The Oberammergau Experience

The Oberammergau Experience

The quaint Bavarian Alps village of Oberammergau is world famous for three things – its production of the once-a-decade Passion Play, its 500 year-old handicraft of wood carving and the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) School. People go there in all seasons to enjoy also the mountains particularly The Kofel with its distinctive white head topped by a cross, the picturesque houses adorned with colourful frescoes and the magnificent Linderhof Palace of King Ludwig II.

With a population of 5,254 occupying an area of 30.06 sq. kms. Oberammergau is a quiet municipality in the district of Garmish-Partenkirchen in Bavaria, Germany.

Quite noticeable as we get around walking in this relatively small town are facades of houses and buildings that are decorated with “Luftmalerei” – colourful and attractive frescoes and painted mural-type illustrations mostly of biblical significance. We find wood carving shops almost on every street corner and alleway selling a variety of wood artefacts from household items to figures of saints, angels, crosses, and nativity scenes. A usual souvenir is a wooden crucifix or wooden clocks – cuckoo clock or Bavarian clock which runs differently opposite the conventional clocks. The handicraft of wood carving which had made Oberammergau already famous before the Passion Play is inextricably linked to the cultural history of the village. Oberammergau reminds us of Paete, Laguna, the “Carving Capital of the Philippines”, the home of craftsmen highly skilled in the centuries-old tradition of wood carving.

If you are visiting Oberammergau in a year ending with zero (0) it will be all about the Passion Play performed as a tradition every ten years since 1634 when the alpine village of Oberammergau was threatened by the deadly and contagious disease known as Black Bubonic Plague that scourged continental Europe killing two-thirds of the population of Germany. The people of Oberammergau vowed that if God spared them from the plague they would re-enact the agony of Jesus Christ. The village was miraculously saved from the ravages of the Black Death and since that date the play has been performed once every ten years from May to October at the open-air stage of Passion Play Theatre.

The play, portraying the Passion of Christ from his triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem until his death on the Cross to the Resurrection, involves approximately 2,400 actors, singers, musicians, and technicians. Only people born in the village or those who are married into the village, or who have lived there for 20 years are allowed to participate in the show. The play is usually 7 hours long with a meal break but due to the many revisions through the years the 102 performances from 15 May to 03 October in 2010 have a running time of only 5 hours starting at 2:30 pm and ending at 10:00 pm, with a dinner break in between. If you intend to see the Passion Play you have to wait until 2020!.

The only one of its kind in the world is located in Oberammergau, the NATO School, a training facility on the operational level that “conducts multinational military education and individual training in support of current and developing NATO missions and operations, strategies, policies, doctrines, and procedures”.(Established in 1948 with headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, the NATO is an intergovernmental military alliance of 28 member states across North America and Europe.)
Lying in a secluded village close to Oberammergau is the magnificent Linderhof Castle (Schloss Linderhof) with its huge fountain and formal gardens on all sides. It is the only one of Bavarian King Ludwig II’s dream castle finished before his death used as his reclusive holiday residence.

From the Olympic city of Munich we reach Oberammergau by car by going south of the city and then take Autobahn A-95 to Ettal exit and from there on the B-23 to Oberammergau.

Obermmeragu is an unforgettable travel experience of history and tradition!