It’s Monday July 8th, and there is a chance of rain in the forecast today for Salzburg, our destination after docking at Passau.
This is also the first day where there has been an issue with our tour/travel agenda, as we awoke to the news that we were going to be at least an hour late in arriving in Passau this morning. Apparently there was heavier than expected lock traffic overnight and Passenger ships no longer have priority so lock entrance is on a first come, first served basis.
We were due in port at 9 AM, but you can see by the time on the TV screen in our room, it is already 9:41 AM and we still have a ways to go before reaching our destination (the Viking ship icon is where we were at 9:41 and the blue arrow on the bottom left of the screen is pointing at Passau).
About fifteen minutes after I took the TV screen photo, Program Director Leonard announced we were approaching Passau, and we were invited to come to the upper deck to witness an unusual phenomenon in the water.
Passau is nicknamed “the city of three rivers”, as it is located at the confluence of the Danube, Inn, and Ilz rivers. You can see the distinctly different colours of the water in the picture taken below. It is apparently the result of different amounts of suspended material and sediment in each river and it also influenced by the current water level.
In the aerial picture below, you can really see the different colours of the three rivers. The river Inn is at the top of the picture, almost white and perhaps a bit greenish-tinted, in the middle, the brownish (not blue) Danube, and in the left corner, the dark-colored small Ilz.
The Danube’s brownish colour is due to the high amount of material washed away from the shoreline due to heavy traffic on the river. The Inn is the cleanest and clearest of the three as it collects its water from Alpine glaciers.
As the Lif slowed for its final glide into the dock at Passau, we passed under one of the low bridges that span the Danube. You can see one of the passengers reaching up to the touch the girder and there was very little clearance between the underside of the bridge and the two men standing there.
In the picture below, looking back at the bridge we had just passed, you can see how all of the deck top canopies had been folded down to facilitate clearance of the underside of the bridge.
When we came back at the end of the day’s excursions, all the deck furniture had been stored below, canopies completely flattened to the deck, and all railings had been removed. This was due to the low bridge clearances ahead on the next leg of the journey, some of them with mere centimetres of room for the ship to pass under. It would be the last time for several days that we would have access to the upper deck, and the stairs were chained off until further notice.
On a hill to the right of the ship, and just beyond the bridge, we couldn’t help but notice Fortress Oberhasen. Founded in 1219, for much of its history it served as the stronghold of the Bishop of Passau, Germany. It is currently the site of a museum, a youth hostel, and a restaurant, as well as an open-air theatre dating to 1934.
At our Port Talk the night before, Program Director Leonard had told us that Passau had been particularly susceptible to flooding from the “tempermental” Danube over the years. Most recently, extreme flooding in central Europe had occurred in 2013, and the level of the Danube had risen an astonishing 43 feet – its highest level in more than 500 years! Check out the picture below.
Thankfully, for those staying in Passau, and for all of us who were disembarking from the ship, 2019 to this point had been quite hot and dry, and flooding had not been an issue.
In fact, the Lif and other Danube traffic were facing the exact opposite issue. We’d been warned the night before, water levels were dangerously low, and we might have to leave the ship at Deggendorf, and get bused to another Viking longship, further along the river. As we left the ship, we were informed that river officials had in fact closed the Danube ahead of us, but we were told that Captain Anne was going to spend much of the day negotiating with officials and monitoring the situation. He was confident that he could get the Lif through, but the river authority’s concern was that they didn’t want the Lif, or any other ship for that matter, getting stuck.
As we set out for our day trip to Salzburg, Austria, we faced an uncertain next couple of days.