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  • Writer's pictureRuth Mcbride

Something is amiss!

Day 6/15 2023 Viking Skadi Grand European Christmas Markets Cruise. Passau, Germany

Rain! Our first day of rain on this trip! Windy and 4C! Yikes! Not a great day for a walking tour but that is what we had signed up for so that is what we are doing!

We met our guide Marlene, from Toronto on the pier next to the Viking Skadi. Yes. That’s right. Marlene from Toronto. Apparently our guide did her degree at my Alma mater The University of Toronto and then she came to Germany to visit relatives after finishing her degree…and then she met a boy and 30 years later she’s still in Germany and working as a tour guide doing walking tours of Passau.

We walked down from the ship to see where the Danube, the Ein and the Iltz river meet. Each of the 3 rivers is a different colour with the water from the Ein flowing all the way down from Switzerland to meet the Danube in Passau.

We walked past the City Hall where civil weddings take place before a couple has a church ceremony. The tap which looks like a water fountain in the summer when there is a wedding, actually flows with beer! Of course this time of year everything has been winterized and nothing is flowing from the tap.

We walked up to the baroque St. Stephen’s cathedral built in 1688-1693with its onion shaped towers, which has the largest pipe organ in Europe, with 17,774 pipes and 233 registers (currently under repair though), but we could not see inside because a Catholic girls school group was there for their services and no other visitors were allowed inside at the same time. Our guide did tell us that at noon there was going to be an organ concert for 5 euros per person if we were interested in attending. Apparently while the cathedral is missing pipes from the pipe organ they have brought in two additional organs to replace the missing pipes from the big pipe organ.

Our guide left us at the Passau Christmas market after 1.5 hours of walking through old Passau. I really didn’t feel like we learned that much from her, but we did get our bearings for walking around Passau the rest of the day.

My arms were freezing cold in my goretex rain jacket. I had layered up my core but obviously my sweater was not warm enough inside my coat, so our first order of business once we ditched our guide was to get something warm to drink. Richard ordered the rum punch again and I had a hot spiced apple cider. We purchased the green mugs as a souvenir from Passau and while we were having the lady from the hot beverage stand take our photo, our friend Graham originally from England and currently living and working in Australia, photo bombed our picture unbeknownst to us!

Richard had to use the WC which was just outside the market and he came back to report the WC was free and was very warm inside, so I made a trip inside the WC just to get warmed up!

We decided the organ concert at St. Stephen’s Cathedral might be a nice place to sit and warm up for 30 minutes, and it would also give us the chance to see inside this beautiful cathedral, so Richard went and bought us tickets for the concert while I wandered the Passau Christmas market.

I found a nice silver necklace that I liked in the market, so I bought it.

Nothing else really appealed to me though, although there were lots of nice carved wooden nutcrackers (which my friend Heather would have loved). The carved pieces were quite expensive though and you would have to be a collector of nutcrackers to spend the money on them! There definitely were no ‘start the car’ bargains like a $29.99USD nutcracker which had originally been $243USD! (Inside story between me and Miss Heather)

We wandered into the actual old town of Passau briefly to get our bearings before we had to turn around to get back to the Cathedral for the organ concert at noon. The rain was constant and we were using a large red Viking umbrella to try and stay dry, but the cold was bonechilling on top of the dampness from the rain.

As we walked inside the cathedral I quickly noticed it was not heated! It was freezing inside and actually felt colder than outside. The only saving grace was it wasn’t raining inside the cathedral!

The organist arrived just before the concert was to start at 11:55am and proceeded to announce from the podium what he would be playing for us in the concert. Of course he only spoke German, so we didn’t have a clue what he said. For us who only speak English, it would be a mystery concert!

For some background. I am very musically inclined, having completed my Grade 8 piano and Grade 2 Theory and I played trombone from Grade 9 until I was over 40 years old in various bands. I still play piano from time to time back in Canada on the same piano I started piano lessons on when I was 5 years old! My father loved organ concerts and I would accompany him from time to time at Casa Loma in Toronto, which had a Wurlitzer organ. I was quite looking forward to the pipe organ concert today because I do enjoy a good majestic sounding pipe organ.

Think back to that the iconic scene from “The Sound of Music” when Julie Andrews is walking down the aisle to marry Captain Von Trapp. The music from the pipe organ in the cathedral is so majestic and moving. That scene in the movie always gives me goosebumps and I get a lump in my throat!

Well this pipe organ concert was nothing like I had ever heard before. The organist played some obscure pieces showing off different pipes and sounds from the pipe organ. There was one very obscure, dissonant version of Silent Night that he played as if the organist was angry with the world! And I was freezing during the entire concert! I pulled my buff up over my mouth to breath into it to warm me up and I cuddled up to Richard having him hold my hands through my double neoprene water proof gloves, to try and keep warm.

