the Ilz. They protect and control this strategic location at the meeting point of the three rivers which have always been busy travel routes both in war and peace. The castles belonged to the Prince Bishops. As Oberhaus is located notably higher than the old town, it was also useful to control the town in case the citizens were in for some uproar against their ruler.
Niederhaus, the lower fortress, is a private property and cannot be visited. It ised to have a much higher tower, but this was taken down in the era of the cannons to provide free view and shooting range for the troops on the upper fortress.
Oberhaus contains a historical museum and an art exhibition and a vast building complex with several baileys and inner courtyards to explore. The view of the city and valleys is worthwhile. Be prepared for a steep climb, no matter which way up you take.
The castle museum is open from March 15 to November 15 and over the Christmas holidays. During these periods there is a shuttle bus from Rathausplatz to Oberhaus and back every 30 minutes; the ticket (8 €) includes the bus and the museum.
Written Feb 1, 2013
A city with three rivers is obviously prone to floods and Passau is having its share. The Inn, which comes straight from the Alps, is probably the worst of the three.
I spotted these flood marks in a little square which is simply named Ort (place) on the corner of the baroque palace. This is in the lowest part of the old town but not on the river bank, it's a few metres uphill. Nevertheless the water level went up to about 2.5 to 3 metres above ground. Scary.
This baroque palace is, according to the inscription above the portal, an orphanage that was built thanks to a private donation in 1751.
Written Feb 1, 2013
The planet trail (Planetenpfad) on the Inn bank represents the solar system and its 8 planets. It is supposed to give an idea of the vastness of the distances in relation to the size of the different planets. The scale is 1:1 000 000 000. This means, the total length of the model is 4.5 kilometres. If you feel like a nice long walk by the river, you can start from the sun at Dreiflüsseeck and follow the Inn promenade until Ingling power plant where you finally reach neptune.
Written Feb 1, 2013
Passau's old town sits on a peninsula between the rivers Donau (Danube) and Inn. The peninsula ends in a pointed triangle known as the corner of the three rivers, as there is also the mouth of the Ilz on the opposite side of the Donau. The point is covered by a small park.
The three rivers are known for the differing colours of their waters: blue Donau, black Ilz, yellow-brown Inn. The colours are caused by the different sediments the rivers are carrying.
As I visited in early winter, though, the different colours were not visible. All the water was the same muddy grey. The colours will show in other seasons. A board with an areal view (photo 3) gives an idea what it is supposed to look like.
In warmer seasons this place will not be as quiet, though. The landings for the cruise ships are lined up along the Danube bank until almost at the tip, and if there are five, six cruise ships present, old Passau can be expected to be very busy.
Written Feb 1, 2013
I was lucky when I was inside St.Stephen's ,the cathedral of Passau, as the German Television had a rehearsal for an organ-concert and all of the church was professionally lighted.
The organ has 17774 pipes and 233 registers.
In summer you can attend a daily organ-concert at lunchtime !
For the concerts you have to pay a small entrance-fee, but all the other time, the church is open for visitors without restrictions during the day.
Obviously there is a bigger organ on earth since 1994 according to this info on wikipedia:
"The organ at St. Stephen's was long held to be the largest church pipe organ in the world and is today second in size only to the organ at First Congregational Church, Los Angeles, which was expanded in 1994."
Updated Oct 26, 2012
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