I will never,ever forget the stunning, inspiring and jaw dropping scenery of the Bavaria Alps! Nor do I want to. Today Sparky and I headed south to the borderland between Bavaria, Germany and Austria. An area where time seems to have stood still and villages at first glance, appear no different than they were a century ago. A land of magnificent Alps that humble you just by their shear majesty. Mountain villages where winter skiing is King and summer hiking is Queen. And if I continue to follow that thread, shopping and dining are the Prince and Princess! This area is the home of the Zugspitze, the tallest mountain in Germany at 2964 meters. It is also home to the famous mountain resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. You may recall the infamous G-7 Conference from June 7, 2015 where President Obama meet with European leaders including German Chancellor, Angela Merkle. That was Garmisch! 10 km north of Garmisch is the other famous ski and tourist town of Oberammergau or “Over Ammergau,” a sweet town of about 5500 people high in the mountains. Long famous for its Passion Play that is staged every 10 years (and no, mores the pity, not this year) The Passion Play that that has run continuously since its inception in 1634 to give thanks for the village being spared from the Plague! That’s Oberammergau and that’s where we spent this Saturday.
Oberammergau is also famous for a few other things, the first being the houses, hotels and shops whose facades are hand painted with Lüftlmalerei. These images typically display religious themes but also can be images from Fairy Tales and types of employment such wood working which leads me to the next reason this town is famous. Oberammergau is world re known for its hand carved wood work and figurines. Over 40 shops display the talents of 120 local area wood carvers who painstakingly carve and paint figures from 1 inch high to over 4 feet tall! Most of the wood carvings are religious in nature but there are many depicting the Bavarian people from years past such as farmers, hunters and craftsmen. Picture taking is verbotten and the shop keepers carefully watch that cameras are not in use! As you can imagine the prices for these carved figures is in keeping with the amount of work and talent that goes into producing them. I saw prices from $38.00 to $950.00. In several shops the woodcarvers were working at their benches while watching the world ski championships on small televisions.
But first we had to drive there. Oberammerau is only 53 miles from our house but Mapquest said will would take 1-1/2 hours. That’s because the first 25 miles is spent driving along narrow, twisting 2 lane roads through small towns and villages, many times behind tractors going 20 mph! Scenic, yes. Fast,no. Then you hop on the A95 Autobahn for the remaining 28 miles and go as fast as you can ( it’s the Autobahn!) until you slam on your brakes because the Autobahn ends and traffic filters from 2 lanes to 1 lane and the speed limit drops from “whatever” to standing still. It took us well over an extra hour to get off the Autobahn which was packed with people heading to the slopes for a day of skiing. But it was so worth the drive! Let’s go visit Oberammergau.
Heading down the Autobahn, the sky appears grey and foggy but, no. The sky really was a silvery blue and the “fog” was frozen ice crystals making it rather magical. Sometimes the camera just can’t capture what the eye sees. The start of the traffic jam is just ahead.
The Valley between the mountains. So charming and quintessential Bavarian. Looking closely you can see small clusters of houses and farm buildings against the mountains,far off the beaten path. Such quiet, peaceful lives these people must lead.
The close we get to our destinations, the larger the Alps.
And here’s where we hit the traffic slow down. At least it’s scenic! See the sign for the Schloss Linderhof? That is the only palace that Mad King Ludwig completed. It’s also the smallest palace and I hope to see it this Spring because the gardens alone are worth the trip. King Ludwig loved the Alps, but he was crazy!
Almost ready to exit the Autobahn but it will take another 20 minutes to go 600 meters. I really don’t mind because that’s just the way it is in Bavaria and the rewards are worth the traffic woes. Every other car had a ski rack.
We have arrived! The Alp in the background is noteworthy for its shape and that there is a Christian Cross at the very peak! Hmmm….. how did they do that? Cobbled streets and brick walkways. Everything neat as a pin. But first a word about parking. Parking is always somewhat of a challenge in these old, old towns. They were built long before most people had a horse much less a car. But be patient, parking signs are frequent and clear and you will find a place even if you have to walk a few extra blocks. Once you’ve arrived, the town is compact as expected for something built before 1600! Also, each little tourist town has an information center with English speaking guides who are more than happy to give you maps and directions.
Our first order of business was getting a bite to eat. There are cafe’s and bistros but important to note is that the Hotels and Guesthouses all open their dining rooms for tourists and locals. They are your best option for Bavarian food at a very reasonable price. We had lunch at the Hotel Alte Post. They had a good sized menu but most options contained Pork in various forms from Roast Pork to Schnitzel to Weisswurst. And then there was this. A sausage platter mit cheese, paper thin sliced onions, pickled vegetables, schmaltz and butter with dark rye bread. Healthy? I think not, but really tasty! A thick slice of cold roast pork. Salami, ham, Parma Schinken, Mortadella and jellied something or other which nicely remained on my plate. I had a diet Coke or “Cola Light” as it’s known in Germany. Very sweet, not like the USA and Sparky of course had a small beer. All for $21.oo and we were full!
The menu, in English BTW, had a history of the Hotel which dates back to 1612!
The Hotel Lobby contained an antique wagon, the standard Stag Horn Rack and the typical religious statue. I always enjoy the decor.
After lunch we headed directly across the street to one of many woodcarvers stores that we visited. The carvings were phenomenal but it was such a bummer not being able to take photographs. Even the windows did not display the wood carvings but rather, dolls, toys, Drindl etc. The detail was amazing and each figure was also handpainted. Speaking of painting, will you take good look at the Lüftmalerei on this store?
Here’s the other side of the shop. The attention to detail and conforming the Lüftmalerei to the dimensions of the store and the window takes incredible talent and patience. The dark blue background is unusual. The majority are painted against a neutral background.
We visited with the elderly man who owns this shop and lives upstairs with his wife who had a major stroke last year. Very nice chatting with him and admiring his work. Yes, he carved the Owl and the Eagle in the window! The door is also hand carved.
Quite the typical residence. Simple design. Wide roof. Balcony and Lüftmalerei. And of course, the Stag Horn! The sky is called “Bavarian Blue.” A shade of blue unique to Bavaria and stunning to see.
This building housed a restaurant and I believe the upstairs is a private residence. An example of one of the more ornate Lüftmalerei that we found on our walk. The 3D effect is incredible, isn’t it?
Here’s a closeup of some cherubs from a Lüftmalerei. Carrying the cross of Christ and his Crown of Thorns.
Quiet winding lanes. Big trees, beautiful houses and the typical Bavarian means of transportation. The bicycle! People everywhere ride their bikes as a primary method of transportation. Just such a lovely setting.
On our way back to the car, we passed this guy dutifully barking at all passersby!
The town Church is well known throughout Germany for its beauty, but we were running out of time and will need to return to do it justice. I thought the steeple against the backdrop of the Alps was quite striking.
All too soon it was time to head for home, but we plan on one more visit before returning to the USA. So much too see and so little time! The scenery coming down the mountain back to the valley was so stunning I wanted to capture a thousand images but I will have to be satisfied to carry their memories in my mind.
And one last photograph that will always and forever remind me of Bavaria and its people. The farmers and their tractors tooling on down the highways with 100 cars crawling along behind them! You gotta love it!
I hope you enjoyed my sharing our visit to Oberammergau as much as I enjoy sharing my journey through Europe with all of you, my friends! I get so excited when seeing these amazing sites that I truly wish I was with a whole group of friends sharing the excitement first hand!
Wherever your journey leads you today, may you find joy, excitement and a reason to give thanks.