Passau, Germany

The fall morning mists hung low over the mountains that came down on either side of the Danube River, as the River Cloud made her way west heading for her afternoon destination of Passau, Germany. With Austria off of one side of the ship and Germany off the other, we sailed through the Bavarian forest. The Bavarian Forest (Bayrischer Wald) is Central Europe’s largest natural forest. Established in 1970, it consists of 10,000 hectares of unused and uncultivated land. The national park, which has also been a biosphere reserve since 1981, was recently given permission by the Bavarian parliament to be expanded by 11,000 more hectares. Though we passed occasionally through a small town or village on either side of the River Cloud, we saw very little in the way of towns and villages. In the late morning we entered Aschach Lock and our expedition leader made an announcement about the low hanging clouds. Through communication with the barge traffic we were informed that the weather was possibly lifting ahead of our present location and the River Cloud would pull aside after leaving the upriver side of the Aschach Lock and wait a short time in hopes of a lifting sky.

While our ship was slowed, our National Geographic Historian Sharon Hudgins gave a talk in the lounge entitled “ Festivals, Folklore and Crafts of the Danube Lands.” Many of us returned to the decks in hopes of lifting clouds and watched as the River Cloud approached the Schlögener Schlinge a two and one half hour stretch of forested slopes around western Austria’s most famous twists and a large u-turn in the Danube River. The fall colors had reached this side of Austria, and those same slopes were decorated in many shades of yellows, reds, greens and browns!

After a relaxing morning, it was time to enjoy the small but picturesque city of Passau, Germany. A briefing in the lounge had prepared everyone for a variety of afternoon activities. A hike to the Veste Oberhaus above the city was offered along with a river walk from Confluence Park into the city and last but not least a visit to many of the local artisans of the area, whose shops were located in many of the tiny meandering streets that made up the old part of Passau. No matter what was chosen there were plenty of opportunities to enjoy our first visit in Bavaria, learn a little about the area and feel at home in this lovely section of southeastern Germany. Everyone was invited back on board for a special Bavarian recap and the galley of the River Cloud put the final emphasis on the theme of the day by presenting a Bavarian buffet dinner.