Passau and the Danube River as Seen from Veste Oberhaus Lookout Tower:
PARIS & THE HEART OF EUROPE – UNIWORLD RIVER CRUISE – DAY 5:
Knowing that we are always on the lookout for photo opportunities, Jana, our ship’s purser suggested that we walk up to Veste Oberhaus for panoramic views of Passau and its three rivers. We were intending on walking uphill to the old castle fortification, not knowing that there was an easier way of getting up there, so it was lucky that Tony spotted the shuttle bus that runs up to the Oberhausmuseum within the castle.
Veste Oberhaus has been the residence of Passau’s prince-bishops since its construction in 1219. It was was built by Ulrich II, the first prince-bishop of Passau, not only to protect Passau against its internal and external enemies, but also from the citizens of Passau who wanted to be independent. The fortress was a show the military might of the bishopric and to make a statement to the rebellious citizens of Passau about the bishop’s status as an elector of the Holy Roman Empire. Over the years Veste Oberhaus was extended and developed by successive prince-bishops into a defensive stronghold. It was attacked on five occasions but none of them were successful.
Veste Oberhaus sits high on the mountain crest of St Georgsberg on the left side of the Danube. From its lofty position, the prince-bishops were also able to monitor commerce along the rivers. During medieval times Passau was an important trading and shipping centre and the Inn River salt trade was a major contributor to Passau’s wealth during this time. The salt merchants were taxed for their trade and tolls were collected for the shipments of salt that were carried on the Inn River. The Oberhausmuseum, which is housed in Veste Oberhaus, has insights into medieval life in Passau, the work of various handicraft businesses and the lucrative salt trade.
Panoramic Views of Passau
As the shuttle bus wound its way up the hill to the fortress, we breathed a sigh of relief that we did not walk up. The bus drops off passengers right at the fortress gate and there is an information centre and ticket office there.
We thought that we could see the panoramic views of Passau city and its three rivers from the grounds of Veste Oberhaus, however to gain access to the fortress grounds you actually have to enter the Oberhausmuseum by paying the museum entry fee of Euros 6.00 per person. As we were not intending on visiting the museum on this occasion, we found an alternative viewpoint – the Observation Tower.
Veste Oberhaus Observation Tower
The Observation Tower was built in the 17th century by Prince-Bishop Johann Philipp von Lamberg as part of a large scale Baroque fortification of the castle. For Euro 1.00 you can climb the 130 steps to the observation deck of the tower and enjoy great views of Passau. A spectacular image, which you can see in the photo below, is the sight of the three rivers merging – the black Ilz, the green Inn and the blue Danube. If you are visiting Passau, it definitely worth going up the Observation Tower.
To get back down to town, there is a footpath from Veste Oberhaus to the banks of the Danube. Along the way there are scenic views of Passau and the Danube and the footpath also took us past remnants of the medieval fortress wall, gateways, guard houses and other structures. We also met some of our fellow cruise passengers, panting as they made their way up the path to the fortress. They unfortunately didn’t know about the shuttle bus. The footpath comes out near the Luitpoldbrücke and from there it is an easy stroll back to the centre of the Old Town.
If you are looking for things to do in Passau, a trip to Veste Oberhaus is certainly worthwhile. The best way to get up to the fortress is to catch the shuttle bus up and then have an enjoyable walk down. The shuttle runs every 30 minutes. The bus stop is just in front of the Town Hall and the one-way ticket price to Veste Oberhaus was Euro 1.70 (2013 price). Note: the shuttle does not run during the winter season.