Old Town, Garmisch Partenkirchen, Bavaria, Germany
Old Town, Garmisch Partenkirchen, Bavaria, Germany

Top 5 Reasons to Travel to Oberammergau

If you've never heard of the small Bavarian village of Oberammergau, it might surprise you to learn its story. Nestled between the Ammer River and the shadow of the Ammergau Alps, this destination is home to a unique centuries-old tradition that came about after its citizens were struck by the deadly plague. 

Here, you can attend its once-per-decade Passion Play performance, which began in 1633 after locals became afflicted by the aforementioned disease. Once it took hold of the area, its people made an eternal promise to God that if he spared the village of its deadly grasp, they would honour and thank Him by acting out his life, suffering, death, and resurrection every ten years. Incredibly, the promise has been kept all these years and next year will mark the Passion Play’s 42nd performance since its debut in 1634. 

If you needed another reason to venture to Oberammergau next year, we've rounded up five for you!

1) Its beautiful frescoed houses

If you pay a visit to the Bavarian village of Oberammergau, you'll notice that the houses and buildings are often decorated with frescoes – known locally as "Lüftlmalerei". These intricate coverings detail fairytales, religious scenes and themes of traditional Bavarian life. This form of mural art is native to southern Germany and Austria, and its origin is through to have come from the name of the home of façade artist, Franz Seraph Zwinck of Oberammergau.

2) It's known for its woodcarvings

Something this village is known for is its traditional woodcarvings. This long-time artistic custom sees the location being home to around 70 whittlers, known as "Herrgottschnitzer". One of the most common types of wood used is Arolla pine as it is native to Bavaria, and there are numerous shops throughout the village that sells these incredible carved pieces. Another popular form of carving here is miniature scenes set inside of walnut shells – no easy feat and one that requires a steady hand!

3) The Passion Play actor who portrays Jesus rates its pancakes

We recently caught up with Frederik Mayet, who will be one of the two actors playing Jesus in the 2022 production of the Passion Play, and he shared the one thing he'd recommend to visitors to Oberammergau – a traditional pancake dish. Kaiserschmarrn is a treat of a dessert, with rum-soaked raisins, shredded pancakes that are deliciously sweet and accompanied by some kind of fruit-based sauce (usually either plum or apple).

He said: "I would go to the Romanshöhe. That is a small restaurant on the hills of Oberammergau. You have to walk there for 35 minutes. But they have the Kaiserschmarrn (cut-up and sugared pancakes with raisins) in town. That is a typical dish in our region."

4) You can only experience the Passion Play once per decade

The first Passion Play took place a year after the promise was made, in 1634. Tradition – as well as the promise itself – has been upheld and 2022 will see the 42nd performance of this once-per-decade spectacle. It is predicted that around 750,000 people will attend in 2022. The play itself is performed in its original German language, but this doesn't stop guests from all over the globe flooding to the village to attend it. Guests will receive an English-language playbook to ensure they can follow along, but it's not really necessary as the story of Christ is quite simply so well known the world over. 

5) There's much to explore nearby

If you choose to witness the Passion Play in the company of Brightwater, you can expect some fascinating and scenic visits either side of the all-important performance. On the Austrian Tyrol tour, you'll ride aboard the Zillertal Steam Railway, tour Tratzberg Castle and enjoy a themed "Sound of Music" tour in Salzburg. Choose our Oberammergau & Veneto trip and we'll take you to a selection of amazing Italian villas, some you'll explore in the esteemed company of their aristocratic owners!

Watch a preview of the 2020 Passion Play here