My wife and I love World Showcase. The diversity of countries represented and the amazing detail always amazes me. Every countries Pavilion is a scaled-down, meticulously detailed area of the country shown, whether it be a town, countryside or plaza. The architecture and attention to historic correctness is astounding. My favorite “country” is Germany. Ever since taking four years of German in high school, I have always been fascinated by the history and culture of the country and even now I still study the language.
The Germayn Pavilion’s plaza (Platz in German) is richly detailed and is a study in many centuries of architectural styles and forms. The gamut runs from Northern Germany, Bavaria and the Rhine regions. But take note that when the pavilion was designed, the country of Germany was still divided from World War II. The Imagineers decided to concentrate on Southern German and the Black Forest region. This was considered to promote a feeling of “Friendliness” or “Gemütlichkeit”. In addition to using building styles for the 12th to 17th centuries, the Imagineers also concentrated on a style of building called “Baroque” from Italy in the 16th century, an ornate style of building. The Plaza looks like a page out of a Grimm Brothers fairy tale. It fact it was the Grimm Brothers tale of Snow White, “Schneewittchen” and the Seven Dwarfs that Walt Disney chose for his first full-length animated film. Snow White is a meetable character to the right of the Karamell Kuche (Carmel Kitchen), by the wishing well.
Before discussing more of the shops and architecture of the Plaza, let’s talk about my favorite place – The Biergarten Restaurant. This buffet style restaurant is our all-time favorite eatery on property. Having dined here uncounted times, it offers authentic German style foods and Beers in an authentic setting. It is a three-tiered banquet area, which is set in an outdoor plaza at night. The Imagineers outdid themselves on this. Resembling the 16th century city of Rothenberg, the buildings, huge water wheel, perpetual full moon overhead and trees, you have a hard time thinking you are not in Germany. The center focus of the hall is the bandstand and small dance floor where several times during lunch and dinner, German “Musikanten” (Musicians) perform. You will hear polkas and German drinking songs, so get up and dance, it’s fun! They also play the alpine horns and play songs on the different sized bells (Glocken) on the table. Oktoberfest is celebrated all year round, and if you love authentic German Beer, this is the place for it. One thing to note here. Depending on the size of your party, you may dine with other guests. But you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll make friends!
Next to the Biergarten, is Germany’s quick-service restaurant “Sommerfest” (Summer Festival). Here you can grab a quick taste of Germany, Wursts, Leberkase Reuben (German Meatloaf) salad and desserts. Don’t forget the Oktoberfest beer and German Liquors. Now let’s talk about the plaza itself and the shops around it. In the center of the plaza is the fountain. This central fountain was common throughout the middle Ages in all countries and towns. Since there was of course no running water, the fountain was a place to get fresh drinking water. You’ll notice that atop a column in the fountain is a man on a horse with a spear, killing a dragon. That man is Saint George, the patron Saint of soldiers. According to one legend, a dragon made its home in a city’s water supply. The folks, in order to get water, distracted the dragon by offering it sacrifices…first sheep, then young maidens. One day a princess was chosen and her father the King begged for her life, to no avail. Just before she was to be taken by the dragon, Saint George happens by and slays the dragon. He is above the fountain protecting the water.
Returning to the architecture of the shops in the plaza, the construction utilized is common in Southern Germany, called “Fachwerkhause” translated “Timbered home” You’ll note that the bottom level, made of stonework is a smaller footprint than the top. This is because the buildings were taxed on the size of the first floor. The larger upper living quarters were constructed of huge wood beams that were mortise and tenoned. The plaza is protected by a medieval castle (Burg) which is modeled after several German castles lining the Rhine River; castle Elzback, Eltz and the Stahleck. Another center feature of the plaza is the clock tower and Glockenspiel (Bell or Chimes). This timepiece is modeled after several clock towers in Martinstor and Freiburg. Every hour the Glockenspiel chimes and a mechanical rooster emerges and begins the show with a flutter of its wings, followed by figures of a boy and girl in Bavarian garb who strike the hour on a bell.
