The Passion of Bavaria

When Condor Airlines lands in Munich, Germany, it touches down in the capital city of Bavaria, a free state of Germany.

I knew nothing of Bavaria until recently and, what little I do know, has certainly piqued my interest.

When I asked folks around Whitehorse what they knew of Bavaria, I got very similar responses: “Where is Bavaria?” or “Is Bavaria a real country?”

My favourite was “I don’t know where it is, but I sure like Bavarian sausages.”

Even though people may not know where Bavaria is, they have heard of the sausages. The fact is, Bavaria holds its own unique and lovely traditional, cultural identity.

Bavaria is so rich in its diversity of attractions. From scenic beauty and unspoilt nature to romantic castles, medieval towns, traditional festivals, oompah bands, food, beer and hospitality, Bavaria is both high-tech metropolitan and a fairy-tale archipelago of enjoyment.

There is Alpine skiing, river rafting, mountain biking and golf, to name a few.

There is always a beer hall to hang out in, a romantic castle to tour or a peaceful rural ride in the country. There are crystal clear lakes and thermal spring spas to satiate the senses. Bavaria has everything needed to be easily considered a prime holiday destination.

While I could write endlessly about its fame for Oktoberfest, traditional customs, museums, art and music, which include operas, Alpine horn bands, zither, cow bells, musical saw, xylophone and spoons and more, I must make mention of the most famous of all Bavarian attractions, one you can only attend every 10 years, and 2010 is one of those years.

The Passion Play.

We are so blessed with the performing arts here in the Yukon. Plays, musical evenings, film festivals abound. It is this appreciation of the arts that drew me to live in Whitehorse and it is the performances of the Passion Play drawing me to visit Bavaria.

The Passion Play is outstanding in its passion, community identity, high-quality performances and longevity (400 years of performances). This year marks the 41st performance when half of the population of the little village of Oberammergau, Bavaria will perform the Passion of Christ play, from May 15 through to Oct. 3.

It started in 1633, during the time of the Black Plague, which had swept through the village of Oberammergau. Praying for an end to death by plague, the villagers collectively pledged with God to perform the story of Christ’s Passion every 10 years, if He would end the plague.

The dying ceased in Oberammergau and the villagers staged their first play in 1634 and they have been performing it every 10 years since.

The play is performed only by those born in Oberammergau or have lived there for 20 years.

More than 2,250 people participate in the production (approximately half of the population). All male participants, by decree of the mayor, must be allowed to grow their hair and beards, starting on Ash Wednesday of the previous year of performances.

Employers must grant leaves of absence for any resident participating in the performances. The residents are born to live the play and the whole village is a bed and breakfast. Tickets go on sale the year prior.

It’s not easy to go at this point, but some groups still have available spaces. More than 500,000 people from around the world are expected to attend throughout the season, and among this number will be Whitehorse residents, Anton and Kim Solomon.

Says Kim, “This has been on my radar for 20 years now. We are so fortunate to be able to go.” They will be there for the July 20 performance.

Bavaria is certainly exposing itself as a great place to visit. Whether you make it to the Passion Play or go to Bavaria for a holiday, you are sure to be met with a warm welcome, a mug of beer, a sausage or two and a tune to tap your feet to. Happy travels everyone!

This story has been entered in the Foreign Correspondent Contest and could earn the writer a round-trip, for two, to Frankfurt, Germany, courtesy of Condor Airlines. See the Contest Guidelines at

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