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Making the most of Oberammergau

The year 2010 is a big one in the world of religious travel. Several major events are taking place overseas including the famed Oberammergau Passion Play. If you are a group planner or traveler and will be headed to Europe next year to view this once-in-a-decade event, what else should you consider including on your itinerary? Listed below are four ideas for making the most of your European trip.

In Germany

1) Routes of Martin Luther — One of the best ways to enrich your trip to Germany is to follow in the “footsteps” of Martin Luther. Where to begin? You might start in Wittenberg, Germany, the place where Martin Luther posted his famous 95 Theses. It is also here where Martin Luther spent about 35 years of his life. No trip would also be complete without a visit to Eisleben, the birth city of the reformer. In Erfurt, you can visit the Augustinian monastery where Martin Luther spent a number of years as a monk. If you’d like to visit the childhood city of Martin Luther, then head for Eisenach.  And if you wish to explore the place where Luther translated the New Testament into German, then include Wartburg Castle on your itinerary.

2) Cologne Cathedral — Any trip to Germany should also include a visit to the renowned Cologne Cathedral. An architectural wonder, the cathedral is considered one of the most prominent in Christian history. It was originally built to house the relics of the Three Kings and to serve as a “fitting place of worship” for the Holy Roman Emperor.

Elsewhere in Europe

3) Santiago de Compostela, Spain — Did you know that the famed pilgrimage destination of Santiago de Compostela, located in northwestern Spain, will be celebrating its Holy Year in 2010? The annual average of 2.5 million visitors is expected to increase four-fold to 10 million visitors and pilgrims next year. Santiago de Compostela is home to the reputed relics of Saint James the Greater, and the cathedral is considered one of the finest and most ornate in Europe. Each year more than 100,000 travelers walk, hike, bike, and horseback their way across Spain’s pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela.

4) Shroud of Turin, Italy — On June 2, Pope Benedict XVI made a major announcement regarding the Shroud of Turin. The pontiff shared the news that the relic would be unveiled in 2010 and put on display for the public, the first time in a decade. The Shroud is an ancient linen cloth bearing the image of a crucified man, which many believe to be the actual burial cloth of Jesus Christ. As a result, the city of Turin and its cathedral (which houses the cloth) is expecting to receive a large wave of crowds and pilgrims in 2010 to view the shroud.

If you haven’t yet completed your Oberammergau itinerary for next year, you might consider adding some or all of the above sites to your trip. On the other hand, if you’ve already planned and registered for your trip, you might consider expanding it and including visits to the above destinations.

However, no matter what you decide, as long as you’ll be in attendance to view the renowned passion play — you are well positioned to enjoy one of the best experiences of your life. Everything else is “icing on the cake.”