Another chapter from my guidebooks Daytrips Germany (7th Edition) and Daytrips Bavaria,
A Daytrip from Munich
Everyone has heard of the once-a-decade Passion Play of Oberammergau. What many may not realize, however, is that this ancient woodcarvers' village is equally as attractive during the nine out of ten years when its stage is empty. People come here in all seasons to enjoy the mountains, the quaint old houses, and the magnificent palace of King Ludwig II at Linderhof.
Easy to reach, Oberammergau makes an excellent daytrip from Munich. By staying overnight or longer it can also be used as a convenient base for one-day excursions by bus or car to nearby Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the Zugspitze, Füssen, or Mittenwald.
Trains for Garmisch-Partenkirchen leave hourly in the morning from Munich's main station. Take one of these as far as Murnau and there change to the connecting local for Oberammergau. This last segment of the trip is extremely lovely as you slowly climb the mountain. The total journey from Munich takes less than two hours. Service back to Munich operates until mid-evening.
By Car, leave Munich on the A-95 Autobahn in the direction of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Just north of that town, at Oberau, turn right on a local road leading to Oberammergau, which is about 92 km (57 miles) southwest of Munich.
A fine day in warm weather will make this trip more enjoyable. Schloss Linderhof is open every day, although its grotto and Moorish pavilion are closed in winter. Anyone going to Oberammergau while the Passion Play is on should expect crowds. The local Tourist Information Office (Verkehrsamt) is in the convention center on Eugen-Papst-Strasse, T: (08822) 923-10, W: oberammergau.de. Oberammergau has a population of about 5,400.
FOOD AND DRINK:
Wolf (Dorfstr. 1, near the Heimatmuseum) Local Bavarian dishes in a traditional setting, with game and fish specialties. T: (08822) 923-30. €€
Turmwirt (Ettaler Str. 2, near the Pfarrkirche) An 18th-century inn serving Bavarian food. T: (08822) 926-00. €€
Schlosshotel Linderhof (near Schloss Linderhof) Traditional German cuisine served indoors or outdoors; in a chalet setting. T: (08822) 43-47. €€
Alte Post (Dorfstr. 19, near the town center) A Bavarian chalet-style inn with a rustic restaurant. T: (08822) 91-00. €
Numbers in parentheses correspond to numbers on the map.
Upon arrival at the Oberammergau train station (1) you should check the posted schedule of buses to Linderhof. These may be boarded here or, more conveniently, near the tourist office (5). Decide which bus you would like to take and how much time can be spent first in Oberammergau, allowing at least two hours to see Linderhof. Those with cars will, of course, be riding there instead.
Follow the map across the Ammer River to the:
PASSION PLAY THEATER (Spielhaus) (2), ^T: (08822) 945-8833. Open in summer and over Christmas holidays, daily 10-5; rest of year occasionally. €.
As the whole world knows by now, this sometimes-controversial play is held once a decade, from May through September, in the years ending in zero. Every day during that period this otherwise peaceful village is invaded by thousands of visitors. Tickets to the event are available only in combination with overnight accommodation, and are usually sold out well in advance.
The play itself, depicting the story of Christ's Passion, lasts about six hours and uses the talents of some two thousand local amateur performers, many of whom have taken a few months off from their erstwhile occupation of woodcarving. It was first performed during the 17th century as a result of a vow taken by surviving villagers after deliverance from the black plague. The theater (photo, above), seating about 4,800 spectators, is a marvel of ingenious design. Besides the Passion Play, the theater is now also used for opera performances during the off-years.
Stroll over to the Heimatmuseum (3) for a look at some wonderful antique Christmas crèches and fine examples of the local woodcarvers' art. You may want to visit this on the way back to the station. T: (08822) 941-36. Open April through early Feb., Tues.-Sun. 10-5. €.
Turn right at the square and walk down Dorfstrasse. This leads to the magnificent 18th-century Pfarrkirche (Parish Church) (4), well worth a visit for its marvelous rococo interior. Wandering around the nearby streets will reveal several examples of Lüftmalerei (top photo), the "air paintings" with which many of the houses are decorated. A particularly outstanding example of this is the Pilatushaus (5) of 1775, where you can see local crafts as well.
The bus to Linderhof may be boarded on Eugen-Papst-Strasse near the Tourist Office. By car the distance is under ten miles. Leave town via Ettaler Strasse and bear right to Linderhof.
*SCHLOSS LINDERHOF (photo, above)(6), T: (08822) 920-30, W: linderhof.de. Open April-Sept., daily 9-6; Oct.-March, daily 10-4, but without the grotto and Moorish pavilion during that period. Some tours are held in English. A descriptive booklet in English is available. €€.
This is the most satisfying of "mad" Ludwig's creations, and the only one where he actually spent much time. Built between 1870 and 1879, the palace is best understood as a stage set in which a deranged mind could work out its fantasies. An incredible amount of opulence is packed within this relatively small structure.
To see the interior, as well as the grotto and Moorish pavilion, you must join one of the very frequent guided tours that begin in front of the palace.
When the palace tour is finished you should be sure to climb uphill to the Grotto (photo, left), an artificial cave entered by way of a hinged boulder. Here the inside of the Venus mountain from Wagner's Tannhäuser is re-created, complete with lake, waterfall, and a cockle-shell boat in which the king was transported more deeply into his dream world.
Sometimes these illusions took other shapes, as when Ludwig decided to play the role of an Oriental potentate. For this, he erected the Moorish Pavilion on the path that leads back to the palace. Don't miss seeing this — the peacock throne is spectacular.
Finish your tour of Linderhof by strolling through the splendid gardens, perhaps visiting the nearby Hundinghütte, a scene from Wagner’s Die Walküre.
Return to the bus stop and Oberammergau. An additional sight there, if time allows, is a cable car ride up the Laber Mountain for a superb view. The lower station (7) is about one mile from Dorf Platz by way of a path along the creek, just beyond the Wellenberg recreation center.
Text and map Copyright © 2007, 2009 by Earl Steinbicker.
Photos by (1) Nicholas Even, (2) Nancy, (3 & 4) Softeis, used under GNU Free Documentation Licence.
Click on photos and map to enlarge.
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