This morning, fortified by a hearty German hotel breakfast, we set off to do errands. Vienna had seemed the kind of place for shopping, eating, drinking and going out, but not laundry.
First we went to the dry cleaner, in the DEZ Center. DEZ is two levels. We entered through the clothing section which seems to be undergoing a complete reorganization, then descended on a kind of escalator without stairsteps to the heart of the complex. The dry cleaner, a photo shop, jeweler, locksmith, shoe repair, newspaperstand and flower market are located on one side and a large grocery store, the size and quality of any U.S. supermarket, is in the other. It is very handy for our needs.
We had a long discussion with the clerk at the dry cleaners. She had no English, and seemed to want us to answer a question. We struggled along for a while, and finally made a choice between two unknown alternatives. We did say we'd pick things up on Saturday. Immediately afterwards we vowed to remember the sentence "Was empfehlen sie?" which means What would you recommend?
We bought an eight-ride ticket and took the bus to the coin laundry. We had stocked up on German coins, but had to get help on the soap dispenser from another customer who, after hearing our German sentence asked if we spoke English; we were all relieved. The washing took an hour, so we took a walk.
We found Dom St. Stephan on a hill between the Danube and the Inn. It's the loveliest church we have seen yet, rebuilt in 1693, a glory of baroque architecture and decoration. Large, spacious, with white marble all around and lavishly painted ceiling decorations, this is no-nonsense gloriousness. We marveled at the organ pipes and the gilded pulpit and the chapels, but the pillars and the paintings kept drawing our eyes upward, until, standing in front of the main altar, we could see the highest dome of all. We decided to come back to hear the organ.
On the way back we found the Danube lined with tour boats, most of them based in Passau, but some coming from as far upriver as Switzerland, and as far downriver as Moldavia. We picked up some tourist brochures and returned to the laundry.
After getting change from a man sweeping the sidewalk, we settled down to watch the dryers spin. Soon we were in the position of helping others. We made change for a young couple, and then explained to an older man and his daughter in halting German how to make the soap machine work (we had just learned it an hour earlier). The conversation was going slowly, so on a hunch we asked if they spoke English.
Well, naturally it turned out they were from Australia. They, too had been to Innsbruck and Vienna. But they had gone to Budapest, as the man had fled Hungary in 1945 and this was his first time back. We agreed that all the coin laundries in Europe were in the hands of the tourists, and we all had the obligation of passing on our bits of knowledge to the next customers traveling through. We said goodbye, although we saw them later in the day in an outdoor cafe.
Going back up the hill with the bags of clean laundry we committed a no-no. We heard someone else push the button to get off (through the back door) so we didn't push it. When we stood by the front door the driver thought we were waiting for the following stop, not the current one. Eventually we worked it out. He was smiling, so we guess they won't kick us out!
We took the bus back into town for lunch; we got off at the last stop, central Passau. All the buses begin and end here. It seems that people in Passau seldom sit down for lunch. They do sit in outdoor cafes and read the paper and drink coffee, perhaps have a pastry. They do grab a sandwich at a fast food place, including McDonald's. They do have a beer or a glass of wine in a pub. So we were one of the few people who stopped for lunch.
Hemingway's American Bar is, in fact, a bar-cafe, low-ceilinged and dark, but with good food. The menu said the chef was using ideas from oriental cuisine (he cooked in a wok) and Louisiana cuisine (he used pepper). Actually the pork was in a creamy paprika sauce and the noodles were heavily buttered. Solid Bavarian fare.
After lunch we bought a contemporary German book about the evolution of democracy in this country. We're looking forward to trying to read it!
Part of traveling is the challenge of the mundane - buses, laundry, restaurants. Judging by the huge number of people taking guided tours, many travelers are reluctant to meet this challenge by themselves. Our experience is that it's really easy, and people are always glad to help, even if they don't speak your language. Traveling on your own allows you to do the things you want to do at the pace you want to set. Moreover, a sole traveler is an ambassador of good will, whereas a tourist in a group typically interacts very little with the local residents.
We have not planned our trip in detail; one city follows another. We knew nothing about Passau before coming here. It's a city of 50,000 people, which has been settled for over 2000 years; the Celtic relics go back 5000 years before that. The cathedral is magnificent, and there are a number of old buildings we hope to see before we leave.