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.

The village center, all in its decorated glory

The village center, all in its decorated glory

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.

Stand-alone buildings

Stand-alone buildings

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.

A house decorated with trompe d'oeil, Lüftlmalerei in German.

A house decorated with trompe d’oeil, Lüftlmalerei in German.

Side view of a restaurant

Side view of a restaurant

A hotel

A hotel

Streets and sidewalks also display the skill of decorative dedication.

Street paving

Street paving

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.

A woodcarver at work

A woodcarver at work

We had a lengthy chat wit a carver demonstrating his craft in a museum setting.

A woodcarver demonstrating his craft

A woodcarver demonstrating his craft

The town museum has an amazing collection of traditional local wooden objects.

Wooden toys from former days

Wooden toys from former days

Wooden figures

Wooden figures

Intricate religious scene, all hand carved

Intricate religious scene, all hand carved

A crypt scene

A crypt scene

A common outdoor carving

A common outdoor carving

A storefront

A woodcarver’s storefront

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.

Inside Käthe Wohlfahrt's folk art store.

Inside Käthe Wohlfahrt’s folk art store.

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.

Theater entryway

Theater entryway

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.

View of the stage, seats covered for the winter

View of the stage, seats covered for the winter

Our English speaking guide took us backstage and showed us dressing rooms and costume storage rooms.

Eva and I in a costume room

Eva and I in a costume room

Our guide demonstrates how the nails are driven into Christ as he hangs from the cross.

A gruesome theatrical detail

A gruesome theatrical detail

I’ll cover some of our activites in and around Oberammergau in the next post.

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