The Passion Play in Oberammegau

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The next morning we had an excellent breakfast at the Munich hotel before once again packing and boarding the bus to drive south to the small town of Oberammegau, internationally renowned for the presentation of the Passion Play.  On the way we drove through some beautiful Bavarian scenery and lovely towns all bedecked with flowers trailing from window boxes.

 Front entrance to theatre 2Entrance to the theatre at Oberammegau

Oberammegau is a small town, pop. 5 500, and as up to 4000 visitors per day come to see the Passion Play between mid-May and early October, many have to stay in nearby towns as we had to do. Visitors are restricted to 2 night’s accommodation during this period.  Our hotel was simple but very clean and welcoming with good food. We arrived in time for a lovely simple lunch and spent the afternoon exploring the large grounds of the hotel.  

When there are opportunities for free time in the itinerary of a coach tour it is valuable to have done some research on receiving the itinerary and before leaving home to have an idea as what to do in these times. This was something we realised only after we had returned home. More and more I am learning the advantages to knowing something of the places one will visit. This helps in deciding onwhat you might like to see and also have ideas of what to do should original plans not go right.

Back to our visit to Oberammegau and the Passion Play, the suffering of Christ during His arrest, trial and crucifixion. The presentation of the Passion Play in the town of Oberammegau has been held every 10 years since 1634 keeping a promise to God who had answered their prayers and no more residents of Oberammegau died of the plague. The first enactment was held in the cemetery where the 80 people from this tiny town who had died of the plague. It has become so popular that they now have a theatre which can seat 4500. In 2010 there were over 100 performances and every one was to a full theatre. The population in 2010 was about 5 500 so during the months of the play it doubles and halves daily. The play is so popular that tickets for 2020 are already on sale!An Hotel in Oberammegau 2An hotel in Oberammegau

After breakfast the next day, we were driven to Oberammegau and had a few hours to walk around the town and purchase any mementoes. Many of the people of the area are excellent wood carvers making bboth large and small items, absolutely amazing. Because they were small and light we purchased some lovely items for our Christmas tree and as gifts for others.

Every house was made more beautiful by some very old murals and bursting window boxes. As the play started at 14:30 we had to be seated by 14:00 to ensure that all 4 500 people were settled in advance. It was the most organised ushering of guests I have ever seen. There was a small blanket on each seat in case our legs got cold, especially in the later evening. (The play hours are 14:30–17:00 and then 20:00–22:30).

Tickets include 2 night’s accommodation and dinner on both evenings. The Play itself was a most amazing experience and for 2010, “The new production attempts to portray the dramatic events in contemporary dress for a variety of reasons. Today’s audience differs from those of twenty and even ten years ago. Many visitors are no longer familiar with the theological details once taken for granted.” (Ludwig Mӧdl, Theological Adviser)

Another wonderful thing about the Play is that everyone who was born or has lived in Oberammegau for at least 20 years must volunteer to take some part in the production. This includes being in the Play, offering meals, ushering, opening shops for longer hours and any other task which may be required.  At the interval from 17:30-20:00 we went to a small local hotel for dinner and then had an opportunity to see some more of the town before returning for the 2nd half. A very special offer we were able to make to our coach driver, Jurg, was to give him a ticket to the Play and dinner as one of our party had not been able to be on the tour. He was extremely grateful as he said that this was his 15th trip to Oberammegau and he had never had the opportunity to see it. All the drivers wait at the bus parking area from the time of dropping us off at about 10am until 10:30pm when we left the theatre.The stageInside the theatre 

This was a once in a lifetime experience and we are so glad to have taken the opportunity. Hopefully some of you who read this will also take the chance to go in 2020.