Before it leaves Germany at Passau on the Austrian border, it covers nearly 559km or 340 miles, and has another 2300km/1440 miles to travel before emptying into the Black Sea. The Danube ripples and gleams its way across both Baden-Württemberg and Northern Bavaria, running through the city of Tuttlingen before entering the Upper Danube Nature Park.
Here the river begins its dramatics, speeding along at an impressive 8-9 knots per hour. That energy was enough to carve a valley through the bedrock of the Swabian Alb, exposing massive chalk formations. One of the most impressive, the 765m (2500-foot) high Knopfmacherfelsen, provides an unparalleled view of the Upper Danube valley.
Within the boundaries of the Nature Park is the town of Sigmaringen, famous for the Hohenzollern castle situated on another chalk formation, the Schlossberg. Schoss Sigmarigen, 35m or 114 feet above the river, is Danube Valley’s largest castle.
Traveling along the Donau and all that water is apt to raise a thirst, so keep going northeast to the town of Ehingen (Donau). Here you’ll have your choice of more than forty beers from the town’s five breweries! Thus fortified, depart for your next stop, Ulm and Neu-Ulm.
Ulm and Neu-Ulm are two halves of a whole which is divided because the Danube splits the German states of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria. New-Ulm, on the southern bank, offers multiple museums and the titanic Kloster Wiblingen with its daringly rococo green-and-pink library. Ulm, not to be outdone, has its Cathedral, with the tallest church spire in existence (528 feet, or 161m)!
After entering Bavaria, the Danube steals some romance from the Rhine at Donauwörth, one of the stopping points along the Romantic Road. We’ll overlook the fact that five thousand French troops drowned in the river here during the War of Spanish Succession!
About 36 miles/61km further east the Rhine makes an abrupt left turn to Ingolstadt, home of the Toy Museum (toys for little boys) and Audi (toys for big ones). You’re probably ready for another beer, and help lies just ahead at the Kloster Weltenburg, where the Altmühl joins the Danube near Kelheim. Here you can knock back a Klosterbier, brewed from a 1000-year old recipe.
The Danube will now lead you to the city of Regensburg in the Bavarian Forest, where a marvelously engineered medieval 1017-foot (310m) Stone Bridge is the oldest preserved bridge of its kind in Germany!
Perhaps you’ll be even more impressed with the Bavarian Walhalla, about 7 miles/11km east on the Danube. During the 1830s, King Ludwig I of Bavaria ordered this replica of the Greek Parthenon built to honor the giants of German history.
Get a glimpse further back into Bavaria’s history by exploring the medieval fortifications at Deggendorf, between the Danube and the Bavarian Forest Nature Park. Then it’s on to Passau, where the Danube bids farewell to Germany on (of course) a glorious note, being fed by the Rivers Inn and Ilz.
Passau, on a finger of land between the Danube and the Ilz, is replete with Baroque architectural masterpieces and home to Europe’s largest pipe organ at St. Stephan’s cathedral. Organ concerts open to the public are held each afternoon.
Music pouring out of Europe’s mightiest pipe organ while the waters of Europe’s mighty Danube pour past. When it comes to drama, Schiller himself couldn’t have done better!