In 1633, the villagers of Oberammergau, Bavaria, southern Germany, were in the grip of war and poverty. Worst of all, the bubonic plague was ravaging Europe. Villagers prayed to God for the safety of their families and themselves, and made a vow that if Oberammergau was spared death from the plague, they would perform a "passion play" every 10 years which re-enacts the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
In the end, not a single villager died as a result of the plague. True to their word, they performed the first Oberammergau Passion Play in 1634. And descendants of the original Oberammergau villagers have carried on with the tradition, performing the play every 10 years.
The play takes place four days a week between mid-May and early October, and hundreds of thousands of tickets are sold each year. But those without a ticket are out of luck. No recording of the play is ever made; the only way to see it is to witness it in person.
The actors performing in the play were either born in Oberammergau or lived there for at least 20 years. The stage is open air, but the seating area is covered and performances take place no matter the weather. The play is about seven hours long, and includes an intermission.
Many people consider a trip to see the Passion Play to be a once-in-a-lifetime event. Due to the relatively small size of the theatre — approximately 5,000 seats — plus the fact that the play occurs only for one season every 10 years, there are limited chances for people to experience the Passion Play.
About half a million visitors viewed the last performance of the play in 2000, and more than twice that many were disappointed at not being able to obtain the coveted tickets. In 2010, Friendly Planet Travel is delighted to offer our travelers three different tours, all featuring a Passion Play performance in Oberammergau.
As with all Friendly Planet programs, each tour is full-featured and each departure is priced to save our travelers hundreds of dollars off similar programs. As in 2000, space is very limited, and once tickets are gone, it will be another 10 years before the next performance of the Passion Play.
Stay tuned this week, because I’ll be highlighting each of the three tours that feature the Oberammergau Passion Play, Austrian Adventure; Budapest, Vienna, Prague, and Salzburg; and Enchanting Germany.