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Phil & Carol on the Danube: Monks, Beer, & 3 Rivers in Passau

Monks, beer, and three rivers. What do these all in common? Passau, of course! This “Town of Three Rivers” stands at the confluence of the Danube, the Inn joining it from the south and the little Ilz river from the north. The city sits on the eastern border of Germany, near the borders of Czech Republic and Austria.

In this area there are archeological finds dating back 25,000 years that indicate that even then, the Danube was a major trade route. This proves that people were settling this area around 5000 B.C. The “Blue Danube,” as it was referred to by Strauss, is not blue, but rather brown. The water is fairly clear, but the bottom is clay (hence the brown color). But I suspect that when Strauss told Mrs. Strauss that he was writing a song called the “Brown Danube”, she convinced him to change the title.

OK, now for the Monks. What would they have to do with beer? Now, back in the 12th century, some of the Monks in this area were a little tired of having nothing but water and bread for lent. One year as they were discussing and lamenting the upcoming lent, one of the monks suggested that they should be able to drink beer during that period–after all, beer is made of water, hops, barley and malt, so it’s really only liquid bread…sort of. So the

monks decided to send a sample barrel to Rome for the pope’s OK. Well, on the long trip to Rome, the beer became very bitter. So when the pope tasted it, he said, “that stuff is so bitter, you can drink as much as you can stand.” So, that’s how the Monks still have some of the best breweries even today.

Today we also visited the little town of Vilshofen. This is a quaint little town. As you walk over the cobblestones of the quiet alleys, you pass buildings that were constructed in the 14th century and are now painted various pastel colors. The town is not a commercial center, so all the small shops that you pass service the local population. No souvenir shops, just bakeries, wine shops, handicrafts, etc. The town put on a special Octoberfest just for our ship. The assistant mayor attended, as did Miss Vilshofen, Queen of Beer.

After returning to our ship, we ate a great German dinner and then enjoyed a concert aboard the ship. The concert was classical guitar with two violins.

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