Finally the 30 minute organ concert and what felt like an endurance match was over! What a relief!

Richard went to the back of the cathedral after the concert and lit a candle for his father, used the holy water and we left the cathedral.

By now it was really pouring outside as we walked through the Christmas market looking for something to eat for lunch. Richard felt like a bratwurst on a bun and he had seen some bratwurst that had been cooking on an open BBQ grate over coals. The sausages were very long and looked delicious!

We got one bratwurst on a bun with mustard for €6.50 and we shared it. The crispy outside on the bratwurst and the juicy sausage inside was probably the best bratwurst I’ve ever had! Yummy!!!

We left the market to walk to the old town of Passau. Not much caught our interest but I did see a warm sweater I liked so I picked it up as I thought it was a little unusual. We also found a few Christmas decorations for next year when we finally do decorate our home for Christmas in Florida.

We had been told that our ship Skadi which was docked at pier 2, would be leaving Passau at 2:15pm and moving about 25 minutes north of Passau on the Danube. If we wanted to stay in Passau for the afternoon and longer than 2:15pm, a shuttle bus would be available at dock 12 to pick us up at 5:30pm to bring us back to the ship.

By this point we were cold, wet and didn’t see the need to wander around Passau anymore and definitely not until 5;30pm, so we headed back to the ship walking along the Danube at a brisk pace and made it back to the ship at 1:55pm. We asked Guest Services if we could get a bowl of soup to warm us up and they said the lunch service was over.

Richard went to see Chef Florin in the dining room and asked him if it might be possible to get two bowls of soup and he said “absolutely!” So we went to the back of the Restaurant near the kitchen and had two delicious bowls of curried cauliflower soup. Our Chef is a master at soup making! We have had the most delicious soups on this cruise, which are perfect for this cool weather. Hearty, hand warming and delicious!

Our friends Alice and Graham from Australia were leaving the dining room and asked if we had tried the fish and chips?! Chef appeared and asked if we wanted fish and chips and mushy peas too? When I hear there was mushy peas I had to get an order of those! My mom was from England and I loved it when she made mushy peas! Richard won’t cross the street for them so if I do make them I’m on my own for eating them!

It was nice to relax in our stateroom after lunch, while I worked on the blog, but we didn’t start moving at 2:30pm like we were supposed to. I wonder what’s up?

At 3:30pm we moved about 2,000 yards up river and then stopped. Strange.

Finally Richard went and asked what was going on at Guest Services and he was told we were probably not going to be able to move further than Passau because of high water levels and this rain was not helping our situation either!

About 5:30pm we started sailing north on the Danube and then next thing we knew we were docking next to another Viking Ship just north of Passau.

We certainly were not getting a good feeling about all of these changes of plans and ship movements!

Our port talk for Regensburg was at 6:45pm so we arrived early to get a seat in the Lounge. Our program Director Daniel advised us they had delayed the Port Talk to accommodate the people who had gone to Salzburg, Austria for the day and were not back yet, so the port talk would start at 7pm.

At 7pm the Captain, Hotel Manager and Program Director appeared together at the port talk. We had been told on Day 1 if we saw the three of them together again at a port talk it would not been good news.

Stoyan our Hotel Manager delivered the bad news. Tomorrow we would be bused to Regensburg which would be about a 1.5 hour bus ride. We would do our excursions as planned and Viking would provide lunch at a local restaurant, after which we would be bused back to the Skadi in Passau.

The following day (Dec 23) we would be doing a ship swap joining the Viking Bragi (our originally planned ship) in Nuremberg, Germany. This means that we will have to pack up our entire cabin tomorrow after we return from Regensburg and then sit on a bus for 3.5 hours on Saturday to transfer to the Bragi. Our tours in Nuremberg will go out in the afternoon in Nuremberg meaning we will have less time in this town that has the oldest Christmas markets in Europe. Not ideal at all, but at least we were not missing a port.

Hotel Manager Stoyan intimated that he hoped that the ship switch would be the only issue but the water levels are still high and there is no guaranteed on whether we can sail the Bragi all the way to Amsterdam as planned, or we might have to be bussed to other towns next week. Ugh!

Anyway, now we have the inconvenience of packing everything when we get home from a full day and 3 hours on a bus, to and from Regensburg tomorrow! We definitely knew something was amiss when the Skadi didn’t move in Passau on time. Viking usually runs things like clockwork, so we knew plans must be changing and not for the better.

We also lose our amazing chef, the hotel manager and all of the rest of the Skadi crew. Only our program director Daniel makes the ship switch with us to the Bragi. We hope the new chef who we hear is also from Romania is as good as Chef Florin for the next week!

Making this ship switch is really good practise for us though for next years Viking River cruise, where we have to do a similar planned ship switch from the Rhone to the Rhine. Life happens…roll with it! Flexibility and changes of plans are just life. We’re learning to be flexible!

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