This was the longest lasting winter in Europe since 1960, and later we would learn it was the wettest May in 150 years. It was only going to get worse after we left. It seemed appropriate to us that the people of Passau have nicknamed the statue of the King of Bavaria Maximilian I, “the rain tester.”
We were particularly interested in Passau because our good friend Doug was born there. As we understand it, he was found at age five by an American soldier on the streets after the war and brought to the U.S. He was then again fortunate to enter Milton Hershey School and has gone on to have a very successful life. He is a great guy, and we were disappointed the weather did not permit better pictures.
Passau has a little over fifty thousand people and ten thousand students. It is the jumping off point for many short river cruises and has the last train station in Germany before one enters Austria. Among the things it is famous for is the Passauer Gold Hauben, chocolates decorated with 23-carat gold leaf.
Passau is predominantly Catholic. It was Sunday when we arrived, so we remained quietly at the rear of St. Stephan’s during mass. Michelle was particularly pleased to be able to hear St. Stephan’s organ, the world’s largest cathedral organ with 17,974 pipes.
The Empress Elizabeth “Sissy” of Austria was loved by the people of Passau, and one can stay in the very room she used at the Hotel Wilder Mann for a relatively modest price. The price list did not say if a bath was attached.
Michelle took a picture of the high water marks on a building across from the Wilder Mann. Note the 1501 level. That level was surpassed the first week of June after we returned home. Everywhere we had walked was under water.
The next morning found us docked beneath the 900 year old Benedictine Melk Abbey. The place is huge. So I was surprised that at its height 120 years ago, it had only about one hundred monks. Today it has only thirty monks but around two hundred “civilian” employees. We met one monk and when asked how long he had been there, he looked at his watch and said “sixty years.” My impression is the abbey was a way for wealthy princes to demonstrate their piety (and perhaps show off).
Today’s huge baroque structure was built between 1702 and 1736. Due to its fame, the abbey escaped dissolution under the Emperor Joseph II who seized the wealth of many Austrian abbeys and it survived both Napoleon and the Nazis. A school, founded in the twelfth century, was suspended for a while under the Nazis, but it now has about nine hundred pupils.
The Melk Abbey library is famous. It has 1888 old manuscripts dating to the 9th century, 750 works printed before 1500 and approximately 100,000 works in total. Many are still available for circulation. (The manuscripts can only be seen on microfilm.)
villages we passed still had “Maypoles” on display. I am sure it must be spectacular on a sunny day.