Down in Bavaria, in the shadow of the Alps, is a place that comes alive only once every ten years. And being alive—well that's the point of Oberammergau, you see. If you want to be part of something really special that will leave you with a whole new perspective about life, faith, and promises, then buy a ticket to Germany in 2010 and visit the Passion Play.

In 1633, the village of Oberammergau, ravaged by bubonic plague, made a vow to God to perform a passion play every ten years if the village was spared. The death rate dropped so dramatically that, convinced their prayer had been heard, the villagers performed the first play in a field in 1634. Only twice in the nearly 400 years since has the play not been performed: in 1770, when all passion plays in Bavaria were banned, and in 1940, during World War II.

The play is the life of the village. Nearly everyone takes part, whether in designing sets, making costumes, managing tickets and crowds, or performing. The music, costumes and sets are fantastically well done, and the intensity of the acting matches anything in Hollywood. The players prepare for their parts months or years in advance. Since no wigs are worn, hair and beards must be grown out. Players must be amateurs, of good moral character, and to perform one of the major roles such as Jesus Christ, they usually come to the role only after years of playing lesser parts.

Whether or not you are yourself religious, watching the play in Oberammergau is a revelation. For these actors, the play really is the thing, and it is uplifting just to see them maintaining a tradition so old and so at odds with so much of hasty modern life. The play is an all-day, seven-hour affair, with a dinner break, and by the end you will understand not only much more about the Christian faith, but about the fervor and passion of the villagers who asked for a miracle, and have kept their end of the bargain ever since.

Between plays, Oberammergau is worth a visit anyway, for its classic Bavarian charm and its high-quality wood carvings. You can visit many of the carvers' shops as you wander the quiet streets. If you plan to visit in 2010, start planning now. Upwards of 500,000 people attend the play, which runs from May 15 to October 3, 2010.