Of Angels & Alphornists – Out & About in Oberammergau, Germany

Male alphornists perform in the village of Oberammergau, Germany during a winter festival.

We had merely set out on a routine errand to find a hair stylist and pharmacy in  Oberammergau, Germany. Instead, we found ourselves pleasantly distracted by something quite out of the ordinary, at least for us: the soothing, foghorn-like sound of Alphorns, playfully known as ‘Ricola horns’.


The three musicians – clad in Lederhosen, grey knee-socks  and woolen Bavarian jackets, played to a small crowd of locals, just as the Christmas Market was set to be opened for its first weekend. A trio of angels also looked on.

alphorns in the snow in Oberammergau Germany

Such instruments have historically been used by Alpine residents throughout Germany and Switzerland, and horns similar to these have also long been used for communication in mountainous regions of Europe.

A man plays an Alphorn in Bavaria, Germany.
Girls dressed as angels in Bavaria, Germany.
People stand outside a Christmas market in Oberammergau, Germany. There is snow on the ground.
An Alphornist performs in Oberammergau, Germany.
Oberammergau angels
Three Alphornists perform at a Christmas event in Oberammergau, Germany.
Three Alphornists perform at a winter event in the German town of Oberammergau.
Alphornists play in Oberammergau, Germany

Where in the World?

Planning Pointers:

  • Oberammergau is located 90 km (55 miles) southwest of Munich. To get there by mass transit, research the Bayern Ticket (website is in German, but you can use Google Translate). As of 2021, these tickets start at €25 for one passenger, and cost €8 for each additional passenger. You can use the Bayern Ticket for most trains, trams, and city buses, making it a good deal if you’ll be doing a lot of exploring in one day. You can purchase tickets online, via a ticket machine, or in person.
  • Are you looking for a guesthouse or hotel in Oberammergau? Here is my round-up of hotels, organized by theme.
  • Visit my Germany page for more trip tips. If you’re seeking more ideas about what to do in this part of Bavaria, here are all my posts about Oberammergau.

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

26 thoughts on “Of Angels & Alphornists – Out & About in Oberammergau, Germany

  1. Very cool! Would love to come across something like this while out and about on errands! Have been contemplating a last minute trip to Germany for the holidays…I am in love with the Christmas markets. Such a great concept. Love your photos – great capture of the moment.

    1. Anita, indeed, we’re really lucky to have so much culture surrounding us! I lived in a very different part of Germany previously, so it’s delightful to see how the Bavarians celebrate Christmas.

      So, did you decide to spend the holidays in Germany after all? If so, I’m happy to share any pointers with you, and if you find yourself near Oberammergau, it would be fun to meet for Kaffee! I’d love to hear more about your Camino experiences. Happy holidays, Anita.

    1. Juliann, we are certainly lucky to be here this time of year, and I have to keep telling myself that when I long for just a bit more sunshine and warmth. :) Seeing everything dressed up for the holidays is really quite magical.

      Did you get to spend Christmas in Singapore this year?

  2. What fun, Tricia. I’ve seen photos of the Christmas market in Frankfort -Germans sure know how to get in the Christmas spirit, don’t they?

  3. Greetings from Australia
    Absolutely gorgeous series of photographs. There are a wonderful array of colours and the traditional costumes of the townsfolk are great. You’ve captured the magic of Christmas so beautifully. One of my most cherished dreams God willing is to live in Bavaria and experience the Oberammergau Passion Play.

    Have a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year

    1. Konstantine, it is a pleasure to meet you — and welcome!
      Thank you very much for your kind words. One of the aspects of Europe that I appreciate so much are the details. From the embroidery on the musician’s jackets to the painted portions of the alphorns and frescoed buildings, it’s very much a joy to photograph this village and the Christmas customs.

      I hope you’ll be able to experience the Passion Play in 2020! My parents have recently retired here, but we have yet to see the play. We heard that the citizens must reside in Oberammergau for at least 20 years before they can act in the play, so I guess my parents must be patient and practice their German. :)

      Here’s hoping that you had a wonderful holiday in Australia. It’s a spot that’s on our must-see list. Also, it’s been enjoyable seeing Europe through your eyes. It seems you’ve already spent a lot of time here!

  4. These horns are amazing instruments. Long time a go (I was 18) I had such a horn on my lips. I had the impression that he could swallow me ;-)) Fine to see these on your photographs.

    1. Ludwig, greetings to you, and thank you for sharing your experience. :) Your description about being swallowed by the instrument is quite funny. :)

      It would be interesting to learn how one plays an alphorn – at what age did you begin playing it?

      1. During my whole life I am a kind of multi-instrument player. I played the trumpet, the horn, guitar, recorder, harminica, piano… Once I came in a room where three musicians had a rehearsel on there alphorns. During there cofeebreak I asked if I could gave it a try. They agreed. I needed a half an hour to accommodate. They asked me to stay and give me the chance to play an hour with them. One need some insight in the natural tones of the instrument related to the tention of the lips and than something is possible. So I played a alphorn during a few hours. My experience… one need the longs of a whale.
        Btw best wishes for 2013.

      2. What a ‘Renaissance man’ you are, Ludwig — 6 instruments? Do you still play all of them?

        I will appreciate the Alphorns even more now, knowing how physically-challenging they are to play! And I loved your comment about “needing the lungs of a whale” to play them successfully.:)

        All the best to you and your family for 2013 as well. I’m happy we connected last year.

      3. Best wishes for 2013.
        These days I have a piano who needs to be repaired, a guitar with some problems and a alto recorder with a small technical issue but… I am very bussy in photography :-)

  5. I am definitely in the Christmas mood now! I love the snow, instruments, angels, and holiday cheer. Absolutely gorgeous place :)

    1. Sharing my belated reply now, Judy, but I’m pleased this post got you in the holiday spirit several days ago. I’ll be sharing some images of the woodcarver I met the other afternoon who was in the midst of carving an angel. So lovely! We’re really lucky to be here this time of year.

    1. Virginia, whenever I’m in a new place, or even one close to ‘home’ I try to put into practice the lesson from this lovely quote: “A traveler without observation is a bird without wings” (Moslih Eddin Saadi). There are so many details here in Bavaria, and in the world to be savored!

      I hope you and your family had a splendid Christmas yesterday, Virginia! All the best as 2013 approaches.

    1. Really kind words, Rachael. We’re certainly very lucky to be in such a picturesque spot, and I’m grateful to have the inspiration of others such as yourself to make me savor such moments and document them with my trusty camera. Happy holidays to you and your family!

  6. I can literally hear them in my homesick ears!! Tricia you captured this bavarian tradition so beautifully, thank you. Afterwards did you have Gluehwein and roasted chestnuts ( geroestete Kastanien) ? Oder etwa Reibadatschi mit Sauerkraut oder Apfelmus? FROHE WEIHNACHTEN!

    1. My pleasure, Cornelia. Seeing the traditions observed in person and coupling them with your written Bavarian childhood reminiscences makes my understanding and appreciation that much richer; thank you!

      And yes, we did have some roasted chestnuts and Gluehwein – both requisite components to warm the body and get one in the spirit for the holidays! I had to look up Reibadatschi, but then I realized that they’re one of my favorite German fest treats – served with Apfelmus of course. Unfortunately, I didn’t see them at the fest in Oberammergau this year, but perhaps I was looking for them via the name Kartoffelpuffer. Is Reibadatschi more of a Bavarian name? :)

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