After a two-year Covid delay, the 42nd Oberammergau Passion Play runs until 2 October 2022.
Five days a week (Tue, Thu, Fri, Sat and Sun) during the summer, the Passion Play Theatre will host somewhere in the region of 5,000 spectators each day, travelling from all around the world, and a similar number of local villagers taking either on-stage acting, or off-stage supporting roles, not to mention the odd goat, horse and camel, too.
Here are my five top tips to best enjoy the performance.
Let the Train Take the Strain
Although there are two large Park & Ride car parks on the outskirts of Oberammergau village and shuttle buses to the event site, I found travelling by train the most relaxing way to arrive at Oberammergau.
Only a couple of hours from Munich Hbf, with a change of trains in Murnau, and passing through beautiful Bavarian countryside of lakes and mountains, the train was surprisingly empty, and the station at Oberammergau a peaceful haven in which to arrive and get your bearings.
Photography in the Performance is not Permitted
The instructions, which accompany your Oberammergau ticket are quite ferocious. There is a long list of dos and don’ts, which make it sound as though it may take hours of queuing simply to enter the Passion Play site. In practice, I found the admissions process swift, smooth, and friendly.
However, one thing that is clamped down upon is any photography of the actual performance. It was possible to take photographs of the stage prior to the performance, but while the play was underway, anyone attempting to take photographs or video were politely––but firmly––requested to stop.
Brush Up Your Local Accent
The entire Passion Play is in German and, not just German, but Austro-Bavarian German. My companion was a fluent German speaker, but she struggled to understand quite a lot of the thick, local dialect.
I, on the other hand, who can’t understand a single word of the language, still found the entire performance enthralling.
Pre-book an Interval Meal
The Passion Play runs for five hours. Five hours! That is a bum-numbingly long time to be sitting still. Thankfully, this period is split up into two sessions of two and a half hours each, with an interval of three hours.
During this break, it is likely that you are going to want to get a meal for yourself and, although Oberammergau has a plethora of eating-places, most of these will have been pre-booked months in advance. I was fortunate enough that the Youth Hostel, where I was staying, took pity on me, and managed to conjure up something to eat for me during the interval, otherwise it would have been a choice between take-away pizza or whatever I could find to eat on the hoof from Edeka.
Spend Some Extra Days to Explore the Countryside
Oberammergau is located on the edge of the Ammergau Alps in Bavaria, close to Germany’s border with Austria’s Tyrol. It is a beautiful countryside of mountains and forests and rivers, and a lovely location for hiking. There are several easy walks alongside the river Ammer directly out of Oberammergau, and plenty more serious hikes to some of the nearby summits.
For a daytrip, the fairytale castle of Neuschwanstein is only 25 kilometres away as the crow flies.
For those planning to visit Oberammergau to see the Passion Play, it is definitely worth extending your trip to spend some time exploring the rest of the region.
© E. C. Glendenny
E. C. Glendenny does a few interval exercises.