Oberammergau is a small town in the Bavarian Alps, Germany. With only a few thousands of residents, it is well-known for its painted façades (Lüftlmalerei), the Cathartic event Passion Play, and a long tradition of woodcarvings. Besides, its location makes this small town a major attraction for family holidaymakers and outdoor seekers. Many tours, such as the tour to Neuschwanstein & Linderhof Castles from Munich takes a small detour through the little town of Oberammergau.
Our family, my 80-year old mother, my brother’s family, have spent a couple of days in southern Germany. Before we left the holiday area, we spent several hours in this small place and loved it very much. The whole town is so quaint. It is an area where time seems to have stood still. At first glance, the village appears no different than a century ago. But, when we walked around the town, we felt it is also a place where modern and traditional life perfectly meet.
Here are the interesting things that Oberammergau offer:
- Oberammergau from a German tongue twister
- The inviting Parish Church St. Peter and Paul
- Houses and Hotels in Bavarian architecture
- Painted façades (Lüftmalerei)
- Traditional woodcarving products
- Oberammergau Museum & Eisenhower Museum
- Passion Play Theatre
Oberammergau from a German tongue twister
I got to know the name of this town from a well-known German twister. Years ago, when I was studying German in the German language school, to improve our German pronunciation, our German teacher provided several tongue twisters to practice. And, years later, I still remember this one:
Ob er über Oberammergau, oder aber über Unterammergau, oder ob er überhaupt noch kommt, ist ungewiß!
(Whether he’s coming via Oberammergau, or perhaps via Unterammergau, or not at all is uncertain)
All of us in the same language class exercised and couldn’t manage to read it out smoothly. We busted into tears whenever someone failed to do so. Our German teacher also brought some materials related to this town for us to read. Since then, I could never forget Oberammergau. And, after having lived in German so many years, I can finally pronounce the name and the tongue twister fluently!
The inviting Parish Church St. Peter and Paul
We parked the car just outside of the village next to the river. From the parking place, the white Parish Church St. Peter and Paul with its polygonal tower was in our sight. The center of the entire building is arched over with a flat oval dome. The church has a beautiful graveyard, which is worth a visit.
Houses and Hotels in Bavarian architecture
As we entered the village, the streets lined with lovely painted houses, busting with colour attracted our attention. The typical Bavarian architecture dominates the whole villages. Since it was in the summertime, balconies, and window flower boxes were overflowing with especially geraniums, so bright and colourful. I always wonder how Germans can maintain the flowers so flourish during the whole summer, while the same flowers on my balcony can never live longer than two weeks!
The Bavarian architecture features at least style elements, including the use of wood. Wood carving is a tradition in the village, and it has flourished since the 12th century. Many highly skilled craft men live there. They produce pieces of the art of woodcarving that we could see in the local shops.
Painted façades (Lüftmalerei)
We took some time to admire the painted façades. Most of the paintings present religious-related themes. But a few fairy tale scenes can also be seen. These eye-catching painted façades, called Lüftmalerei in German, are painted in an illusionist style. An example of such style is the Pilatushaus, whose painted columns give a 3D-effect as you approach.
Traditional woodcarving products
Many local highly skilled woodcarvers live on the classic art of woodcarving. The woodcarving is a craft that has flourished in the area since the early 12th century. Since it was very early in the morning, the shops were still not open. So we did window shopping and had a look at those wooden products.
Some shops are small and display products for sale, many are also religious-related scenes. But some products are depicting the Bavarian people in the past, such as farmers, hunters, and craftsmen.
It is also possible to visit a living work studio, such as Lebende Werkstatt im Pilatushaus (Ludwig-Thoma-Str. 10 82487 Oberammergau) to gain a comprehensive insight to traditional art.
Oberammergau Museum & Eisenhower Museum
The interior design of the Oberammergau Museum has an ambience mixed with the past and the present. One will find oneself in a very bright high chapel, in which modern steel and glass constructions complement the ceiling vault, arched windows, and wooden banisters. It was a pity that the museum didn’t open yet since we were there very early on that day.
In the Eisenhower Museum you will find connection with the 34th President of the United States of America. “Ike”, as he was called from an early age, had spent his childhood there. It opens only on limited time. Make sure to check online or call before your visit.
Passion Play Theatre
The small Bavarian town of Oberammergau owes its world-famous reputation to the famous Passion Play that has been performed every ten years (with only a couple of exceptions) in the town since 1634. The Passion Play performs on the semi-circular open-air stage of the theatre. And, the newly renovated theatre now offers 4720 highly comfortable covered seats for a worldwide audience with the highest safety standards.
More information about Passion Play and other events, please visit its website. To participate in the Passion Play, you need to plan well-ahead.
Where to stay
During the day, Oberammergau is completely overrun by tourists. But in the early morning, we could feel like having a charming Bavarian village all to ourselves.
Oberammergau is popular with tourists for its convenient location close to the mountains as well as numerous interesting sightseeing spots. It offers many outdoor activities, both for adventures as well as for families. It can be a base to explore southern Germany. Some hotels in the village are centrally located, such as the Hotel Maximilian.
This privately owned Alpine-style design hotel is located in the centre of Oberammergau, 700 m from the Passion Theatre. Hotel Maximilian offers spacious rooms featured traditional Bavarian designs and a spa area.
The Ammergauer Maxbräu is a traditional Bavarian-style lounge with wooden floors and ceilings. It serves Bavarian specialties and its beer, which is brewed on-site. Guests can also relax in the chic modern bar or outside in the beer garden.
How to get there
Several tours from Munich to Neuschwanstein Castle include this village on their itineraries, such as the tour to Neuschwanstein & Linderhof Castles from Munich, which takes a small detour through the little town of Oberammergau. If you stay in Munich and don’t have a car, the best way to visit the place is to join a tour.
From Munich you drive via the A95 motorway south to the Ettal exit. Then, from there you get on the B-23 to Oberammergau.
From Fussen you follow B17, exit at Rottenbuch and drive along B23 to Oberammergau.
From Munich central station (München Hauptbahnhof), you have to take the train heading to Innsbruck (a regional train that departs daily). And then, you switch trains in the Murnau train station (the train to Oberammergau is the only other train in the station). The trip from Murnau to Oberammergau shouldn’t be a problem since Oberammergau is the last station to be reached.