On the bank of the Danube there is the statue of a young lady named Emerenz Meier. Emerenz (no idea why people here misread her first name as "Emenez") was a talented writer. A signboard by the statue explains her life and work in both German and English. She was born in 1874 into a poor family in the Black Forest. Around 1900 she owned a pub in Passau which was mostly frequented by artists. In 1906 she emigrated to the USA together with her family. She died in Chicago in 1928.
Daily life, housework and the need to earn her living often interfered with her artistic ambitions. Since women are good at multitasking, she nevertheless kept writing. In a short poem she sums up the troubles of a female poet:
"If Goethe had had to prepare supper, salt the dumplings,
If Schiller had had to wash the dishes,
If Heine had had to mend what he had torn, to clean the rooms, kill the bugs -
Oh, the menfolk, none of them would have become great poets."
(translation quoted from the signboard)
They found her a beautiful spot. Together with the castles and river in the background she is really photogenic.
To my joy, being a Soroptimist myself, I saw that the statue has been donated by the local Soroptimist Club Passau. I hope she withstood the recent flood!
Domplatz is the centre of religious life in the diocese of Passau, and a popular location for events like the Christmas market. The mighty facade of the baroque Dom with its two steeples dominates the eastward front of the square. The other sides are surrounded by baroque town palaces, many of which are used by institutions and administration of the diocese.
The monument in the middle of the square depicts Maximilian (Max) I. Joseph, who became the first King of Bavaria in 1806.
Explore the old town with your camera. Keep your eyes open for details, there are many to spot. Passau is a mostly baroque city and the baroque era is known for their love of details. It is a predominantly catholic city, seat of a bishop, hence catholic saints appear everywhere. Many little shops have old shop signs hanging from wrought-iron 'arms'. The curved and narrow alleys are full of surprising views and perspectives.
Niedernburg was a convent of Benedictine nuns which dates back to the era around 1000 A.D. Emperor Heinrich II granted it the status of a free imperial abbey. Heinrich's sister Gisela, the Queen of Hungary and wife of King Stephan, the very same Stephan who christianized Hungary, entered the convent after the death of her husband and became their abbess in 1045. She died soon after and was buried in the Southern transept of the church.
The tomb of Blessed Gisela is a popular pilgrimage destination, especially for pilgrims from Hungary. The tomb is covered in wreaths and flower bouquets with ribbons in the colours of the Hungarian flag.
The present stone tomb which contains Gisela's relics was erected in the 15th century. Her skull can be viewed through the arcades.
The abbey is located in the lowest part of the old town. I do not want to think about the recent flood in there. It must have been under water. Clean-ups will have been finished in the meantime, given the importance of the place.
The church is open in the daytime.
The church of St Paul works as a gate tower to the old town. It is located on a steep slope which blocks the way from Rindermarkt into the old town, so a short tunnel has been built through the substructions for the street, and a smaller curved tunnel for pedestrians.
Do not walk through the main tunnel, as the two tourists tried who walked into my photo 2. It is just wide enough for cars (it's a one-way street), the tunnel is curved so drivers cannot see too far what's ahead of them - in other words, being a pedestrian in their way might be dangerous. Keep left when coming from Rindermarkt, keep right when leaving the old town along Steinweg, and use the small side tunnel for pedestrians.
St Paul is the parish church of the old town. The building is actually rather small compared to the cathedral, but due to its location on a steep rock above the street it looks a lot bigger than it is. Its facades and steeple dominate the street views of Rindermarkt and Steinweg. The pink church shows a baroque appearance (17th century) but its origins date back to the early middle ages. The church forms an impressive gateway from the city centre and pedestrian zone into the old town.
A statue of the titular saint, St Paul, is standing in a niche on the corner of the choir, looking down into Steinweg.
The interior is usually accessible through a wooden gate and up a steep stairway from Rindermarkt. Currently (winter 2012/13), however, the church is closed due to restoration works; I do not know for how long. The stairway leads no further than the small chapel halfway up where people light candles.
The Inn is a side river of the Danube but almost as big as the Danube itself. It comes down from the Austrian Alps. Its waters carry a lot of sediments, hence their colour is yellowish, compared to the 'blue' Danube. Coming straight from the mountains it is prone to floodings when the snow melts or after heavy rainfalls in the Alps. The Inn seems to be responsible for worde floods than mother Danube - the worst happens when floods of both rivers meet right here, with the old town in between both, as happened in June 2013.
My photos date from early December 2012, everything was calm and dry then. The river bank along the Inn has a long promenade walk starting from Dreiflüsseeck along most of the town. A pleasant walk. Parts of the city's fortifications are preserved, including a fat round tower right on the river bank. Families: Just behind the car bridge there is a large playground that your kids will enjoy.
On the opposite hilltop you'll spot Mariahilf abbey, a monastery of the Pauliner order and pilgrimage church - if you feel energetic, climb up for a view of the old town.
Not much is left of the cloister by the cathedral. The arcaded passages around the courtyard are long gone. This one is not as impressive as other cloisters. Nevertheless entering is worth it for two reasons:
First, the view onto the side facade of the cathedral which gives an idea of its dimensions. From nowhere else in the narrow town you can look at the Dom in whole from close by.
Second, the collection of historical tombstones which have been assembled along the wall under protecting roofs. These originate from graves of clerics who were buried within the cloister. Many of them are elaborate pieces of stonemasonry from different eras, with reliefs showing an image of the defunct or biblical scenes. Have a closer look at them.
Access to the cloister is free. The entrance is outside Domplatz round the corner towards Steinweg through a large gate.
I found this one the prettiest square in town. "Square" has to be translated to "trapezoid, almost triangular" here, though. The square is surrounded by baroque buildings. The largest and most striking of them is the bishop's palace with the museum of the diocese, which occupies one entire front. The square is slightly inclined. The upper end leads towards the choir of the Dom. Seen from this side the gothic origins and proportions are clearly visible under the baroque ornaments. Between Dom and palace there is a narrow passage that leads around the cathedral (see separate tip).
The baroque fountain in the middle of the square was ornated with a fir wreath with electric candles for Advent, very pretty. Unfortunately I missed taking a photo at night.
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.
Update, June 2013. The memory seems even scarier now. Passau is used to floods, but this time the city was hit beyond anything they have ever experienced in 500 years. The recent flood that affected Passau this month was half a meter higher than the highest of these flood marks. All the lower parts of the old town were under water. Renovating everything will take a long time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.