Posted by: Nazausgraben | August 29, 2010


The thin serpentine road between nearby Reutte (Austria) and Oberammergau (Germany) winds its way through some of the most lush ‘Traumhaft’ scenery in the Tirol and all of southern Bavaria. One passes by the Plansee; a magnificent crystalline lake guarded on all sides by vast Ammergauer Alpine ranges.  Those on vacation from Germany and Italy park their vehicles on the shoulders and set up their sunbathing camps almost directly on the thin road itself. There they bask in overflowing half-nakedness, their armless folding chairs, children and grandbabies cavort on the edge of the chilled still waters, taking in the remnants of a mostly sodden grey Summer. Swimmers and boaters mingle, and when thoroughly dried and sun-baked, luxuriate on the terrasse of the nearby inn.

Leaving the Plansee, one now heads into deep thick mountain forest. The road continues to wind, dip and climb. A blue-grey dry stone riverbed runs parallel to the road; ready to catch the waters of the icy Spring melt that tumbles down from these higher altitudes into the valley near Reutte beyond and below.

Suddenly, this balsam for the eyes and soul is broken;  a massive steel and glass box suddenly looms out of the forest. It at first appears to be an office building or an out of place mid-city train station. In reality, this is a hotel. It is an interesting structure that for some might appear to have been designed in spite of rather than in concert with the surround. To others, it represents an example of how modernism can be placed within any natural and man-made ambience.  Despite the architectural clash with ones expectations of  Bavarian deep forest sleeperies, it looks to be a rather elegant well-appointed place to stay should one wish to eschew an overnight in one of the area’s lovely traditional historic inns.

The road continues as the forest thins and eventually gives way to vast fields of grass and exquisite vistas of the craggy vor-Alpine mountains. We pass small villages, adorned with ancient farmhouses and small inns that exude Bavarian beauty and warmth. Today’s wash hangs in the winds that pipe mightily between the mountains; drying blouses, jeans and underwear could prove worthy weathercocks for descending gliders and parachutists as Buesnhalters whip to the horizontal during the more powerful gusts.

After entering the village of Graswangtal, you soon pass a road sign indicating that, should you so wish, a turn off the road will take you to Schloss Linderhof, the lovely small palace and garden built in the 19th century by Ludwig II for his father. Of the three castles that Ludwig II had built (including the iconic Neuschwanstein), it was in Schloss Linderhof that Ludwig and his family spent their most time.

We elect to continue as we must be at our destination, Oberammergau, within the hour. Our speed varies as our open road suddenly becomes cluttered with stau (traffic); that is, more than two other vehicles headed in our same direction). Slow moving tractors haul their loads of drying grass from field to barn. Still slower camping vehicles filled with families on holiday from Germany, Italy and the Netherlands elicit an unprintable mutter or two from locals who hope to reach their destinations only a few kilometers away on the same day. Then there are those who seek to prevent car sickness effects by driving at angles designed to minimize following the at-times highly angled curves. Cutting curves is a particularly effective technique except when one confronts oncoming traffic or when one behind such a driver wishes to pass. 

Oh yes…passing….a technique taken to the level of an art form…or what some would call an extreme sport.

A steady stream of traffic in both directions along this thin two-lane  country way makes passing one of these slow vehicles something of a life-threatening challenge. In a part of the world where (with gas prices approximately twice what they are in the United States) eight cylinder owners are chastised, six cylinder owners are tolerated and four cylinders are worshipped. It is with some apprehension, therefore, that we downshift our five cylinders (clever…right on the horsepower border between tolerated and worshipped) and monitor the oncoming headlights as we attempt to pass a two-trailer lorry before encountering terminal convergence with an approaching unknown cylinder two-seater.

What is most odd is that the driver of the converging target does not seem to mind that the lives of he/she and all onboard might be in peril. Indeed, he/she does not lift a foot from the gas (or diesel) pedal for even a moment to help ensure safe passage.  Just the opposite; one has the impression that the target increases speed (probably an illusion that is accentuated as the target approaches).  With my foot to the floor, watching the maddeningly slow increase in engine rpm and speed, it seems an eternity before I see the lorry behind me.  Moments later, the target speeds by at multi-mach…mere moments from obliteration. Heart rates and breathing slow abit, forehead perspiration begins to dry, and all is again well. That is until one spies the  slow-moving house trailer from Belgium just ahead.

Finally, a ‘T’ in the road. To the east is the lovely village of Ettal, where, amidst a host of lovely homes and shops, one will see the magnificent Abbey (Kloster) Ettal. As it has been for more than five centuries, the Abbey is still an excellent boarding school, horticultural center and brewery. What a splendid mixture indeed!

Today, however, we turn westward on our way to Oberammergau. It is here that we will be experiencing an extraordinary event that takes place but once every ten years. For we will be attending the Oberammergauer Passionsspiele (Passion Play).

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