Sailing on the Danube, Days 3 & 4

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The view of Passau, Germany from the ship.
The view of Passau, Germany from the ship.

On day three of our mother/daughter trip with Viking River Cruises sailing on the Danube, we spent the morning in Regensburg, which is the best-preserved medieval city in Germany (it came out intact after WW2) and if I understood the guide correctly, the first German city to be placed on a European map. It’s 2,000 years old, in fact. Travelers who’ve been to Italy will notice quite a similarity, and Regensburg is actually known as the northernmost Italian city.

I was right to only opt for the one included excursion in the morning, because my daughter and I decided to bow out of the Regensburg walking tour early (after about 45 minutes or so). Yes, it’s all very interesting and you get to know historic bits of the city or town you are visiting, but for a teenager it’s, in all honesty, a little embarrassing to be part of a tour and get funny stares from the locals (most teenagers are self-conscious enough). So off we went to explore what has to be one of the most picturesque cities we have ever visited. Street after street looks like you are walking through a movie set. In fact, my daughter had been to Walt Disney World the weekend before and said that she had taken video in Disney that resembled the buildings she was seeing as we strolled through town—we were seeing the real deal, though.

Towers throughout Regensburg, Germany.
Towers throughout Regensburg, Germany.

Down cobblestone streets we paraded, into tiny shops selling typical Bavarian souvenirs, we saw trays of dried fruit prominently displayed along the streets in front of shops, took in the exotic scents of spices in streetside stalls, ate sausage sandwiches in Germany’s oldest restaurant, wondered at the beautiful St. Peter’s Church with its ornate spires that seem to touch the heavens, and stared with awe at the tower-like buildings (see image) that were borrowed from Italy’s architecture and which, according to the guide were not for protection but rather for showing off one’s wealth (back in medieval times there were 62 such towers and today 20 are still scattered throughout the city).

The one downfall to all this touring is that it is extremely hot—and if I’m saying that, a Miami native, then you know it’s hot. My daughter and I want to take it all in, but the sun just bears down on us. Silver lining? The ship is just a few blocks away, so if teenagers get grouchy, as they are prone to do, then it’s back on board before going back into the city or town for one more look around before the ship begins to sail for the rest of the day.

And when it’s sailing, oh the beauty one sees. Picturesque villages along the river covered in an astounding amount of lush greenery and churches with onion domes, sheep herders, and bends in the river that lead to more beautiful sights.

In fact, as I’m writing this, I’m looking out the stateroom windows at a small German town with what looks to be a beautiful church (again that onion dome) and a Ferris wheel. It’s off in the distance, but what an almost surreal sight. And just sitting on our balcony and looking out at the gorgeous, jaw-dropping, spectacular, amazing scenery has both my daughter and I over the moon—Ferris wheels in the middle of the country with quaint homes surrounding it (does it get more precious than that?).

While we sailed, my daughter insisted we take part in the onboard German lesson, where we learned a few German words, but more interestingly, learned German etiquette. You’d think the last thing a teenager would want to do is sit down to learn something, but it was a quick and humorous take on the subject matter—my daughter didn’t stop laughing. After that, we hurried off to a galley tour—it’s a cute way for a teenager to pass the time while the ship is sailing. Also, during dinner we met the only other teenager on board, a British 19-year-old boy who told us that he was thoroughly enjoying himself, and, like my daughter, loved meeting the passengers and listening to their array of experiences.

Is my daughter bored yet? I don’t think so—in fact, just this afternoon, she said, “I wish I could stay on this ship forever with these people and Thomas, the ship’s hotel manager, and Alex, the very funny program director, and just listen to all these British people speak.” She adores the older generation, I’ve learned—she thinks they are adorable and sweet and very funny. (I didn’t realize that before this trip and clients who bring their teenagers on a trip like this come to realize little nuances about their kids they didn’t already know—that’s what’s great when Twitter and Instagram are inaccessible.)

St. Stephen's Cathedral in Passau, Germany.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Passau, Germany.

On day four, we arrived in Passau, and as I write this we are still anchored here, but my daughter and I had to come back to the cabin for some air-conditioned coolness (it’s hot out there). This town is as marvelous as the previous ones, with its cobblestone streets that lead up hills, through photo-worthy gardens blooming with multicolored flowers, through narrow passageways and all leading from one river on the one side of town to the other river, Inn. Passau, in fact, is located at the confluence of three rivers. I might be pointing out the mother/daughter bonding thing, but we sat in front of the Inn River on a little bench under a tree with a slight breeze and plenty of shade, and the moment couldn’t be more perfect…. The highlight of the stop in Passau beyond that moment? An organ concert at St. Stephen’s Cathedral, with its baroque interior that will have your client’s jaw dropping (see image) and an organ with 17,774 pipes and 233 registers (it’s Europe’s largest church organ).

Beyond taking in all these historic and architectural marvels, we’ve eaten ice cream at every port—she chocolate and me apple sorbet—and gushed over how Europeans do things ever so delicately and with such attention to detail….

Tomorrow it’s the Melk Abbey and then Vienna, where it might reach 103 degrees!

If you haven’t been following our journey on the Danube, read about days 1 & 2 in Sailing on the Danube with Viking River Cruises & My 13-year-old Daughter.