Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Monday, January 28, 2013

An American in Germany / Part # 19 / Passau-2

GAPP Exchange Journal 2012
City of Three Rivers / Passau / Part # 2

 Veste Oberhaus Hilltop Fortress
We continued our tour along the river's edge of the ancient city of Passau, guided by our friendly hosts, Wolfram and Elvira Engleberger.  Soon we reached the apex where the waters of the light green Inn and dark blue Danube collided, pushing against one another for the right of way.  Just beyond our sight, the black waters of the smaller Ilz River emerged from the German side to assist the Danube with its fight to win the battle.  It seemed neither would willingly give way to the other as the line between the two contrasting colors of water stayed independent of one another, easily seen as a crooked defined line running down river.  The impressive hillside fortress Veste Oberhaus looked down upon our position with strength and an attitude suggesting defiance.  It was interesting to look up at the observation point where we had surveyed the city from above when we first arrived only a few hours earlier.  Now, deep within the valley we had the same viewpoint of potential invaders from long ago and could appreciate the overwhelming difficulty of attacking such an ominous position from the low ground.  The date on the center of the castle looks like 1999 but upon closer inspection, the second digit is actually only the top half of the number eight designating the number as really half of the number eight equating to the number four, or the year 1499... get it?  Ok, why didn't they just use the number four to begin with... well what fun would that be?  In other words, I haven't the slightest idea... Let's move on...

River Cruise Passes below Hilltop Fortress
We turned the corner and began walking along the edge of Inn River taking in the sights.  Due to the time of day and angle of the afternoon sun, it was extremely hot without any refuge of shade.  The occasional breeze off the river were welcome and refreshing as we journeyed along the light green waters of the Inn.  Throughout Passau's long history, the Inn River was the true life blood of the city's economy, transporting precious salt that arrived from the mines of Salzburg up river.  It was much safer and less costly to ship the salt by boat compared with the slow, dangerous, and toll ridden land routes.  When the salt arrived at Passau, it was often the end of the line for shipments heading to Prague and points east.  Here the White Gold would be unloaded and stored in warehouses along the river's edge and protected under the watchful eye of the Schaibling Guard Tower.  The guard tower dates back to the 14th Century, protecting the valuable shipments during their temporary stay in Passau.  The salt was then loaded onto horse drawn carts and carried overland to awaiting customers, earning high profits for all those middlemen along the way involved in the shipping, delivery, and transaction process.  Today the edge of the Inn River is mostly home to residential housing that can boast having a great view but are also very vulnerable to flood damage when the river turns angry, climbs over its banks, and attacks the city.  

 Kapuzinerstrasse 5 Along the Inn River
Adolf Hitler was born in the Austrian village of Branau but moved with his family to Passau in 1892 at the age of three.  His father was a civil servant and moved the family frequently, including two separate residences within the City of Three Rivers.  The first address of the Hitler family was known as Theresienstrasse-23, located within the center of Passau.  However, in May of 1893, only a year later when young Adolf was only four years old, the family moved to the other side of the Inn River. The site is noted in public records as a series of three buildings between the Kapuzinerstrasse-5 and Innstadtbahnhofstrasse-3 address locations.  Unknown at the time, I captured several photographs of the actual location by coincidence, identified later when I returned home, following some research into the actual address location.  The address is somewhat vague, including three interconnected buildings that together were all owned by the same individual, who rented out the residences as living space.  The three buildings are seen in the photo above, starting with the small beige colored house with the arched roof on the left to the bright red house on the right.  Despite my best detective work, I was unable to determine which of the three buildings the family actually lived, and the answer may simply be lost to history.  Located just above the Hitler residence was the Passau Ortspitze Mariahilf, a simple monastery and popular destination for Roman Catholic pilgrims.  The monastery is accessible by a covered walkway of stairs from the base of the river to the entrance to the sanctuary located about halfway up the hillside.  The hillside tunnel of stairs contains 321 steps, which pilgrims often individually kneel on in prayer as they continue their slow climb toward the sacred space of grace.  Today the monastery houses monks of the Polish Pauline Fathers' Order of the Catholic Church.  

