Sunday, April 13, 2014

Danube Bike Trip — Day 1 — Passau

The actual bicycling part of the trip won't start until tomorrow but I am in Passau, Germany, trying to get myself psyched up for it. Various things have brought me a little low and I'm hoping by tomorrow I'll have got past them and will be happily winging my way along the Danube Bike Path on my way to Vienna. Part of it is that I'm missing Nut and my home in Thailand. Part of it is that my 97 year-old mother, who we always describe as being strong and healthy as hell, has experienced some setbacks and has been in and out of the hospital several times in the past month. And I just learned that my cousin Audrey suffered a massive stroke and died only a few hours later. Our once large and boisterous family continues to shrink, one notch at a time. I wonder is my mom getting ready to leave us? How many more years will I be healthy?

It was with those things in my mind that I set off for a little walk this morning. A walk should do me good, I thought. Passau is a scenic spot where three rivers meet —  the famous Danube and and the smaller Ilz from Germany, the Inn River from Austria — and this makes it a popular tourist destination. The streets are crowded with cafes, shops, and people, the Danube riverside lined with big tour boats. I walked along the Inn river to its confluence with the Danube and then walked along the Danube Bike Path for a short distance taking in the sights and sounds. The day was pleasant, cool and cloudy, perfect for walking.

View north to Veste Oberhaus
The Schaiblingsturm - Inn River
I decided to cross the Danube and climb to the Veste Oberhaus for coffee and a view of the city. The Oberhaus is a fortress that dates from 1219 and was the stronghold of the Bishop of Passau for centuries. Situated high on the hill, it dominated the ancient city of Passau. Of course there's a restaurant there now, and a museum. After coffee and sacher torte at the Burg Cafe I walked beyond the fort to an observation deck and took a couple of photos. A path leading into the woods looked interesting. Leaving the other gawkers behind I followed it as it wound its way in and out of the woods and fields. Very pretty back here, I said to myself, my mood improving as I walked. This was more like it. The whole hillside is laced with these rustic walking trails. I seldom walk in forested country in Thailand. It's ominously thick jungle and it's usually much too hot. And then there's the insects and poisonous snakes to think about. But this was forest I could deal with.

I had been listening to music on my phone, Beck's newest album Morning Phase, which I love. But this is Germany and I thought something German would be more appropriate so I switched to a favorite collection of Beethoven's piano trios. As I walked I became aware of birdsong and the spring flowers just coming into bloom here and there. The path grew more rugged just where it began to double back to its start. Very pretty.

Benches were placed here and there along the path
View of Passau from the bench
I sat there for quite a while with the Archduke Trio playing softly in my headphones. At noon the bells from three or four old cathedrals started up. I pulled the headphones away from my ears to better hear the bells echoing off the hillside, to the birdsong in the forest, and noticed that it was a fine spring day. There were dandelions and rose campion blooming nearby and trees I recognized, beech and oak, unfurling bright new green leaves all around me.

There's no rush, I thought, to get back to town.