It has a population of around 50,000 people, and another 8,000 when university is active. Passau is situated at the point where the river Inn and the river Ilz meet the Danube (Donau), and for this reason it is often called the "Three River City" (Drei Flüsse Stadt). It lies around 2,000 km from the end of the Danube on the border with Austria, and enjoys a small but thriving local tourist trade.
The area of Passau was first settled by the Celts, who were living in southern Bavaria since ages before the Romans came and founded a fortress here because of the excellent strategic position of the peninsula of Passau. Later on the fortress grew and Passau became a real city. Much of the money in the city was made from the salt business with nearby Bohemia (now called Czech Republic), with the salt coming from Bad Reichenhall near Salzburg. In the middle ages, Passau's Saint Stephens church was the head of the local church district which extended all the way to Hungary. Most of the old buildings survive today and are in active use.
Nowadays Passau is known for its historic buildings, its University, and its location at the 3 rivers and the last German train station before Austria. Like much of Bavaria, it's also predominantly Catholic. If you look very closely, however, you can spot Protestant churches.
It regularly snows in winter, and it is warm to hot in summer. Quite often you get over 30 degree Celsius days.
Most of tourists Passau receives are on river cruises going along the Danube, but also many busses arrive here from all of Germany and Austria. Because Passau is not far from the Czech Republic and Austria you will meet also a lot of Austrians and Czechs getting here for shopping or even for working purpose. But most tourists here are native German speakers, so don't think you can go everywhere and speak English, although you may be surprised how common it is.
Having said that, as in the rest of Germany, almost everyone under the age of 30 speaks excellent English.
- Passau Tourist Office, Rathausplatz 3, Phone: +49 0851 / 95598-0, (Email firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Second location, Bahnhofstraße 36 (Diagonally opposite the train station.),
Trains regularly pass through Passau. The Hauptbahnhof (Main railway station) is in the new city but buses run reguarly to the old city or you can walk in 15-20 mintues You can purchase a Bayern-Ticket which gives you unlimited travel in Bavaria on regional trains (non-express) for a day.
Passau's city is spread out a little, but most places you will want to see are within walking distance. Buses are also common. You can walk 20 minutes from the city center and be in Austria.
You can catch Taxi's, but they can be a little pricey.
The city buses are cheap and run until 11pm daily.
- The Bavarian Forest is not too far away by car. It has a national park where you can see many types of animals. Unfortunately they keep the wolves caged.
- A nearby district of Passau still has a Pranger standing. A bad-person would be locked in at the neck, hands, and feet on a raised pedestal in the town square and left as punishment. People could throw things at them. This punishment was handed out by the church, for your own good.
- There are many old buildings, churches, cathedrals etc. to see. Most of the roads in the city center are cobblestone. Dom St. Stephan has the world's largest church organ, which has concerts at noon.
- Passau is on the Danube bike trail. This begins further upstream and follows the Danube along it's length until it meets the dead sea. The stretch from Passau from Vienna is by far the most travelled and for good reason. The Danube is a major tourist trail for Boats and Cycling alike and the Austrians have embraced this. Because of this, a pleasant cycle can be had with well sign posted main trails and side trails also. The route can be easily cycled in about a week however the many attractions and people you meet along the way would persuade me to advise at least allowing ten days for the journey.
- In May - usually at the beginning, although this year it was postponed until the end - there is the Maypole festival (called Maibaum Kraxeln) held in nearby Austria. There are buses leaving from Passau. This yearly event has local men tarring their feet and hands and climbing a very tall pole without harnesses. There's a race to the top (people race separately). The Guinness World Record is held by a local guy. After the competition they usually make great photo opportunities by all climbing the pole and passing the guy at the top a beer. Anyone can take part, but check that your personal insurance covers it! You can also have a somewhat safer sack-fight on a raised wooden pole, which is also quite fun.
A wide range of rive trips can be taken from an hours or so or long trips to Austria.
