A Week in Oberammergau
Posted on December 13, 2014
So many Americans know the small German village of Oberammergau as the place where the Passion Play is presented every ten years. Probably most other foreigners know Oberammergau for the same reason.
This town of only 5000 people is worthy of it’s reputation. The townspeople are very conscious of what they have here. They almost live and breathe this event, and I feel that it is very healthy for both them and their economy. They are focused almost from birth to take a personal part in this religious pageant. They join choirs, learn to play musical instruments, act, sing, sew and do a myriad other tasks that will be needed to support the pageant. Only the townspeople get to participate, either by being born here or living here for at least 20 years.
We didn’t come here to see the play, because it won’t happen again for six more years. We liked the location, nestled up next to Alpine peaks, and small enough to walk everywhere. It’s layout is unique and very medieval, with buildings scattered around and with essentially no road structure. This place was designed for farmers and fire prevention, and pedestrians.
Religion plays a major role in people’s lives. Their houses and buildings are often decorated with religious paintings and figures, many dating from centuries ago, while other paintings show secular life of the past as well as today.
Streets and sidewalks also display the skill of decorative dedication.
Oberammergau is, and has been for centuries, a center for woodcarving, both decorative and religious. You find amazing examples of their skill all over the town, and in the shops. Here woodcarving is certainly not a dying art.
We had a lengthy chat wit a carver demonstrating his craft in a museum setting.
The town museum has an amazing collection of traditional local wooden objects.
Tourists looking for souvenirs in the carved and decorated genre might want to check out Käthe Wohlfahrt’s franchised store. Expect to be overwhelmed with choices.
Let’s now get back to the Passion Play and it’s stage. Here’s the entry to the theater, located on the edge of town.
Nowadays the audience of some 5000 sit comfortably under cover, despite the stage being in the open. Recently a movable canopy was installed to protect the stage in the event of inclement weather. In earlier years, the production went on even in a downpour, with the actors singing in the rain. At the height of the action some 1500 townspeople are on stage.
Our English speaking guide took us backstage and showed us dressing rooms and costume storage rooms.
Our guide demonstrates how the nails are driven into Christ as he hangs from the cross.
I’ll cover some of our activites in and around Oberammergau in the next post.