As we neared the end of our tour of Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, we finally had a good part of a day free. We chose to walk the streets of the beautifully adorned buildings of Oberammergau, Germany.
According to the tour company, the day’s highlight would be the Passion Play, held every 10 years since its inception in 1634. Even before seeing the lengthy play, my wife and I found marvels of our own.
After a hearty breakfast in our quaint hotel, we strolled around the picturesque village admiring the architecture, many frescos, lovely gardens, and personable town folks. The blue sky and warm weather made it even more enjoyable.
In Bavaria, it’s common for shopkeepers and farmers alike to live in the same building as their businesses and animals. The shops in Oberammergau were no exception.
The homes are tidy and most designed around the pride of being located where they were, at the base of the Alps. They decorated their buildings with themed frescoes and flowers, potted and planted.
Their gardens were as lovely as they were productive. Artistic patterns of hedges surrounded flower and vegetable gardens while many roofs donned solar panels. These were more examples of how green Europe is.
St. Peter and St. Paul Catholic Church was as beautiful as any others we had seen on the trip. The graves in the cemetery surrounding the old church were well-maintained and decorated with flowers to remember lost loved ones.
Even though our seats were reserved, we were advised to arrive an hour ahead of the 2:30 p.m. start time. Long lines had already formed as we passed through security.
The Oberammergau Passion Play began when villagers prayed that if no more people in the village died from the plague, they would perform a play of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, now known as Holy Week. Their prayers were answered, and they kept their promise. The 2020 play was canceled because of the pandemic and rescheduled for May into October this year.
Of course, the play is in German, but English booklets are provided to follow the dialogue as long as there is light. The original text has been revised over the years, and with the addition of the poignant musical score, the play is performed more as an oratory.
The Oberammergau auditorium and two of the young actors who also worked at a restaurant during the dinner break.
Most of the actors and vocalists are local residents. Their performance and singing were equally outstanding. Since no video or cameras were permitted, I didn’t take any photos during the five-hour play.
That’s right, five hours! The play is broken into two parts. The first two and a half hours are presented in the afternoon with a three-hour break for dinner. The play began again at 8 p.m. and ran until 10:30 p.m.
Our tour company arranged for meals between acts at a restaurant close to the Oberammergau Playhouse. Ironically, the man who played Pilot owns the restaurant where we ate. His son, who plays John, also is part owner. He actually worked between the two acts that evening. We were impressed with their acting and their hospitality.
It had been another inspiring yet long day for us senior citizens. We couldn’t imagine what the next couple of days would bring.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2022