Let’s take a quick look at the shops in the plaza. Note, the Imagineers went to great lengths to insure that items sold in the shops were authentic German made (Hergestellt in Deutschland!) and recognized as distinctly German. The Imagineers scoured Germany, its shops, factories and fairs for such items. First on the list is the Karamell-Küche or Caramel Kitchen. It is sponsored by Storck USA, makers of Werther’s Original Caramels. The company was founded in 1903 by August Storck in Werther, Westphalia, Germany. Inside you’ll find, what else, caramel goodies and confections, like popcorn, caramel apples cookies and pastries. Next door is the Die Weihnachts Ecke or Christmas corner. In this charming store you’ll find, everything Christmas with a German touch. Many of our Christmas traditions came from Germany, including the putting up of the Christmas tree (Tannenbaum). The shop’s exterior apes the exterior of the Hegereiterhaus in Rothenberg, Germany. It used to be on the site of a former infirmary kitchen in the city. On the real building is the coat of arms of the famous Rothenburg stonemason Leonhard Weidmann. Next door is the Stein Haus (Stone House) which sell beautiful German Beer Steins. There is no literal translation in German for Beer Stein, but BierKrug, or Beer Jar or stone jar is close. This shop also features the “Fachwerkhause” method of construction.
Next to the Stein Haus is of course the WeinKeller, or wine cellar. Inside the building, you actually feel you are in a wine cellar. Germany is world-famous for its wines. There are 250 varieties of white wine produced by sponsor H. Schmitt Söhne offered, and a wine bar where you can sample many of the offerings. Please check the beautiful woods used and oak casks in the shop. An amazing job by the Imagineers. Next door is the shop Kunstarbeit in Kristall (Art work in crystal) shop, which is operated by the Arribas Brothers. Again, beautiful stunning and collectable crystal items can be had here. The building recreates the original Römer family building in Frankfurt, Germany. Opposite is Der Teddybär toy shop (Spielwarenladen). The Teddy Bear is just the name of the store. Inside you will find handcrafted cuckoo-clocks, plush teddy’s (The famous Steiff teddy bears), and wood crafted toys, confections and more. Next in line is the “Volkskunst” or People Art. All types of souvenirs can be bought, and take time to look at the beautiful stained glass window of a German Artisan at work. Last in line is Das Kaufhaus, or department store. This building is a reproduction of the city of Freiburg’s historic (Historisches) Kaufhaus. This medieval hall was constructed between 1520 and 1530. On its façade, you’ll see three men in suits of armor. These are the Hapsburg emperors who ruled the Holy Roman Empire. There were four men, Emperor Maximilian I, King Philipp the Beautiful of Castile, Emperor Charles V, and Emperor Ferdinand I. But this building at Disney is scaled down and they only had room for three Emperor’, omitting Maximilian.
Other interesting notes on the pavilion – An attraction was originally planned for inside the pavilion. The Biergarten was to have a “Rhine Cruise” ride, similar to Maelstrom in Norway where guests would ride on the German rivers, Rhine, Tauber, Ruhr and the Isar. Alone the way, Germany’s culture and heritage, past and present could be seen. But major budget cuts scrapped the attraction. (The entrance to the Cruise would have been through the right arch at the back of the pavilion) The space is used for storage and other uses. Another “Attraction” which I happen to love is the miniature Town and Train display, located on the right side of the pavilion. This railway exhibit was one of the first attractions built for the Flower and Garden Festival. It was to be temporary, but proved so popular with the guests; it was decided to keep it year round. The trains are made by the Lehmann Gross Bahn (Lehmann big Train) company. The equipment is made to run year round in all weather conditions. During Festival, LGB frequently has a booth in the area selling trains and engines, track and accessories, even some Disney inspired items.
As you can see, the German pavilion is rich in history and extensive. It is of course a sanitized version of a Bavarian town and now that Germany is a united country does not reflect the German nation as a whole. But looking at the authenticity and astounding details of the plaza, you know the Imagineers did their homework. Next trip to EPCOT, stop by and say to the bartender… “Kann Ich ein glas bier haben, bitte” (Can I have a glass of beer please!) sit down and take in the wonderful country of Germany!