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!

Bodensee – a cluster of charming little towns

Lake Constance or Bodensee (as it is popularly known in Germany) is a beautiful lake that borders Germany, Switzerland, and Austria near the Alps.

It is the third largest lake in Central Europe and was formed by the Rhine Glacier. There are many lovely cities, little towns, and islands in Bodensee.

Our first stop was Friedrichshafen, the capital of the Bodensee district. This is an industrial city famous for the Zeppelin, an airship that was launched here in 1900. It flew for the first time over the Bodensee and was used for commercial air travel until the 1930s.

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A much smaller replica of the Zeppelin offering rides in the Bodensee region

We would have loved to visit the Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen but unfortunately couldn’t make it during this visit. The city itself seemed nice enough; we had time to just visit the harbor front which was right opposite the train station. The place was filled with people just strolling around and lying on the grass enjoying themselves in the sun (it was the first month with proper sunshine after a long winter in Germany). We couldn’t see much of this lovely city and definitely want to go back here someday soon.

Our next stop was Lindau, one of the larger and more picturesque towns in Bodensee. We approached Lindau in a train and all you could see on either side was gorgeous blue water with pretty little yachts sailing lazily. It is nestled on the lake in front of Austria’s Pfänder Mountain and you can see wonderful views of the Alps. It is especially known for its harbor entrance with the Lighthouse and Bavarian Lion sculpture. The harbor view is as beautiful in the night as it is in the day.

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Lindau Lighthouse (at night)

Lindau is such a cosy little town. Not too far away from the Lighthouse is the town hall, displaying some intricate and interesting paintings.

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And in the area around there is a fountain with some nice sculptures. We enjoyed our little walk through the town and were ready to fill our hungry stomachs. The little town has some wonderful restaurants that plate up some delicious meals and serve some of the most divine wines. We ate at the Hotel Reutemann, the orange building you can see in this picture below. Sitting here and watching the sun go down and the lighthouse lighting up not so far away made for a very special evening.

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View of the Mangenturm Tower (Old Lighthouse)

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We headed back to Markdorf, another little town in Bodensee where we were staying through our trip. We were pleasantly surprised when we arrived at Markdorf. It’s a nice little town with a beautiful church, some cute fountains, and some of the loveliest houses with gorgeous views of the Alps and the lake. We stayed at one such house that we had found via Airbnb and this was our first Airbnb experience and we absolutely loved it! The host was friendly and the house was simply perfect – it had a wonderful sit-out where we spent many an evening gazing at the star-lit sky with a glass of wine, just enjoying the silence of the mountains and the lake not so far away.

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The next day, we visited Insel Mainau or more popularly known as Flower Island. It is one gigantic gorgeous park that’s got the prettiest and most varied collection of flowers I have ever seen and a well-done landscape with interesting art as you can see in the image above. It’s got a bunch of other attractions including a butterfly house and castle. The best time to visit would be in spring, for the tulip blossom, which finishes off by mid May. We got there just after and they had the summer bloom which is just as lovely with a wide variety of roses and other flowers on display. It takes a few good hours to walk through the island but it’s totally worth it and you can take a quick pause and sit at one of the many benches you’ll find by the shore, offering you wonderful views of the lake. We left the island on a boat and saw beautiful little towns pass us by before we got off at Konstanz.

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The Imperia is one of the most famous landmarks of Lake Constance and is in Konstanz, possibly the largest city on the Bodensee. This statue is 9 metres high, weighs 18 tonnes, and stands on a pedestal that rotates around its axis once every four minutes. The statue was erected in the late 1900s and created a huge controversy and you can see why. The story revolving around the statue is interesting.. It’s undoubtedly an admirable piece of work making a bold statement!

We walked around the city a bit and grabbed some dinner and finally had some good beer – and we had a huge stroke of luck as we ended up finding some craft beer! Maisel & Friends brew some amazing craft beer and we are glad we got to try out some of their ales in this little beer bar/restaurant in Konstanz. Their Stefan’s Indian Ale is highly recommended – a wonderfully citrusy, hoppy Indian Pale Ale. You know every time we find great craft beer in Germany, we are just super kicked about how well this country (that has been the pioneers in beer and has been stubbornly brewing its Pils and Weizens for centuries) is embracing new forms of brewing.

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We spent all of the next day in Meersburg, best known for its vineyards. Although we love our beer, we indulge in wine every so often and the Bodensee region has some of the best wines southern Germany has to offer. We had a mouth-watering meal with a few glasses of their finest red wines at one of the lake-side restaurants.

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View of Meersburg from our boat

We then lazed around in the sun on one of the benches near the Magische Säule or Magic Column, created by Peter Lenk – the same guy who created the Imperial statue pictured above at Konstanz. The sculptor seems to be well-known for his controversial bold sculptures.

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Intriguing art by Peter Lenk

We walked around exploring this beautiful medieval town adorned with pretty vineyards and a lovely castle. We took back not only some good bottles of wine from Meersburg but also some good memories from a lovely day spent in this gorgeous town in Bodensee.

All these little towns and cities in Bodensee are so wonderfully unique and amazing – it’s hard to pick a favorite. We fell in love with every one of them and cannot wait to visit some of these again.