The Passau Christmas Market: Gluhwein, Sengzelten, Puppet Theaters & An Early End To Our Cruise?

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Passau Christmas Market

Kids enjoying a puppet theater today at the Passau Christmas Market. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

At the confluence of three rivers, Passau must be one of Europe’s prettiest cities. It certainly has been one of the most beautiful on our Viking River Cruises’ Christmas Markets voyage, which is saying a lot on an itinerary that includes Budapest, Vienna, Melk and, ahead (possibly, more on that later), Regensburg and Nuremberg.

Viking Odin guests raved about their experiences at the Passau Christmas Market today, and some said that it was the best market they have visited so far on this weeklong river cruise.

I certainly enjoyed the market, which occupied a large square in front of St. Stephan’s Cathedral, just steps away from the Danube, and a pleasant 10-minute walk from Viking Odin.

Passau Christmas Market

Yep, that’s me, enjoying a delicious cup of Gluhwein at the Passau Christmas Market today. © 2012 obviously someone else

The Bavarian-style Christmas market featured lots of local craftsmen selling local goods. Products and edibles (and quaffables) seemed to be locally produced, which is always nice to see at any market. Vendors were friendly and inviting, and I even found myself practicing German that I had learned nearly 30 years ago during my university days.

I also sipped on the best Gluhwein that has ever passed my lips, produced, if my understanding of German was correct, by the award-winning Vollfast. I know little about the company, whether it is big or small, only that to sip its Gluhwein would be worth a second visit to Passau next Christmas.

A Gulp Of Good Gluhwein At The Passau Christmas Market

Passau Christmas Market

For €3, I enjoyed a cup of steaming Heidelbeer-Gluhwein at the Passau Christmas Market. Heidelbeer is an edible fruit commonly called bilberry, whortleberry or European blueberry. It is similar to the American blueberry. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

Gluhwein, as we’ve explained before on this site and on our sister site River Cruise Advisor, is hot mulled wine. There are many variations, as there seems to be with any alcoholic beverage in Germany. I opted for a cup of Heidelbeer-Gluhwein. Heidelbeer, Wikipedia tells me, is an edible fruit commonly called bilberry, whortleberry or European blueberry. It’s similar to the American blueberry, and what Wikipedia failed to mention, Heidelbeer is delicious when mixed with warm wine.

Passau Christmas Market

Translating from German, my understanding is that the company Vollrath produces award-winning Gluhwein. I know for certain that it was the best I’ve ever had. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

Two high school boys also were having a cup of Gluhwein when I arrived. I spent 15 minutes or so talking with them. It felt a bit odd to imbibe with teens, but the legal drinking age in Germany is 16 years old, and the boys were having “a refreshment” between classes at their school. It was fun to hear them talk about their interests and hobbies and what their life was like in Passau.

Passau Christmas Market

This friendly girl even offered samples of Gluhwein at the Passau Christmas Market. The samples, however, resulted in a sure-seller. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

Passau Christmas Market

The two school boys to the left stopped by for cups of Gluhwein between classes. The legal drinking age in Germany is 16 years old. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

Passau Christmas Market

Deposit for the Gluhwein cups is €2.50. Keep the cup or return it for your money back. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

Sengzelten, A Bavarian Specialty At The Passau Christmas Market

I also spent time practicing German with two ladies and a man who were making and selling Sengzelten. I had never heard of this Bavarian specialty, but I was intrigued by the way it was prepared. My understanding (again, translating from German) is that it starts with rye (Roggen in German) flour to make a flat bread that is baked in a wood-burning oven and topped with sour cream and chives or other ingredients, such as ham and cheese. Fresh from the oven, the Sengzelten was delicious.

Christmas Markets Tours

An antique wood-burning oven for baking Ofenfrische (Oven Fresh) Sengzelten, a Bavarian speciality made of flatbread and topped with sour cream and chives or other ingredients such as ham and cheese. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

Christmas Markets Tours

Baking Sengzelten in an antique wood-burning oven. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

Passau Christmas Market

Ofenfrische Sengzelten topped with sour cream and chives. It was delicious. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

What struck me about the Passau Christmas Market was just how friendly the locals were, from the two teenage boys to the gal selling Gluhwein to the folks baking Sengzelten.

Now, in case you’re wondering about the comment about Regensburg and Nuremberg, high water levels in the Main-Danube Canal have temporarily halted Viking Odin from proceeding upriver. We’re docked tonight in Vilshofen. Tomorrow morning, busses will transfer passengers from here to Regensburg for the day. They have the option to return to Viking Odin for lunch or remain in Regensburg, with lunch paid for by Viking River Cruises.

Me? I’ve been to Regensburg, so I’ll spend the morning exploring Vilshofen and hoping for another day like today. No, this is not the end of our cruise. Viking River Cruises is well-prepared for water level changes. We will make it to Nuremberg on Friday, but the question at the moment is by bus or by ship? Stay tuned.