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21 July 2012

This is what the "sun deck" of this ship looks like on a normal day.

This is the "wheel house," in which the captain and crew sit and guide the boat.

This is the middle part of the deck, set up for passengers to lie in the sun with their libations and watch the world go by.

But there are lots of bridges on this river and some of them are very low.  Here's a man ducking down as we pass under a bridge because he's too tall to stand up.

So what happens to the deck when approaching a low bridge?  It's designed so the wheel house sinks into the floor and the sun roof and chairs all flatten down too.

Here's the wheel house, all hunkered down.  You can see the man in the previous picture standing up here, just to the right of that red outlined sign on the bridge.

And here is the seating area.

Clever, huh?

This morning we were supposed to have a lesson in German, which turned out to be a total waste of time.  Walt had the right attitude!  It was taught by one of the staff here who may have a lot of knowledge, but is definitely not a performer, or one who would find a way to engage the audience and make it all fun. 

After basic things like "hello," "goodbye" and "thank you," we learned such things as "where is the shopping street" (wo ist die Einkaursstrasse?) and "My ship is gone" (Mein Schiff is weg) and then, inexplicably, the names of all German-made cars, and instructions for how to get from Germany to London for the Olympic games next week.  Just what we need to survive the next couple of days.  Nowhere did it teach you how to ask "where is the bathroom"!

I still had to change my shoes for our trip following the "lesson," so I (and several others, who were not dozing) walked out and came downstairs to put on my walking shoes for today's adventure.

We took a walking tour of Passau, called the city of 3 rivers, because here the Danube is joined by the Inn from the south and the Ilz from the north.  We visited Old Town, which is only seen on foot since there is no way to get a bus through those tiny winding streets.

It's a charming town that I liked very much, but it is also all cobblestones, hills and steps and it did a number on my knees. Thank god for my cane!

Our guide, Ingrid, originally came from Sweden, has lived in Passau for 30 years and is passionate about this city that she loves so much.  Her love was infectious (and it didn't hurt that she shares my disdain for the wealthy clergy contrasting with the people living in poverty!). 

The highlight of the tour was (another) St. Stephan's Cathedral, built on the highest point in the city. The church has been built and rebuilt but was last rebuilt after a big fire in 1662.  The style is over the top baroque, but I didn't find it bothered me as much as the Melk Abbey (less gold). 

The church is most famous, though, for it's organ, the largest cathedral organ in the world.  It has 17,774 pipes and 233 stops, all of which can be played with the five manual console in the gallery. We're trying to figure out where you FIT 17,000+ pipes!

We oohed and aahed over the cathedral and the organ and then finished our tour of Passau before returning to the cathedral for an organ concert.  The tour took us back down the hill, down uneven cobblestone walkways and down and then up more stairs.

As I said, it all did a number on my knees and I am taking tomorrow's walking tour off, 'cause I'm really hobbling tonight.  Ingrid told us a lot about the history of the town when we got down to the level of the river, but I'm afraid I was looking for a place to sit and didn't get much of it (Char and Mike were sitting too).  But I did notice that the graffiti on the walls as we climbed back up the stairs was a familiar face.

The organ concert was spectacular.  So glad we had the opportunity.  The church was jam packed, too.  And when it was over, we started meandering down the city streets back to the ship.  When was the last time you saw a car tunnel with a crucifix on it?

Char, whose passion is marmalade, was thrilled to find a little marmalade shop with a delightful proprietor who was happy to talk to us and explain that his wife makes all their product.

She was in hog heaven trying to decide which ones to choose.

We had lunch at the buffet on the Aquavit terrace when we returned to the ship.  I got my ravioli pesto from the chef himself.

In the evening, there was a reception for those of us who have been on more than one Viking cruise.  I thought there were more on this cruise than actually showed up, but we were a small and enthusiastic group, as we drank a glass of Aquavit with the hotel manager.

We had just enough time to get from our cocktail party to dinner! God forbid we should go any part of an hour without eating!

Our starter was an olive wrapped in bacon and cooked.  Then I had a crispy tandoori chicken in green rice flakes with parmesan foam and tomato salad.  My main course was sauteed fillet of barramundi with sweet chili mint sauce, chickpea couscous, raisins and dried cranberries.  And for dessert, we all chose a Viking regional specialty, Creme Schnitte cake.

We ate dinner with Kitch, but Joyce was not feeling well, so stayed in the cabin and the staff made up a tray for her at the end of our dinner.

Now on to Regensburg.  There is a morning "leisure tour" I could join, but I think my ankles and knees just need a day of rest.  I might be better by the time there is a "walk to a Bavarian beer garden" in the afternoon.




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