Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Oberammergau Part 2 - The Play

We arrived at the hotel with no further problems, and were told that our rooms would be available in an hour, so decided to go for a walk around town until then. The town was very quaint and charming, and had a lovely church that the friendly local had recommended we saw, but it was raining and we were tired, so we only walked for about 30 minutes and then went back to the hotel and sat in their lobby with our books until the room was ready. Lunch wasn't for another hour or so, so we decided to retire to our rooms until then. I don't know about Mum and Dad, but I was sorely in need of a nap!

During lunch Dad commented on the fact that we'd had an insane number of "almost problems" on our trip, but that none of them turned out to be real problems. "We've got the right connections," I replied, because it really was amazing how many times we could have missed our connections, yet we ended up arriving at Saulgrub at exactly the time our schedule had said - pretty much down to the minute. We agreed that God must have wanted to get our attention for whatever reason, but also agreed that we'd be happy if He felt we were now sufficiently aware of Him, so everything else on the trip would run smoothly ;) As Dad said, "The prayer most rarely answered in the affirmative is, 'Please let it happen soon!'". God has his own timing.

After lunch we packed our bags, and got ready to head off towards Oberammergau and the Passion play. A bus came to pick us up at 1:20pm and drove us (via various other pick-up sites) the 14km to Oberammergau where we were dropped off close to the theater were the plays were performed. We quickly made our way to the theater and found our seats. Unfortunately we hadn't gotten seats next to each other (they were split up 2-1 - one aisle seat, and two center seats in the row behind), which was a shame, but at least they were fairly close to each other, so we entered through the same entrance.

Dad asked, and was told that the theater seats 4,800 people and they have about 100 performances from May-October.

The first half of the play took us from Palm Sunday to Maundy Thursday and took 2.5 hours. The play was in German, but with a textbook translation provided, and while I (obviously) know the story as the palm of my hand, it was still nice to be able to follow along in the English text, as it wasn't always easy to understand/hear what they said. I was incredibly taken in by the thoroughness and the lengths they had gone to, to make it appear accurate and detailed. It's the first time I've seen donkeys, sheep, horses and camels on the stage, that's for sure! And when Jesus emptied the temple, and overturned the cages, actual pigeons were released! It was fascinating! And really, really well done!

It did turn out to be a bit of a problem to me that the play was in German though. My vocabulary there is very limited, and the language barrier did mean that I didn't get as immersed into the play as I would have liked to. I kept having to pull myself out, to check something in the textbook, and therefore didn't get the same experience as I would have, had the play been in English. It did help that a LOT of the dialogue was direct quotes from the Bible though (OT and NT both), so as soon as I'd figured out the Scripture, I knew what they were saying ;)

The interval ran from 5-8pm with plenty of time for dinner. In order to keep from extreme chaos, every hotel had booked tables at different restaurants in Oberammergau, so we knew exactly where to go ;) The meal was fairly standard German fare, but thankfully with lot less vinegar than I've sometimes experienced. AND they had a dessert buffet, which is always a good thing ;)

After dinner, we still had time to walk around Oberammergau for a bit, and despite it currently being very touristy, I fell in love with the place :) Oberammergau is a typical Bayern town, and I really think I'd love to go back in a non-passion-play year to enjoy the atmosphere of it. I loved the nature and the buildings and would have loved to see the local museum to see if it had more information about the history of the passion plays.

There were lots and lots of stores with woodcarvings, but I was a good girl, and didn't buy anything ;) Didn't want to have to lug it around for the rest of the trip, and anyway, there wasn't anything really obvious as I wanted something that represented the passion plays and not just Oberammergau itself. I ended up just buying my usual fridge-magnet souvenier with a photo of the theater.

At the main entrance to the theater was a small exhibition of the history of the play. I don't know if it's readable in this photo - otherwise click on the photo to see the inscription.

More than anything else, it's this background for the plays that amazes and inspires me.

