Passau is a lovely town, beautifully located at the confluence of the Danube, Inn, and Ilz rivers on the border with Austria. The old town is mostly Baroque, although its written history stretches back to Roman times.
Celtic tribes settled in the area 4,000 years ago, but written history started after the Romans founded the military base of Castra Batava here in AD 200. In the eighth century, St Boniface founded a bishopric here and, by the late 10th century, Passau was as powerful as Salzburg. The bishops became princes of the empire in 1217 and controlled much of the Danube valley up to the 16th century.
Passau escaped the Thirty Years’ War unscathed but a major town fire destroyed most of the town in 1662. As a result, most of the old town is Baroque, although the narrow alleys confirm that much of the Baroque splendor is erected on medieval foundations. Following the two world wars, Passau found itself a provincial backwater cut off from its natural central European commercial base. Links with Austria, of course, continued, but links with the Czech Republic were only restored in the 1990s.
Apart from its Baroque core, Passau is a popular departure point for bicycle tours and river cruises in the Danube Valley.
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