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.

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