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The power of flowing water has quite literally shaped the picturesque town of Passau on the border with Austria. Its Altstadt is stacked atop a narrow peninsula that jabs its sharp end into the confluence of three rivers: the Danube, the Inn and the Ilz. The rivers brought wealth to Passau, which for centuries was an important trading centre, especially for Bohemian salt, central Europe's 'white gold'. Christianity, meanwhile, generated prestige as Passau evolved into the largest bishopric in the Holy Roman Empire. The Altstadt remains pretty much as it was when the powerful prince-bishops built its tight lanes, tunnels and archways with an Italianate flourish, but the western end (around Nibelungenplatz) has received a modern makeover with shopping malls centred on the hang-glider-shaped central bus station (ZOB).

Passau is a Danube river-cruise halt and is often bursting with day visitors. It's also the convergence point of several long-distance cycling routes.

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