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Bavaria, Germany: Explore the Home of Oberammergau

The largest state in Germany, Bavaria is also the most popular destination for Americans visiting the country. The state covers a large area of southeast Germany that borders Switzerland, Austria and the Czech Republic.

The Bavarian landscape consists of rolling hills in the north and Alpine peaks in the south. Much of this landscape is dotted with the castles of Ludwig II of Bavaria, who renovated many of the area’s existing castles and added his own creations. Some of his most famous projects are Neuschwanstein, Linderhof Palace and Herrenchiemsee.

Many church travel groups have heard of the Bavarian village of Oberammergau because of the world-renowned Oberammergau Passion Play that is put on by the townspeople every 10 years. The town is nestled in the German Alps between Munich and the Austrian border. The passion play was first performed in 1634 as an act of thanksgiving after the town was spared the effects of the Black Plague. It has taken place every decade except for the 1940s, during World War II. Special performances also took place on the 300th anniversary of the original play in 1934 and the 350th anniversary in 1984. Each performance requires over 2,000 participants, and all the actors, singers and other members of the production team must be residents of Oberammergau. Over half of the town’s residents are involved in each passion play. 

Top Attractions for Church Groups

Pilgrimage Church of Wies, Steingaden — This ornate 18th-century church in the foothills of the Alps is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to tradition, locals saw tears on the face of a wooden carving of Jesus, resulting in a rush of pilgrims to the site. The church was built to house the statue in the late 1740s in the Rococo style and is a popular Catholic pilgrimage destination.

St. Peter’s Cathedral, Regensburg — Regensburg is home to a famous historic district and St. Peter’s Cathedral’s boys choir. The chapel dates to the Roman era, and more recently, the cathedral played host to Pope Benedict XVI, a native of Bavaria.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Altoetting, Altoetting — The national shrine of Bavaria and the oldest in the area dedicated to the Virgin Mary, this church is home to the famous Black Madonna statue.

Lake Tegernsee — Boasting a picturesque landscape and the Tegernsee Abbey, built in the eighth century on the lakeshore, the lake is also the site of the town of Tegernsee, known for its pastries.

Nuremberg — This city is home to many World War II historic sites, including a park that hosted Nazi rallies and the trials of some of the most infamous members of the Third Reich. The park and the many museums of the city are popular tourist stops.

Must Have Experiences in Bavaria

Must-Do: The Bavarian Motor Works plant is a popular stop for tourists. It includes a variety of interactive exhibits that tell the story of the development of transportation from the bicycle to modern automobiles and showcases notable BMW cars.

Must-Taste: Weisswurst, or white sausage, is a common breakfast dish or morning snack, typically boiled and typically served alongside sweet mustard, a soft pretzel and a stein of regional beer. According to tradition, weisswurst was never eaten in the afternoon or evening because it was prepared in the morning without modern preservatives. Locals still follow this custom, despite the availability of household refrigeration.

Bring it Home: Bavaria’s annual Christmas markets start at the end of November and last through the Christmas season. Many tourists come just for these celebrations and enjoy sipping mulled wine while shopping for handcrafted gifts. Oberammergau is home to the Bavarian State Woodcarving School and is known for its beautiful woodcarvings.

Photo Op: Neuschwanstein Castle in Hohenshwangau was constructed during the reign of Ludwig II, who built many ornate and well-known German palaces. Many Americans will recognize this castle, as it inspired Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

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