 Schaibling Guard Tower Along the Inn
Another interesting story I stumbled across during my research might have involved a young Adolf Hitler, who, as an adult, recounted how he enjoyed playing cowboys and Indians along the banks of the Inn River as a child living in Passau.  A Catholic Priest named Father Johann Kuehberger claimed that one day during the winter of 1893 when he was just a boy living in Passau, he saw a small boy fall into the icy waters of the Inn.  According to the story, he jumped into the icy waters to save the child and claimed the small boy rescued may in fact have been none other than Adolf Hitter.  Father Kuehberger died in 1980 and the story had no way of being truly confirmed.  Ironically, an old news article was recently uncovered from archives of the Donauzeitungn Danube News from January of 1894 concerning a four year old child who fell into the icy Inn River while playing.  The news article confirmed the incident actually took place and boy was saved by another young boy named... Johann Kuehberger.  Many people were intrigued by the newly discovered newspaper story and due to the specific location of the incident, the rescued child's age, and date... suspect the unnamed boy in the news article could in fact have been a young Adolf Hilter.  A debate ensued with some claiming the news article provided the evidence needed to connect all the dots validating the story, while others continue to refute the identity of the saved child.  In the latter's defense, the old news article recently uncovered never mentioned the name of the boy who was saved and no evidence has ever been found to date that Adolf Hitler ever mentioned the event during his adult life.  However, interestingly enough, a few months after the alleged incident, the Hitler family left the city of Passau and moved 50 miles to the southeast to Linz, Austria.  The additional obvious question in hindsight of history...  Did Johann Kuehberger's act as a Good Samaritan in 1893 accidentally do the world an injustice by saving a young Adolf Hitler's life?  Interesting question, one that can be added to the many other instances during Hitlers life where his well being was in serious danger but death was an outcome he always seemed to miraculously escape.  Some historians suggest Adolf Hitler perceived his resilience of cheating death as confirmation that fate had predetermined his rise to power.  (Source / Associated Newspapers Ltd. / London, England Jan. 5, 2012)  

Colorful Flower Gardens within the City
Public records note Adolph Hitler returned to Passau three times for public speaking events during his rise to power.  Unfortunately, the city also became home to three satellite concentration camps of the infamous Mauthausen-Gusen Camp System during World War II, housing workers for forced industrial labor.  Like many German and Austrian cities, Passau has emerged from the darkness of the World War II Era to recapture the rich history of long ago and create an environment of higher education with the University of Passau founded in 1978.  The young university anchored by deep traditions as an Institute of Catholic Studies, offers a well rounded program of study with over 35 degree programs.  The day continued to be hot and sunny, making walking along the riverbank without shade in the punishing sun a little tiring.  Every once in a great while a slight breeze coming off the water would cool us but it never lasted. It was hot!  As a result, I tried not to appear too overly enthusiastic when someone suggested an ice cream break.  How far do we have to walk to get to the ice cream parlor?  Oh, good, it's up hill!  We left the openness of the Inn River and cut back into the interior of the city via a steep narrow winding cobblestone pathway.  We passed by some of the buildings we had seen earlier, including the colorful Residenplatz where pigeons still frolicked in the tumbling cool waters of the plaza fountain to the envy of jealous onlookers.  Within a few minutes our party of four arrived at one of Wolfram and Elvira's favorite cafes, well known for their delicious ice cream creations.  I'm All In!

Ice Cream / A Dish Best Served Cold
Wolfram once again carefully scouted the tables available within the outdoor seating area for the best possible spot.  Enjoying food in Bavaria was about much more than just eating.  It's an experience where atmosphere is an important ingredient adding to any dining indulgence.  Wolfram found a vacant table along the elevated patio's edge with a beautiful view of the Danube River below.  We sat under the shade of a large tree and accompanying awning, and began surveying the menu of tempting "ice" treats available.  How to choose?  I really liked the menu style that included pictures in full color to accompany their written descriptions of food choices.  It made ordering for a foreign visitor incapable of reading the German language, like myself for instance, much more user friendly!  The Danube below was alive and active with large graceful river cruise ships sharing the water with fast small craft recreational boats.  The riverside cafe was refreshing, the ice cream delicious, and I couldn't think of a better place to cool off on a hot summer afternoon.  I could have easily sat watching the river scene below from my cool cafe perch for the rest of the afternoon.  The pleasant conversation once again merged between the German and English languages and I had to laugh when Wendy would speak specifically to me, still in German mode without realizing it.  I wouldn't say anything, just to see how long it would take before she caught herself and switched gears back into English.  The transition was always preempted with a laugh!  However, as a result of my dual language environment, I had been picking up more German words by the day and was sometimes able to get the general idea of the topic being discussed.  A natural positive outcome of my foreign language atmosphere. 

