Shopping for Woodcarvings
Oberammergau's woodcarvings are among the most sought after in the Germanic world, and many an example has graced the mantelpieces and shelves of homes around the globe. Most subjects are religious, deriving directly from 14th-century originals; however, to cater to the demands of modern visitors, there's been an increased emphasis lately on secular subjects, such as drinking or hunting scenes. Competition is fierce for these woodcarvings, many of which are made in hamlets and farmhouses throughout the region. Know before you buy that even some of the most expensive "handmade" pieces might have been roughed in by machine before being finished off by hand.
The Schnitzschule (Woodcarving School; tel. 08822/3542) has conditions of study that may remind you of the severity of the medieval guilds. Students who labor over a particular sculpture are required to turn it in to the school, where it's either placed on permanent exhibition or sold during the school's once-a-year sell-off, usually over a 2-day period in July.
Baur Anton, Dorfstrasse 27 (tel. 08822/821; www.holzschnitzerei-tonibaur.de), has the most sophisticated inventory of woodcarvings. The shop employs a small cadre of carvers who create works inspired by medieval originals. The outgoing and personable sales staff is quick to admit that the forms of many of the pieces are roughed in by machine, but most of the intricate work is completed by hand. Pieces are crafted from maple, pine, or linden (basswood). Prices start at 9€. Carvings are in their natural grain, stained, or polychromed (some of the most charming), and in some instances, are partially gilded.