June, 2010 - Report by Morag Thomson

On June the 9th, a happy band of pilgrims boarded the bus at Milngavie Station on its way to Oberammergau by way of Fuschl in Austria. And a week later we were still chattering on our arrival home on a beautiful June evening, having left Munich in pouring rain! In spite of strikes, forcing a change of plans, all went well on the journeys to and from Oberammergau, and in between we had a week to remember.

While Scotland basked in sunshine, we too had our share, and in Fuschl am See we were able to swim in the lake or take trips on its calm waters. Our excellent hotel, the Schutzenhof, was right on the water's edge, with views to the pretty countryside surrounding it, but also convenient to local bus routes. A choice of outings included a day trip to Salzburg, a tour of the lakes and mountains and a Mozart dinner. That was an unforgettable evening, held in the exquisitely decorated Baroque Hall of a Benedictine monastery in the oldest part of the city. Not only were we treated to traditional Austrian food, but were entertained between courses to selections of Mozart's most famous operas.

On the tour of the lakes and mountains we passed through St Wolfgang, Bad Ischl and St Gilgen, expertly led by Raymond, our tour guide. And wherever we went , a visit to the local church was part of the programme. The highly ornate interiors were often a contrast to the simple and dignified design of the buildings themselves, which are a picturesque addition to the landscape of woods and meadows.

But the highlight of our holiday was the Passion play at Oberammergau, where it has been performed every tenth year by the people of the town. During the spread of bubonic plague in the 17th century, the villagers of Oberammergau made a vow to perform a dramatic retelling of the last week of the life of Jesus, if they were spared the worst ravages of the disease. Their faithfulness in carrying out that vow is a testament to their thankfulness that they were indeed spared. Over 2000 local people are involved in its staging in an enormous purpose-built auditorium, which seats over 4000. The organisation of the event, both on and off the stage, is impressive.

It was a truly memorable experience, bringing to life3 crosses many of the events, familiar to us through the Scriptures. Christ's first triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, his betrayal and abandonment by the disciples, to his trial and eventual crucifixion and resurrection were all depicted with great reality. The drama was intensified by the music and the wonderful singing of the choir. The huge audience was rapt in its attention by the many deeply moving and disturbing scenes, which were convincingly portrayed and readily followed, despite the German text.

Between the various episodes of the play, "tableaux vivants" or living images, using real actors were mounted. These depicted events related in the Old Testament, such as Moses and the burning bush, Joseph in Egypt and the sacrifice of Isacc and were intended to focus the audience's attention on the foregoing history which led to Christ's passion.

It was a hugely enjoyable and uplifting trip for which we should thank Anne Ritchie, our organiser.