By Jonathan Panella & Kristen Gilbert
It’s time to get ready. The year 2020 may seem like it’s a long time away, but the tiny Bavarian hamlet of Oberammergau is already preparing for their world-famous Passion Play.
Travelers often secure their seats at the Passion Play far in advance since this is an event that draws its audience from all over the world. There’s a lot of competition for a spot. These performances only run five days a week from May 16 to October 4.
Being situated in a beautiful and charming part of Germany, most travelers like to weave the experience into a European tour. For the Collette traveler, you’ll have at least seven programs to choose from, ranging from 9 to 13 days in length. Each program includes either a one or two-night Passion Play premium category package with reserved accommodations and seating at the Passion Play.
Did you know?
- The men who live in Oberammergau begin to grow long hair and beards one year prior to the start of each Passion Play for authenticity.
- The play is performed in German with English subtitles displayed on a screen– though its emotive depiction transcends language barriers.
- Only residents who were born or have lived in Oberammergau for at least 20 years are allowed to participate. Children who participate in the play must have been born there.
- Since the play happens only once every 10 years, it’s one of those extra-special, once-in-a-lifetime events that people treasure forever.
Austria is an incredible country that has so much to offer for all types of travelers. Whether you are traveling for the cuisine, culture, faith, skiing, or simply for the adventure, Austria has it all.
During my stay in this Alpine nation, I was able to spend time in both Salzburg and Vienna, which are located on opposite ends of the country. Traveling to Austria in the winter months is not a traditional vacation away from New England, but I think it definitely made my experience in Austria that much more worthwhile and memorable.
Austria During the Off-Season
Traveling around Austria in the winter during its off season is something that I would recommend for my fellow travelers because it definitely has its benefits. I have been blessed with opportunities in my past to see many different parts of the Alps, such as in France, Switzerland, Italy, and Germany, but unfortunately none of these travel experiences took place during the winter months.
I can say without a doubt that seeing the Alps in Salzburg in January was one of the most breathtaking experiences I have ever had. Although the mountains can be viewed from practically any vantage point while visiting Salzburg, I found that the best place to take in the beautiful surrounding mountains is from the look-out of the Festung Hohensalzburg.
The Festung Hohensalzburg (Hohensalzburg Castle) is located on top of the Festungsberg that overlooks the Alps, Salzach River, and the entire city of Salzburg. The castle is easily accessible by funicular for just a few Euros, which includes the price of admission to tour the fortress. This castle has a particularly interesting history, as construction began in 1077; it has withstood many conflicts and wars with its nearly 1,000 years of existence.
One of the perks of traveling to Salzburg in January was while I was visiting the Hohensalzburg Castle, there were fewer than 50 people in total visiting that day, so the wait time to take the funicular up the mountain to the castle was less than 10 minutes. Along with the small wait time, on the tour of the castle, we essentially had the entire fortress to ourselves to explore at our own leisure without being pushed through.
The Music in Salzburg
Furthermore, when visiting Salzburg, there is no way to avoid the music. This city is the birthplace and home of the world-famous classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. You can visit his birthplace, Mozart’s Geburtshaus, as well as his childhood home, which is now a museum. You can see some of the organs on which he composed some of his most famous masterpieces.
Aside from the works of Mozart, Salzburg was also the home to the Von Trapp family who fled to the United States during World War II to escape the Nazi regime. This family’s story was made famous by the 1965 film The Sound of Music. Some sites in the city that are featured in the film include the Mirabell Palace and Garden, Leopoldskron Palace, and the Nonnberg Abbey, to name a few.
About a three-hour train ride via ÖBB Railway east through the Austrian countryside, lies Austria’s capital city, Vienna. This imperialistic city is a traveler’s dream with gothic cathedrals, palaces, food, and Central European charm.
The first thing that I would recommend to someone visiting the city is to visit Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, which stands above the city at 448’ in height. For just € 5.50, you can go to the observation desk, which is accessible via elevator. From there, you can see the entire city of Vienna. Something that makes Saint Stephen’s Cathedral so unique is that the roof of the Cathedral is decorated with ornate tilework, which can truly be appreciated from the observation deck.
The Belvedere Palace
When visiting Vienna, whether it is for weekend or for an extended period of time, one cannot go without visiting the Belvedere Palace or the Schönbrunn Palace. The Belvedere Palace is a Baroque Palace that was once home to the Hapsburg Dynasty; the ornate building is currently being utilized as an art museum that houses many Austrian masterpieces, most notably Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss.”
After admiring both the art and architecture of the Belvedere, I would highly recommend taking the Metro to the Schönbrunn Palace on the outskirts of the city. The Schönbrunn Palace is a 1,441-room summer home of the Hapsburgs. When touring this Palace, you can see what it was like for the rulers of the Dynasty to live in a place as ornate and grandiose as this.
Aside from the palaces, when visiting Vienna, I would recommend exploring the old part of the city, Karlskirche, and a stroll along the banks of the Danube River.
After all this traveling, it is impossible to visit Austria without sitting back in a local restaurant to warm up with a radler beer and some homemade wiener schnitzel.
Collette, a world premier travel tour company, is the #1 Passion Play Tour Company, having the largest allotment of tickets in 2010. Collette’s tours will feature 4 star accommodations, and their seating options will be among the best available. For more information, visit them online at www.gocollette.com.