“Towards the end of the thirty years war there was an outbreak of the plague in Bavaria. The elders of the village of Oberammergau, in an effort to protect their village, decided to seal it off from outside contact. However an itinerant worker returned, bringing the plague with him, and it swept through the village.
Whereupon the people solemnly vowed that, if God would show His compassion and lift the scourge, every ten years they would assemble and enact the Passion of our Lord.
The plague left the village in 1633 and, as a perpetual thanksgiving and reaffirmation of faith, the villagers of Oberammergau have performed the Passion Play at regular intervals ever since.”
From 1-8 June a group of people from our church visited Austria and Oberammergau under the leadership of our minister, Stephen Thornton. For most of the holiday we stayed at the Arzlerhof Hotel in Arzl, in the beautiful Austrian Tyrol. There were optional excursions to local places of interest, including the Kaunertal Glacier and Innsbruck. On Friday we travelled to Oberammergau to see the Passion Play, staying overnight and returning the following day.
Here are the impressions of some of the pilgrims:
From Val Cox:
It was such a wonderful experience to be part of our Church Pilgrimage to Oberammergau for the Passion Play. Our hotel in Austria, overlooking the pretty villages and surrounded by snow-capped mountains and lush green pines, made me appreciate how beautiful God’s world is.
The Passion Play was a personal lifetime experience, and it was shared with such lovely people.
From Sandra Smith:
Now as I reflect back to the wonderful week I spent in Austria/Germany with Stephen and the group, these are some of my memories.
Of course, the main reason for the trip was our pilgrimage to Oberammergau to see the Passion Play, and it was a spectacular production – very professional in both staging and acting, and well worth the visit. However – perhaps because it was so professional – I felt more moved spiritually by the more simple events on our visit.
Looking out from our bedroom balcony each morning up to the snow-capped mountain peaks and green valley below; the brightly coloured wild flower meadows; the joy of watching the gorgeous local butterscotch-coloured horses frolic with their young foals – all this moved me deeply and made me aware of God’s presence and the magical world he created for us to enjoy.
Sunday morning worship down in the hotel garden with improvised altar, and listening to the sermon over the sound of tinkling water and the backdrop of majestic mountains made for a special memory of spiritual times together.
So, to sum up, although we visited many famous and interesting places, it was these simple experiences which will make the more lasting memories for me.
From Pam Hasted:
The play was a lifetime experience – making a visual picture of familiar theology, thus emphasising the suffering of Jesus Christ, putting the written words into pictures – all enhanced by the operatic music of chorus and solo.
Our accommodation and food could not be faulted. Personally, I would go back to Arzlerhof Hotel on my own for the surrounding walks and comfort of the hotel.
The footpaths are so well signposted that you cannot get lost. I walked from Arzl to Imsterberg and returned through woods with strategically placed seats to look at the panorama, and a beautiful waterfall near Imsterberg. Walking is clear and safe. Austria has a small population, evident in that I met only one person as I walked for four hours. Not only is the signposting well maintained, but every so often are well looked after shrines with fresh flowers, showing the reverence for God-given nature.
On another occasion I made the steep climb to Wenns via Plattenrain (four hours), returning to Arzl by bus. (Buses for tourists are FREE.) There were beautiful views and plenty of clear spring water to refill my drinking bottle. There were many cows, with cow bells, on the terraced fields, and a tiny chapel only the size of the average living room. Although it was locked, I could see through two small porthole windows. The golden decorated altar and two rows of two-seater pews would accommodate twenty at a squeeze.
It was great to come back to the hotel, have a sauna and swim, and then tea with complimentary homemade cakes. Then dinner and evening with friends.
(More memories to follow….)