Thursday, February 9, 2012

OBERAMMERGAU (Alemania) ...a story telling moment

Power point slide shows (pps) seem to be a popular format for sending emails that describe beautiful pictures of faraway places...they're usually accompanied with some background music and short descriptons of whatever the subject matter.  Some time ago a friend sent an attached pps entitled, "OBERAMMERGAU (Alemania)" and immediately recognized the name for this was one place I could say, "Been there! Done that!"  I watched the slide show and gave an immediate response with a "thanks for the memories" note.  The note however, turned into a short story... 

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Wednesday, September 14, 2011 3:11 PM
Subject: Re: RV: OBERAMMERGAU (Alemania)

 Thanks for the memories...

After spending nine months in Sicily I was fortunate to get a transfer to Germany arriving there in May of 1979.  Knowing that the Passion Play would be held in Oberammergau in the summer of 1980 (its performed once every 10 years by the villagers of Oberammergau in thanks for being spared during the great plague that killed thousands upon thousands throughout Europe), I ordered tickets (actually there was only one left through the special services office) and I was also fortunate to have received the last one.

I arrived in Oberammergau mid-day the day before the passion play was to commence so I had several hours of daylight to give it the ole foot-tour. 
I remember walking along the river and meeting up with some guy fishing from the banks.  He hailed me in German but I replied in English.   Aah, "We have an American here." he said.  And without interruption added, "I'm from Brocton, Massachusetts."  "Well what
a small world.", I replied and then added, "I'm from Taunton."  After exchanging some small talk about the upcoming play I moved on.

Going up a street that seemed to beckon me, I saw a monk of sorts working in his garden.  The monk invited me into his workspace that was adjacent to an old monastery.   He somehow recognized my American aura and began speaking in English.  He himself was
originally from America but had been at the monk business so long that he wasn't sure how long he had been gone.  He spoke to me about his life among the brothers and how they reeked out a meager living.  And then it hit me...earlier in the day I had seen bottles
of rum in one of the tourist shops with a picture of a monastery on the label.  I asked the old priest if the rum was one of his products.
With a wink of the eye he said, "Yes indeed, its one of our products and at this time of year its our only product...and a good one at that!"   Getting back to my line "...a monk of sorts...", the robe and sandals gave him away but the blue jeans sticking out below the robe was another story.

I continued my walk and arrived in a neighborhood that would be the envy of most...well groomed lawns fronting nifty looking cottages...some with the "I only see it in the Alpine area" look with the extended eaves.  One driveway entrance had a tree that probably died some years ago setting off to the right...but the tree was preserved with a coating of lacquer that highlighted the beautiful carving of some figures most likely carved by the homeowner (Oberammergau is also famous for its woodcarvings).

The evening was very entertaining even though I was alone...  I happened upon a small somewhat crowded cafe that, like the last available ticket, had just one available seat remaining.  Nobody seemed to speak English here and I was seated by a charming German hostess and whatever it was she uttered I knew I was in a friendly environment.  I ordered one of those big German steins of whatever kind of beer the hostess decided was good.  What attracted me in the first place was not that the place was overcrowded, it was the music coming from a trio (or was it four, I forget) playing different instruments including one of those small accordions.  But it was the singer's instrument that I'd never forget.  Its one of those things I've read about or seen pictures of but never actually seen a real one never mind hearing the sound of a zither.  Ya know, now that I think about it, I've never seen a zither since!

I stayed at some elderly lady's home that was open for the influx of play goers but all I remember is the wonderful breakfast of fresh hard-boiled eggs and German sausage...I ate all that was brought to kept coming until I had to give some sign that it was enough.  I would never see this lady's lovely home again for after breakfast it was time to hurry down to the playhouse and after the play I was headed back to Frankfurt.

The play was extremely well orchestrated and the audience was very attentive...I don't know how else to describe it for the solemn respect for the theme was highly noticeable; there was never any applause until the very end.  I might point out that the theatre was unique in that the stage was separated from the audience by a roofless area that allowed some natural lighting in the forefront.  Whether that observation was  correct or not I will never know but what appeared to me to be a natural occurring event was the thunder and
lightening that came through that roofless space  at the highlight of the play...the crucifixion!

There were several intermissions during the play and at the outside I ran into more people from Massachusetts the most notable being a priest, also from Brocton, that knew my brother Richard.

I didn't know at the outset that this would lead into a story-telling moment but thanks for the memories!


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