Oberammergau or bust

Oberammergau 1992 While spring cleaning these last couple weekends, I ran across the brief journal I kept during my high school trip to Germany. On that four-week trip I had quite a number of experiences, some of which helped shape my life even to this day. For example, in Munich, I drank significant quantities of alcohol for the first time, and the following day I celebrated my birthday at what was left of the Dachau concentration camp.

On July 4, 1992, I wrote:

The next day [June 28] was my birthday. We went to Dachau. Dachau: the first Nazi concentration camp of WWII. A great birthday tourist attraction. Actually it was an amazing experience that affected me profoundly.

Sadly, I never expanded on that, because it was in a catch-up entry six days after the fact. Alas, I used the next 50 words to detail what I drank that night and the names of the Americans with whom we partied in Munich; considering I was a newly minted 17-year-old, that fact is not terribly surprising, though somewhat disappointing. (I had spent half of the previous couple weeks’ entries agonizing over my attraction to the girl whose family was hosting me. I think I was mad at myself for having such normal priorities.)

Later in the same entry, I ran across something interesting I had almost completely forgotten about:

In Oberammergau I went inside the Passionspielhaus (the Passion Play Theatre). It was amazing. In 2000 I will come back to see the Passion Play. (Done every 10 years.)

Ah, yes… the Oberammergau Passion Play. Every ten years, literally half of the population of the village of Oberammergau performs in a play about the life of Jesus that runs all summer. Since 1634, after the village survived the plague, the play has had 41 seasons.


I was very much into theater at the time I went to Germany. I acted in several plays in high school, before and after the trip, and — before I dismissed it as frivolous, unfortunately — had aspirations of pursuing an acting career. So it was a big deal to me to walk around a permanent structure devoted to a single production, so special that it was performed only once a decade, continuously produced for nearly four centuries.

It turns out I did go back to Germany with some friends… in 1999. Oops. I missed it by that much. My situation was far different in 2000 — I had moved to Minneapolis with no job in November 1999, and my part-time canvassing job simply wasn’t going to get me to Oberammergau. I was preoccupied with other things, such as starting a new life in a new state, and the ridiculous hype about the Y2K bug, but I’m sure the year did not go by without my lamenting my inability to see the play, as I had hoped.

Two years later, I was on my way to California. Fast-forward seven years to today, when I briefly worry I missed it again, even though I probably hadn’t thought about the Passion Play more than a couple times in the last decade. Well, this time, I’m in luck — I could actually try to go this year, since the Passionspiel runs May 15th through October 3rd, 2010. I have a lot more stability than I did 10 years ago (thank goodness), so maybe I could make it. And I’ve been looking for an excuse to go back to Europe anyway.

I don’t know if I’m going to follow through on this, but it’s a nice thing to think about.

[Hmm. It seems I’m blogging again.]


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  1. Gonna have to put this in my iCalendar for May-October 2020.

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