- Passau also has a semi-annually fair with rides and beer halls with bands.
- If you're here on a warm day, you can take yourself upstream a bit on the Ilz and go for a swim where locals and students sometimes go. One place is just near a sign that says "No Swimming", the other is further up by a dam.
Passau University is famous in Germany for its Law Degree which has a special focus on English law. Lawyers graduating from Passau are in good stead. Passaus Faculty of Law ranks among the finest in Germany. It also has an excellent international business course, economics course, informatics course, language courses among others. There's a German-as-a-Second-Language course at the university, as well as external pay-for courses.
German students used to receive free tertiary studies until 2007. Now they have to pay 500 Euro per Semester (1/2 year). Foreign students can study here cheaply also. The catch is that German is a must unless you're taking only German-for-foreigners subjects.
There's a bunch of tourist shops around Passau. There are some cheap gifts you can buy.
Passau has quite a lot of restaurants in the city. I don't think I've had a bad meal at any of them yet. You can regularly find some good deals (like Pizza or Pasta + a glass of wine for EUR5,50). It is, however, much more expensive than eating at home, so locals don't eat out every night.
The Hacklberg Brewery has a nice restaurant full of classic Bavarian dishes that will fatten you up in no time. It also has a great beer garden in the warmer months. To get there you have to cross the Danube and go left, keeping on the second street closest to the Danube.
Passau has 5 breweries. Every pub or restaurant seems to be associated with one of them. The beer is delicious and cheap.
Like the rest of Germany, buying alcohol out is more expensive than buying it at the supermarket. Service has a big price tag here. The student pubs are almost as cheap as a supermarket, though.
There are a few beer gardens in Passau, and a couple that pass the "real beer garden test". That being, you can bring your own food to them regardless of whether they sell food themselves or not. Beer gardens developed because breweries used to plant trees atop their underground cellars (mostly laying a bit outside of the city) to keep them cool, and the result was a really nice atmosphere to relax with a beer in hand. Beer gardens tend to open in the spring and close in the fall as the weather cools again.
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays are the nightlife nights. On Thursdays, you have bar-trivia at the Irish Pub "Shamrock" where your group can win EUR60 (or up to EUR120 with the jackpot). Questions are in both English and German. "Shamrock" is owned by a Welshman, and the employees all speak English as do most of the clientele. The barmen and waitresses come from all across Europe (France, USA, Australia, Poland..) and make fascinating drinking companions.
On Thursdays, the LOOP has free champagne for girls (and guys not ashamed to drink champagne their female friends get for them). There are also a couple of Student Pubs in the area, which offer very cheap drinks, pool tables, darts etc. There are a couple of nightclubs in Passau, one in the city which is busy from late on Wednesdays and weekends.
It is NOT your typical backpacker destination, although backpackers have been known to turn up occasionally. There is only one backpacker-type Hostel that I know of, it is the local International Youth Hostel, and is in a castle (Veste Oberhaus) overlooking Passau's city-center. It is probably one of Youth Hostel with the nicest view you can get in the whole of Central Europe. It's a bit of a climb, but it is apparently quite nice also inside.
There are plenty of Pensions (hotels/motels) in and around the city. The Rotel Inn (also known as the "Liegender Mann") is supposed to be cheap too (20-25 euros/ 1 person) and is located close to the railway station.
The one campground in town, Campground Ilzstadt, is located fairly near the city centre. It is an open field, with no individual plots.
Halser Straße 34/ 94034 Passau/ adults: 7 EUR/ young persons (7-17 years): 4 EUR/ inclusive warm showers/ because of narrow road no trailers or motorhomes possible.
German trains regularly go through Passau to/from Munich, Regensburg and Austria. There's no shortage of them. Especially if you want to go to Munich, it pays to be at the station a little earlier, as there are usually people looking for travellers who want to share the cost of a Bayern-Ticket (which costs about 27-29, depending if you buy it online or not, Euro for 5 People - you do the math).
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