Our train from Vienna was an ICE train, which would eventually arrive in Hamburg and Hannover, so our little three-hour stretch was only a small part of its journey. This was the most well-equipped and luxurious of the trains we've ridden so far. We sat facing each other in reclining seats; they had built in tray tables and a plug for headphones. In the Quiet Zone of our car you couldn't use your cel phone, but nobody did anyway.
It was rather like an airplane trip in several respects. The conductor was like a flight attendant. First he gave out pamphlets describing the trip, including the music and video programs for the month. Then he passed through the car with newspapers in various languages, including an International Herald Tribune for us, since he knew we are anglophones; later he came through serving coffee, tea, and light snacks.
The train moved along at an amazing speed through the countryside, slowing only occasionally when passing another train, or going through a station. It stopped just two times between Vienna and Passau. We know we were riding up the Danube valley, but only occasionally could we catch a glimpse of the river; the rest of the time the scenery was farms and towns and agribusiness and more farms. Traveling between two European Union countries, there is no passport check. (We've always felt that the U.S. and Canada waste a lot of government money on both sides with border checks; the Europeans seem ahead of us here.)
Reaching Passau we quickly remembered why we like staying several days at one place: our suitcases don't get any lighter! To reach the railroad station from the incoming track you must descend one staircase, cross under the tracks and then climb back up, but you are helped by a moving track like a little escalator for your suitcase.
The trek about to begin had started with the little book which showed the hotel just a half-inch from the bahnhof -- only two blocks were shown. In fact, that had helped us pick the hotel. We saw Neubergerstrasse, our job was to find number 79.
Our first challenge was to cross over all of the train tracks. But there was an elevator to a pedestrian overpass. Oh boy, we thought, this will be a snap. Across the tracks and up what turned out to be a rather long block, uphill, and getting steeper at the end where we found Neubergerstrasse. The sun had come out and it was getting warmer. It was a little more hill, but we had started already. We did notice that the numbers on Neubergerstrasse didn't get larger very quickly. Soon the incline had steepened, the sun was really quite warm, and there was no sign of any hotel. We had passed through the main part of town, had walked by apartment houses and schools and a kindergarten and several hospitals. We were somewhere areound Neubergerstrasse 46. Well, just 33 more numbers.
Looking between houses, we could see downtown Passau laid out below us. We were now much higher than the rooftops. Well, they didn't tell us we were staying at the Hilltop Hotel, we joked. After all, we had scrambled down the path from the Leopoldberg in Vienna, but now we were "upgegangen mit den suitcasen zu schleppen!" The hill was now steep enough that we required many stops to catch our breath. We walked fifty steps, then stopped, then repeated. We reached numbers 54-56, which were a couple of apartment houses off to one side. We were coming right along. Fifty steps and then rest.
The road curved, hiding the knowledge of how far we had climbed, and giving us the hope that the hotel would be right around the corner. Instead, Grabe-Steine appeared: a gravestone salesyard. Not hotel territory.
Suddenly Bob, in the lead, stopped with a disgusted comment. We had reached number 80 and there was no hotel anywhere around. He went into the office building, returning after an all-German conversation to report that the even numbers on one side of the street have no relationship to the odd numbers on the other side, which had only reached 49. "She says it's just 500 or 800 meters up the road." Five or eight football fields. Hmm!
So off we went again, somewhat slower. We kept the same fifty steps, but the pauses were longer. Our bags had wheels, true, but we were towing them along like horses pulling a barge on the Erie Canal. Rolling over the cobblestones wasn't any fun, either. Finally we reached the top of the hill and the street leveled off which was a decided relief. And sure enough, our hotel was at number 79 as promised. The van providing free shuttle service to and from the train station was parked in front. We had climbed about a mile and a half. Good for us!
We settled into a lovely large room with a view of the city rooftops (of course!) through big windows. We have located the grocery store and learned that to get ice cubes you take your pitcher to the bar which has an ice machine. For some reason we decided to put off the downtown walk till tomorrow.