Wednesday, May 23, 2007

From Passau

A Sadness

There is a sadness
greeting someone
I will never know.
He stands on the far
side of the Danube,
fishing, early morning
in dark shirt and padded
vest; I on the deck
of a tourist cruise
ship, passing. Raising
an arm in slow salute,
I wave, and he, too,
raises his, in silent
answer, man to man
across the stretch
of water. There
he is; here, I,
fellow travelers
in the flow of time,
just as, between us
the big river flows.
Oh, yes, a sadness,
in the closeness
and the distance
between men and men.

And a frustration, too. It's really hard to get online, and harder still to get the pictures posted. I plan to do what I can with the text, and add in the pictures when it gets easier. Here's the update:


We woke at the same time this morning, for a change, and Ellie and I got up for a walk together. We had hoped for the canal bank, but today there was no access; and next we found that the spacious upper deck was denied us, too. So we settled instead for a half hour’s meditation on the lower deck, up front, and enjoyed the feeling of the rising sun gradually warming our faces. Not to mention the smell of bacon rising from the galley.

Buffet breakfast, again. They do a great job of it. The only problem is keeping the selection to manageable proportions for the waistline. Then a quick shower—we have discovered that the bathroom is perfectly commodious (to use a favorite word of Ellie’s)—and off to an 8:45 start to board buses for the first leg of the day’s journey. We reached Kehlheim in short order, and were led on a walking tour through the town by a former town councilman whose English was, well, sufficient, but not proficient. A somewhat garrulous but well-meaning gentleman, he offered a little more in the way of statistical detail than we would have wanted, or could expect to remember.

Kehlheim’s history, in other words, proved instantly forgettable, but it was a pleasant little town to visit, quite picturesque, and it was good to take a walk. Our trek led us through to the other side of the town, and our first glimpse of the Danube: distinctly green, not blue, but otherwise quite lovely. We boarded an excursion boat—not ours—and cruised upriver through the spectacular Danube Gorge, admiring the great limestone cliffs on either side, watching herons fly, and enjoying the songs of countless other birds on either bank.

We made a stop, beyond to gorge, to visit the ancient Weitenburg monastery with its thousand year-old brewery. The church proved to be one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture I have ever seen: the altar piece is a magnificent sculptural representation of St. George, patron saint of the monastery, astride a nearly life-sized rearing horse with, to his right, the maiden in distress and to his left the dragon he is about to slay with his great lance. An unusual scene to find behind the altar, and powerfully theatrical in its three-dimensionality. Of special appeal, to me, were the sculptural effects around the base of the cupola, with extraordinary puffy clouds created out of stone supporting the figures of four archangels—not to mention numerous putti. The two artist brothers, architect and painter/sculptor—sorry, I’ve forgotten their names—whose first great project this was, included their good selves in the whole scheme of things, the one in three dimensions, grinning, leaning down over the balustrade, the other a painted portrait, next to him, in the “heaven” of the ceiling.

A good dark beer in the courtyard of the monastery, thanks to the monks, and a good long walk along the river bank to where our buses were parked, the closest road access point to the monastery. A bus ride, then, up to a high promontory above Kehlheim, an a brief photo op stop to catch the view and the great round “Liberation Tower” atop the hill. Then on to Regensburg by bus, to meet up with the Viking Spirit again, now docked for the first time on the Danube.

Regensburg proved to be a delightful town, with steep narrow cobble-stone streets, a thousand squares and courtyards, medieval buildings, and the remains of a massive Roman wall. The Roman had a large encampment at a fortress here, and their heritage is still in evidence. I chose to leave the tour at a certain point in the center of town, seeking connection at an internet cafĂ©—and finding only frustration. Met up with Ellie again to visit what had once been the Jewish quarter—a contemporary memorial to those lost, and a stairway down to what we heard was an underground city, now accessible only by advance request. We wandered around town a little further, before returning to the boat just in time to escape a welcome rainstorm.

Weaking, I ante’d for an online connection, and managed yesterday’s post—still frustrated because I needed time to organize the pictures and didn’t have time or leisure at my disposal. We had thought about eating out, in town, but the rain helped change our minds, and we settled for dinner on board and an evening stroll, post rain, after eating. Back at the ship and to bed in decent time—only to be woken an hour later by a blinding light from the cabin window. I suppose we were passing through another lock. A nuisance, because it was so hard to get back to sleep. Oh, and during the night, Ellie managed to upset a glass of water over her duvet.

This morning, as I write this, we have just docked at Passau.

Thanks for posting, Cardozo. Sorry I don't have time to read!!! Cheers, PaL

1 comment:

carly said...

Lovely entry Peter.