Monday, 14 January 2013

Germany: Oberammergau Passion Play

It was way back in high school when I first heard the name Oberammergau. It was my Mom who told me the story of this little town in the southern part of Bavaria in Germany. The town is famous for its Passion Play, a depiction of Jesus Christ's trial, suffering and death. In all the Christian world the Passion Play is presented during Lent but in this small German town a major production is presented every 10 years with over 2,000 residents of the town performing in the play. 


Aside from the Passion Play (Passionsspiele), Oberammergau is also known for its painted houses or Luftlmalerei (fresco paintings) and wood carvings. 
The story goes that during the bubonic plague in the 1600s the residents of Oberammergau made a vow to God that if He spared the little town from the plague, they would produce a play that depicted the life and death of Christ. After the first play was held, fewer and fewer residents succumbed to the disease until the deaths attributed to the plague subsided. Since then the play has been held continuously with only three cancellations.


I had always been intrigued by this story. Fast forward to 2009. Once again I came across the name Oberammergau from a magazine article I read featuring the town's preparation for its 2010 production. During that time the big K and I were planning our vacation to Europe but hadn't yet decided on where to go. Was this a sign?


Luftlmalerei painting is characteristic of houses in the Alpine region.
When we decided to go to Germany to watch the play, the next question was how do we get tickets? This was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us so getting the best seats possible was important. 


Picture taken from the Passionsspiele 2010 poster.
There were two ways to get tickets to the play. The easiest, most hassle-free but more expensive option was to avail of either a one or two night hotel and ticket package from a travel agent. This option was not for us. First, the big K and I are not  fans of tour groups. We prefer the do-it-yourself way of travel. And second, the package cost almost as much as our airfares!

That left us then with the more challenging way of getting the tickets. Ticket-only purchases can only be ordered AND mailed within Germany. So, who do we know in Germany who can get the tickets for us? Call it providence or it really was a sign. Our good friend who was our wedding's best man (who happens to be a woman, but that's another story) lives in Wiesbaden with her family. And she took care of it for us. Problem solved! 


The play started at 2:30PM and was 8 hours long with a 2 hour and 45 minute intermission for dinner. And yes, the entire play was in German. Even with the play's textbook translation there was no need for it since we all know Jesus Christ's story.  
Check out the beards. If they look real that's because they are. All of the actors are so passionate about their roles that they stop shaving at least a year before the play starts. We're talking about the men, of course.
This 4,700 seat capacity theater was purposely built to accommodate the growing audience of the play's ever increasing popularity.
Yup! That's how close we were to the stage. Great seats! Thanks, Joey!
A mad dash for dinner during intermission.
The Passionsspielhaus. 

In 2010 the play was staged from May to October. The next production will be in 2020. Where will you be?


How to get to Oberammergau.