Passau – a city of three rivers

Passau is one of those charming little German towns that fills you with an unbelievable sense of joy. We were in Passau for just a day but in this short stay, we made some beautiful memories especially because we explored the city with family whom we hadn’t seen in years.

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Artists’ Alley

Walking thru painted little cobble-stoned streets hand in hand on a cold autumn day, sipping some delicious Glühwein, admiring the lovely handcrafted wares in the little stores, visiting the most beautiful churches, walking by the river at dusk watching the boats sail away and the city light up, and of course hitting the local breweries is how we spent our short stay in Passau.

Passau is more commonly known as the city of three rivers, the Dreiflüssestadt. The Danube (second largest river in Germany) meets the Inn and the Ilz rivers at Passau. Each of the rivers appear to be in different colors in an aerial view – the Danube being blue, the Inn green, and the Ilz black-ish. The city is popular for its Danube river cruises and you will see a whole bunch of boats docked in the promenade. In fact, we were visiting Passau only to meet with family who was taking one of these river cruises which start here in Passau and go thru Austria and Eastern Europe. These boats look pretty neat and cosy on the inside!

The city is surrounded by lots and lots of water and you’ll find yourself walking by the river thru most of the city. Unfortunately, this also led to some really bad floods in the area. The worst one was over 500 years ago but then the recent one in 2013 was almost as bad. The flood levels are actually marked on one of the old town hall walls.

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Most of the boats are docked at the Fritz Schäffer Promenade

Apart from the rivers and its cruises, the city is also known for having the largest cathedral organ in the world. The St. Stephen’s Cathedral is one of the most beautiful churches in Germany and the huge pipe organ to its collection makes it all the more spectacular. It is said to have 17,774 pipes!!! Organ concerts take place in summer and we hope to attend one of these someday. The interior of the church is done up in baroque style and the paintings & sculptures are simply exquisite – some of them depict fairly morbid scenes and yet weirdly you feel at peace looking at them.

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Organ at St.Stephen’s Cathedral
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Baroque art at St. Stephan’s Cathedral

We were in Passau a couple of days before the Christmas Market and the stalls and decorations were still underway but we enjoyed some of their delicious Glühwein or mulled wine which is generally available during Christmas time.

Of course, we were eager to explore their local brews as well and were not disappointed despite it being your typical German brews. The dunkel (dark) lager we had at the Brauerei Hacklberg was pretty decent compared to the dark lagers we’d been drinking across most of Germany. The food at this brewery was phenomenal – one of the best meals I have eaten in my year-long stay in Germany. A visit to this brewery is definitely worth it.

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Ancient Battle Horn at the Peschl Terrasse

We also visited the Peschl Terrasse which serves the Aldersbach beer. We had the Aldersbacker Kloster Dunkel (dark lager) and the Aldersbacker Kloster Weisse Dunkel (dark wheat beer) and the dark wheat beer was quite nice.

We unfortunately could not visit the Aldersbacher brewery itself as it was quite a ride away from the city. The brewery was established in 13th century and had some bocks on its list and seemed to be into craft brewing as well. Something to do on our future visit to Passau along with a visit to a few of the other breweries in this little city.

There’s a bunch of other things we couldn’t do like visit the Veste Oberhaus, a 13th century fortress. The views from here are apparently pretty amazing. There is a bus that takes you up to the fort but we were visiting during off-season and this bus was not running. We would have done the 30-minute hike uphill but the weather was pretty nasty with heavy rainfall.

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This quaint, picturesque city has plenty of stuff to do and it deserves more than an overnight stay and we definitely plan on visiting the city again, hopefully soon!

Prague – an old-world charm

Prague is this dreamy, old-ish, culturally-rich, architectural wonder of a city that you’d ache to go back to for more…

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We visited Prague during Easter and the city was beautifully decorated, especially the city centre or Old Town Square where they had the Easter markets. Majority of the stalls were filled with gorgeous Easter eggs (with unbelievably intricate designs) and other exceptionally handcrafted decorative items. Some stalls also sold some mouth-watering local delicacies. Traditional song and dance shows were also part of the festivities.

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Trdelnik – a local pastry – grilled and tossed in some cinnamon sugar
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The bustling Prague Old Town Square

The Old Town Square is the heart of Prague. The church you see in the background with its twin distinctive Gothic spires is the Church of Our Lady Before Týn. Prague is filled with churches and lovely, old buildings that are all adorned with some or the other piece of art.