Dad and I switched places for the second half, as I'd had the aisle seat, and there really wasn't room for his legs in
The second half was more or less solely Good Friday. At this point it had gotten so dark that it was no longer possible to read the textbook translations, so I had to focus more on understanding the words as they were spoken. Actually this ended up being a better experience, so I almost wish I hadn't had the textbook, because when I had it, I couldn't keep myself from using it. There were some amazing details and interpretations - e.g. Judas' motives for betraying Jesus. The play depicted it as Judas being tricked by Caiphas, and that he had no clue of his real intentions. I know this is pure speculation, but I really liked that different take on it. Somehow I find it easier to understand that he'd lead him to questioning than to his death.

And the crucifiction was incredible! I have NO idea how they did it to make it look so real. I'm sure there must have been handles to hold and places to put their feet, but none that were visible from where we sat.

I wasn't too impressed by their depiction of Easter Sunday though. For some reason they had decided to have Mary Magdalene meet an angel rather than Jesus himself. At first I thought it was because they didn't want to show the risen Jesus (which I could understand! Playing the part of Jesus is one thing, playing the part of the risen Jesus shown in all his glory is something else entirely), but he did enter the stage at the very end. *shrugs* I don't get it. That said, I really, really liked the person who played Jesus. I know it doesn't make much sense, but he completely fit my mental picture of him :)

As is fairly typical with passion plays, I felt the second half was a lot more drawn out and slow-moving than the first half. Of course it didn't help that I was running on very little sleep, and becoming even more tired by having to focus so much on understanding what was said. I wouldn't go so far as to say I found it boring in parts, but I certainly wouldn't have minded if they'd cut it down a bit - after all, it lasted 3 hours!

It was still an amazing experience though. But I really wonder how many people went because they were Christians and therefore wanted to see it, and how many went for solely the cultural experience. I went for both reasons, but for me it ended up being a HUGE cultural experience, but not really a religious experience at all. Like I told Mum and Dad, I'm glad I went, but I couldn't really see myself going on a regular basis... perhaps in 20-30 years together with my own kids.

The bus back to the hotel was a bit late, so I got to be QUITE cold. I wish I'd known that it was going to be late, as it was parked right outside what looked like a really yummy ice cream palour, and I would have had plenty of time to buy some if I'd only known ;) Finally we arrived back at the hotel just around midnight, and I fell into bed and asleep right away - sleeping so heavily that I was completely disorientated when I woke the next morning, as I was certain I was back home!

Compared to the trip down, the return trip was ridiculously punctual! No train was late (until we came to the ferry from Germany to Denmark, and at that point it really didn't matter, as we had no further time-sensitive connections to make), we made all our connections with plenty of time to spare, and nothing of any interest at all happened ;) Unfortunate we didn't have seats together until the very last leg of the trip which was a shame, but at least we had lunch in the dining area of the train from Munich-Hamburg (I had a DELICIOUS curry-coco soup! I'm going to have to see if I can find a recipe for that!), and had the chance to sit together and talk there.

But it was a LOOONG trip home! We left the hotel at 8:30am and I arrived home at around 11pm. I do like reading, but after awhile I want to do something else as well! Fortunately we'd brought along Fluxx so when we finally got seats together, we could spend some time playing that.

I'm really, really glad I went. It was an amazing experience, and I very much enjoyed getting to share it with Mum and Dad.

Oberammergau Part 1 - The Trip

Here's an account of my trip to Oberammergau in probably too great detail ;)

... Okay, I was going to post this as just one long entry, but I'm obviously even more long-winded than usual, so I'll split it up in two - the trip down there, and the play itself.