An American Beauty in Bavaria
Following our relaxing ice cream break, which is also apparently mandatory in Passau, we headed back out into the streets to navigate our way back to the parking lot.  On the way we passed by another reminder of home to go along with the classic Corvette we discovered earlier at St. Stephens.  Yes... Man Time had just made another brief appearance!  The all black motorcycle was a Harley Davidson, manufactured in York Pennsylvania, a short distance from my hometown.  I'm not really a motorcycle guy so I couldn't identify the model or engine style but I can still appreciate the coolness factor associated with a manufactured symbol of American freedom parked on the other side of the world.  In my opinion, some motorcycles, like the one sitting before us, are rolling pieces of practical artwork you can ride.  It was simplistic in design and decor, wearing a simple coat of flat black paint accented with contrasting chrome trim giving it a hardened industrial look.  The closest I ever came to owning a motorcycle was a Derbi Variant moped I purchased during my high school years, which I had imported all the way from Spain.  As lame as that sounds, it had a sharp red paint job, over-sized tires, chromed spoke wheels, a top speed of over 40mph, and all my friends begged me to take it for a ride.  It was a lot of fun and got me back and forth to school and all around Lancaster County for pennies on the dollar.  It got 60 miles to the gallon, giving me incredible range and the freedom to just go out, get lost, and explore the countryside.  I eventually sold it when I was in college and later regretted it.  I think it would look totally awesome parked right next to this Harley black beauty!  Later that night, I dreamed I was young again, riding my Derbi Variant moped through the steep grades of the snow capped Alps, passing Harley motorcycles at will!

Colorful Residenplatz Square
The city of Passau was an amazing place to visit and Wendy and I had a great time exploring the historic streets and scenic river banks.  We really appreciated the generosity and hospitality of our hosts Wolfram and Elvira Englberger who were excellent tour guides.  We journeyed back to their home in the town of Burgkirchen, where we were treated to a traditional Bavarian supper, which included the delicious fresh bread Elvira had purchased earlier that day at the Italian Market in Branau.  Wendy and I were very tired but the night was young, even though we were not!  We still had a major event to attend later that evening with the KKG Albi Ball on the agenda.  To save time we brought along dress cloths for the ball so we could change before we left for the formal dance.  My first step was to get a shower. I was led to an upstairs bathroom to accomplish the task.  Unfortunately the shower controls were foreign to me and I couldn't figure out how to change the water from ice cold to even luke warm.  I was already in the shower and cut off from any hope of instructional assistance.  I turned every moveable dial every which way to no avail and finally just decided to submit to the idea of an arctic ice cold shower and stepped under the frigid falling water.  It was the coldest and consequently shortest bathing experience of my life but accomplished the main goal of my essential mission.  Toweled off and dressed for the ball, my core body temperature had dropped by at least 20 degrees.  I ventured out into the humid warm air of the house and began to sweat uncontrollably.  I knew better than to ask about air conditioning but desperate, did ask if they might happen to have a fan hidden around somewhere that could provide me some relief... no such luck.      

View of St. Stephens from Austrian Hillside
By now my dress shirt was sticking to me like a second skin and Wolfram took me downstairs into his basement man cave, where the overall indoor room temperature was a few degrees cooler.  Maybe...  Wolfram's downstairs office displayed his skills as a artisan engineer, including a really cool large wooden desk that was suspended in air at the appropriate level height from four wire cables anchored into the ceiling joints above.  I had never seen anything like it.  Wolfram began to describe his interest in creating highly efficient concept vehicles with his students and entering them in competitions.  It was a practical application of his curriculum as a professor in engineering studies in Munich.  He and his team had done very well in the past, placing in the top five in a world wide competition.  Thinking outside the box and willing to push new concepts, despite the high odds of failure, really defines the German business approach applied to the engineering trade as a whole.  Our conversation was helping distract me from my dire situation of being overheated and the basement was indeed cooler. I think...  Soon Wendy and I were in the car driving toward the ball with me hanging out the front passenger side window as far as was safely possible, taking advantage of the natural drying action of the wind.  We arrived at the banquet hall of the ball and unfortunately the interior was stiflingly warm.  However, I did take comfort in the fact that most of the men teachers in attendance looked exactly like me and were sweating profusely.  Even the Germans were complaining bitterly about the heat and I was beginning to think I could become a millionaire if I speculated in electric fans for several weeks each summer in Bavaria. 

Cooling Off in the Idle Fountain
Misery loves company but I spent most of the evening outside the building, which was ok with me since I am not much of a dancer and didn't have a partner!  Outside there was a huge rectangular fountain that was turned off but still contained water.  Within minutes, American and German students began to mimic the pigeons of Passau by taking off their fancy shoes and wading into the cool, ankle deep water.  I was tempted but then suddenly remembered I was not a teenager and stayed put, content to watch with envy from the water's edge.  I spent the evening merging in and out of the building, along with most of the guests of all ages in attendance.  The festivities included dinner, student-led skits, and live music.  It had been another great adventurous day abroad but I was glad when it was time to head home with Andy and drift off to sleep to the cooling hum of my electric fan!

Mingling at the Abitur (Abi) Ball
Please stayed tuned for the next installment of our adventure!

Blast from the Past / Circa 1983



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