Yes, it's another cold, damp day on the Danube as Tauck Savor docks in Passau. We get all layered up for our morning walking tour. To get ashore this morning, we have to go up to the Sun Deck and cross the top deck of another riverboat docked next to us.
Once ashore, we meet up with Rudy, our local tour guide for the day. Our first stop on the tour is for one of Tauck's famed lagniappes (an unexpected treat), giving us the opportunity to enjoy a gingerbread making demonstration by Chef Simon, owner of the well-known (at least in Passau!) Cafe Simon.
As we wait to enter the demonstration tent, we are treated to a mug of hot Glühwein (mulled wine). After all, who doesn't drink a little wine at 9:00am? Soon, we are seated in the demonstration tent and Chef Simon proceeds to explain the traditional ingredients and methods of making gingerbread. Samples of three different types of gingerbread are passed around for us to taste. We were amazed that one of the molds he still uses for making the gingerbread dated back to 1688!
A the conclusion of the demonstration, we are each given a gift of a gingerbread cookie in the shape of a star to eat or use as a Christmas tree decoration.
For the next hour or so, we walked the nearly vacant streets and alleyways of Passau. Our guide stopped many times along the route to show us how high the water level got during the flood of 2013, the worst flood in Passau in 500 years. Many of the buildings have plaques showing how high the water was. Over 10 feet of water flooded much of the city.
We had an opportunity to visit the impressive interior of St. Stephen's Cathedral, located in the center of Passau. St. Stephan's is famed for having the largest cathedral organ in Europe with 17,974 pipes and 233 stops. Unfortunately, organ concerts are not offered in winter.
Just outside St. Stephens, a bustling Christmas Market is underway in the town square. Rickee wastes no time in finding another Glühwein stand so that she can add yet another mug to her growing collection. We also purchased a large soft pretzel, which tasted great!
After walking around the crowded Christmas Market for awhile, we decide to return to Tauck Savor for lunch. Passau is an easy city to navigate on foot, but there are some steep hills that can be a challenge for those with mobility issues. As we board Savor, we continue to be in awe of how much effort the Tauck staff have put into making the ship reflect the Christmas season. Nearly everywhere you look, there are beautifully-decorated Christmas trees along with other Christmas decorations throughout the ship. Christmas music plays softly in the Reception area and pretty Christmas cookies are set out in various locations around the ship for the guests. Hot gluhwein is always available in Arthur's on Deck 3.
The whole reason for taking a Christmas Markets river cruise is to get immersed in the Christmas spirit and, of the four Christmas Markets cruises we have enjoyed (with four different cruise lines), none embraced the spirit of Christmas as well as Tauck.
Tauck even has a program where they distribute Christmas gifts to families in need. The Christmas Giving Tree in the lobby offers guests the opportunity to purchase small gifts for children (up to age 6). Tauck then distributes the gifts to families in need and also donates cash. Tauck actually has en entire department that focuses on charitable giving.
One thing is for sure, if you are not in the Christmas spirit when you board a Tauck Christmas Markets river cruise, you will be by the time you disembark!
Tomorrow, we will be in Regensburg, Germany.