There are many disappointments for those who make their first pilgrimage to Ober-Ammergau. One thinks of the village as a picturesque collection of wooden chalets hidden away in the recesses of a glorified Borrowdale or Langdale valley, somewhere in the heart of the Bavarian Alps. One finds, as a matter of fact, that it lies outside the gate of the mountains, between two low spurs of hills that die away into the great northern plain. (p. 409)
As you enter Ober-Ammergau from north or south, you are astonished at the sight of what appears to be a modern village of comparatively uninteresting detached houses, red-tiled or iron-roofed, whitewashed and freshly painted, with an ugly erection at its northwest end of yellow and brown painted wood and huge span of iron girders, that looks like a railway station. This is the new theatre that Carl Lautenslaeger, the well-known theatre engineer, has erected with an eye more for the practical than the artistic, for the accommodation of the five thousand spectators who are expected to be present at the Passion Play. (p. 409)
There are only two other buildings which seem to dominate the village, one of these, the parish church, with black-slate roof and black-towered cupola, stands in strange contrast with the brand-new red roofs about it; the other building is the one which more than all the rest seems to destroy any hope of finding the poetry or picturesqueness of an old-time Bavarian village,—this is the new hotel, the Wittelsbacherhof, with its hall porter in blue cap and brass buttons, its busy restaurant under the veranda, and its crowd of waiters. Large notices of Cook’s agency and the agency of a German house for American tourist enterprise complete the disillusion; and it is not until one has rubbed one’s eyes a good many times, and gone away into the quiet meadows by the banks of the Ammer stream and come back through the intricate byways toward the post office, that one realizes that, notwithstanding tourist agencies and brand-new hotel and red tiles and new paint, there is an old Ober-Ammergau still extant, which is worth careful inspection. (p. 409)….
One shudders to think of the future: Ober-Ammergau with its old simplicity is Ober-Ammergau no more. Hotel proprietors, Munich merchants, tourist agencies and a railway, kodaks, and cinematograph machines are disturbing factors that have to be reckoned with. (p. 414)
The almost insolent familiarities that one saw taken by thoughtless foreigners with the village folk, the flatteries and adulations lavished upon the actors by excited and admiring crowds, are likely to destroy the self-respect and simplicity of the people, and to poison the atmosphere in which alone can grow the life and character which render the Passion Play possible. (p. 414)
(Atlantic Monthly, 86 (September 1900), 409-19)