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You’ll see horse-drawn carriages and vintage cars lined up to take you around the city.

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The square is also filled with lovely restaurants serving local beer and food. Prague is known for its beer and you’ll find loads of good beer everywhere…

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Where are my hoppy ales!?

We craved for ales in a city known for its pils and lagers. But, like they say, ask and you shall receive.. we did some quick research and found a neat little place which was swarming with hopheads like us. The Prague Beer Museum has some really good ales and some very unique lagers. Prague made us very happy that evening. Through the Old Town, you will also find little cafes or bars playing live music – we especially enjoyed the blues scene the city had to offer. We visited Jazz Republic – a cosy live music club where the Alice Springs Blues Quartet was playing that evening. These guys put on a great show – this is one of our cherished moments from our trip.

The Square also features the renowned Astronomical Clock which is part of the Old Town Hall. Every hour, crowds gather to watch the clock in action. The four figures beside the clock represent Vanity (with the mirror), Greed (with his money bag), Death (the skeleton), and Pagan Invasion (represented by a Turk). On the hour, Death rings a bell and inverts his hourglass and the twelve apostles parade past the windows above the clock. It’s a pretty sight. Not as beautiful a parade put up by as the Munich Glockenspiel but still a good one to stop for.

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We spent a lot of the day just walking around the old town area exploring the hidden alleys which were filled with little treasures.

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In a store window

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Another hugely famous landmark in Prague is the Charles Bridge – definitely worth a visit despite the insane crowds.

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If you are determined to see the full bridge in its true splendor instead of a crammed bridge with hundreds of people, you should muster the will to stay up thru the night or rise and shine in the wee hours to catch the breath-taking view at dawn. Well, laziness and sleep got the better of us and we went to see the bridge at dusk. It was packed with hundreds of visitors and locals just using the bridge to cross over from the Old Town to the Mala Strana. It was a beautiful sight nonetheless.

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The bridge was filled with caricature artists and folks selling junk jewellery

The views from both sides of the bridge are absolutely gorgeous! You get a wonderful view of the Prague Castle and the St. Vitus’ Cathedral which is the most popular side of the bridge while the other side presents a pretty picture of the city in the backdrop of the Vltava river.

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View of the Prague castle district from the Charles Bridge

The best way to experience the beauty of this charming city is to do a boat tour sipping on some delicious chilled beer.

The next day, we visited the St. Vitus Cathedral . The cathedral is in the Prague Castle area (or Pražský Hrad). It is magnificent, both on the inside and outside. The stained glass windows have wonderfully depicted scenes with a beautiful fusion of colors. The walls on the inside of the Cathedral as well showcase intricate paintings from a bygone era.

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 The Prague Castle area also features the Golden Lane – a wonderful little street filled with modest, little houses that used to be inhabited by the workers at the castle – goldsmiths, blacksmiths etc. One of the houses has been converted into a little museum of sorts displaying ancient torture tools.

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The Rack – no escaping this mean machine
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If you can’t get them with a bullet, slice them.

One of the houses in the Golden Lane was briefly occupied by Franz Kafka, a well-known German writer born into a German-speaking Jewish family in Prague. The city views from all around the castle area are simply beautiful and it was a day well-spent and definitely worth the steep climb.

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At the Jewish Quarter

Our next stop was the Prague Jewish Town. A visit to the Old Jewish Cemetery leaves you feeling melancholic especially when you see the graves of the little ones.

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The cemetery is piled with 12000 tombstones, most buried on top of one another due to the lack of space.

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The Spanish Synagogue

The Prague Jewish Quarter also has a bunch of beautiful synagogues – the notable ones are the Spanish Synagogue with a remarkable interior design and the Pinkas Synagogue which was turned into a memorial to the ~80,000 victims of the Shoah (or Holocaust). The names of all these victims are inscribed on the walls of the synagogue. The synagogue also has a permanent exhibition of pictures drawn by the children in the concentration camp. Some of these pictures will make you smile but some of these will also make you cry thinking of the shattered dreams and tortured lives of these young children.

Prague is an amazing city that is wondrously rich with history and culture – you simply cannot stop exploring all that the city has to offer. We left knowing that we will surely go back someday to soak in more of this incredible place.