I left work early on Thursday in order to get to Copenhagen central station by 3:30pm as the train left at 3:45pm. We arrived a bit early, which turned out to be a good thing, as Lars sent me a text message saying, "Assuming I'm in the area and want to say goodbye - where could I find you?" He was out trainspotting and happened to be on one of the neighbouring stations, so he jumped on a train and arrived in time to give me a kiss goodbye. I thought that was sweet :)

The first part of the trainride was uneventful, and we arrived to Rødby Ferry exactly on time... Unfortunately the ferry didn't, and we ended up being half an hour late getting across to Germany! We had a 70 minute stop-over in Hamburg, so it wasn't a problem yet, but we didn't want to get much more delayed. Fortunately no further delays occurred, so we were only the expected 30 minutes late to Hamburg - no problem at all, and it still left Mum and me plenty of time for a dessert-smoothie ;) (we'd had dinner on the ferry which was delicious and surprisingly reasonably priced!)

About 15 minutes before the train for Munich was supposed to leave, we went down to the track, only to discover that it was 15 minutes late! No problem - while we didn't have much time to change in Munich, the trains from there left every hour, and we had plenty of time to reach Oberammergau, so we weren't worried. We were impatient though, so when the 15 minutes grew to 25 we got increasingly restless! It finally arrived though, and we got settled in our compartment. They were TINY though! Previously when we've taken the night train, we've usually had much bigger cabins, so there was room to move around and get comfortable even when not lying in bed. Not so here. There was room for a bed and a sink and not much else. Mum and Dad's compartment was even worse, as they had bunk beds AND lower to the ceiling, so there was no place Dad could stand up straight, and the only place they could sit up straight was on the floor. Mum and Dad ended up spending most of the awake time with me, as I had a single room so there was a tiny bit more room.

We played a couple of rounds of Bezzerwizzer (and - of course - listened to Skimbleshanks, the Railway Cat from Cats - that's a must!) and then went to bed. By then it was 11pm, and the train would arrive in Munich at 7am, so we figured we'd better get some sleep, as we had a long day ahead of us.

That was easier said than done though. The bed wasn't all that comfortable, and the pillow even less so, so I didn't sleep much. It didn't bother me though - I've always found the movemet of a train to be soothing, so while I didn't fall into a deep sleep, neither did I toss and turn as I would have, had I been home. I still ended up turning on the lights and grabbing my book half an hour before my alarm clock rang though ;)

After a quick breakfast (served on the train) we got off the train in Munich and went to find the regional train that would take us onwards via Murnau to Saulgrub. Thanks to Lars (I may tease him about his geekiness, but it comes in REALLY handy at times!) we knew exactly which track it would leave from, and were able to head there immediately.... only to discover that a cable had been cut between Munich and Murnau, so we'd only be able to take the train half way, and then had to change to a replacement bus instead! For those keeping track, that means there was an issue with all three trains so far! It was starting to get just a tad too funny for our likings.

It didn't end there though - we got the first replacement bus without any issues, and quickly arrived at Murnau... where the next replacement bus was just about to leave right in front of us! (not terribly smart to leave before the connecting bus arrives, but what do I know...) Thankfully our busdriver yelled out the window and got him to stop and wait for us (I'd hoped to have just 5 minutes break there, as I really, really needed to pee! Thankfully the next bus had a build in WC). We drove on towards Saulgrub, and got out of the bus when the busdriver announced "This stop, Saulgrub!" only to discover that we were in the middle of nowhere! Thankfully the bus hasn't left yet, so we were able to ask the bus driver if it really was Saulgrub. No, that was the next stop - he had made a mistake in the announcement! He was suitably horrified and apologized many times for making the wrong announcement, and just before the next stop announced, "This is definitely Saulgrub!"

From Saulgrub there were another 4.5km to our hotel. Worst case we could easily walk that (would take about an hour), but we hoped to be able to find a taxi - especially as it chose this moment to start pouring down. However, there were no taxis around at all, so Dad went to see if there was a bus we could take instead. There was, but it didn't leave for another hour and 20 minutes. We were just debating what to do, when a local came up and when he heard of our plight, he asked us which hotel we were staying at. We told him, "Ah! My sister-in-law works there!" (at least I think it was his SIL... my German is only so-so), and he proceeded to call up the hotel and get somebody there to come pick us up! You'd better believe we were very, very grateful!