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October 11, 2011

Germany Pavilion - Part Two

Yesterday I began a clockwise tour of the Germany Pavilion and ended with the Kunstarbeit in Kristall shop located at the back of the platz. Today we continue our journey.

Behind the Kunstarbeit in Kristall shop is a large fortress. The Imagineers based this structure on Stahleck Castle located in the Rhine Valley and Eltz Castle found in the hills above the Moselle River.


Germany Castle

Germany Castle

Stahleck Castle

Eltz Castle


Castles were common throughout Europe during the Middle Ages and were built by nobility. It's interesting to note, castles are usually considered to be a fortified residence of a lord or noble. A palace was the home of nobility, but not fortified. And a fortress was usually not a residence, but built for the protection of the community.

The castle built in the Germany Pavilion was to serve two purposes. First, it would house the biergarten, a place where guests could imbibe and feast. And second, a ride-through attraction was to be built behind these walls. The River Cruise was to sail guests along the Rhine, the Tauber, the Ruhr and the Isar. Along the way, passengers would view Germany's cultural heritage of the past and their high tech presence of today (much like Maelstrom in the Norway Pavilion). Sights would include the Black Forest, Oktoberfest, Heidelberg, Cologne Cathedral, and the industrial Ruhr Valley, among others.

During the initial construction of EPCOT Center, a portion of the attraction structure was built behind the Germany Pavilion to house the Rhine Cruise. Unfortunately, budget cuts put the attraction on hold and eventually, into obscurity. Today, this building is used as a storage area, workshop, and rehearsal space.

The entrance to the Rhine Cruise would have been through the right arch at the back of the pavilion. Here is an artist's rendering of the loading area.


Ride Entrance

Ride Loading Area


The big attraction in the Germany Pavilion is the Biergarten Restaurant where Oktoberfest is celebrated twelve months a year. Here, the Imagineers recreated the atmosphere of a 16th century town in Rothenburg.


Biergarten Restaurant Entrance

Biergarten Restaurant Entrance


Inside the castle, you'll find yourself in the center of the city platz where it is perpetually night time. Long tables of eight are positioned around a semicircle on three tiers, all facing a stage. Around the perimeter of the courtyard portions of the town can be seen including homes, shops, a waterwheel, and trees. In the sky, a full moon shines down on guests.


Biergarten Restaurant

Biergarten Restaurant

Biergarten Restaurant

GermaBiergarten Restaurant

Biergarten Restaurant


Meals are served buffet style. Offerings include salads, traditional sausages, rotisserie chicken, roast pork, fish, sauerbraten (dinner only), sauerkraut, red cabbage, spaetzle, schnitzel, and much more. And let's not forget the beer which flows in abundance. It's impossible to leave here hungry or thirsty.


Biergarten Buffet

Biergarten Buffet

Biergarten Buffet


Besides the food, entertainment plays an important part of the biergarten experience. Numerous times each day, musicians take the stage and provide guests with some wonderful oompah music, comical cow bells, and resonating alpine horns. There are several different shows which rotate from one set to the next. All of the performances will definitely bring a smile to your face. Dancing is encouraged.


Biergarten Entertainment

Biergarten Entertainment

Biergarten Entertainment


I am often asked for recommendations for dining at Walt Disney World. Of course, this is a very subjective topic. Everyone has their own favorite restaurant and dish. But when first-time visitors to Epcot ask me where to eat, I always say the Biergarten Restaurant. It's not that this is my favorite World Showcase eatery. It's not. But I think this establishment epitomizes the World Showcase experience. You would be hard pressed to find another restaurant outside of Disney that offers the complete package of food and good times you can find here.

Seating at the Biergarten Restaurant is at tables for eight, so in all likelihood, you will be sharing your table with another group. Don't let this bother you. I'll be the first to admit, I'm not a fan of making small talk with strangers. But at Disney World, it's easy. Just start the conversation with "Where are you visiting from?" Then ask what their favorite ride is. In no time at all, the conversation will be flowing as freely as the beer. Here you see my friends Donald, Eddie, and me having a great time with total strangers.


Good times in Germany


Near the entrance to Biergarten Restaurant is Sommerfest. This very small counter-service eatery is a great spot to order a beer and a snack. Offerings include Bratwurst and Frankfurter (both served with sauerkraut and roll), pretzels, Black Forest Cake Roulade, Bavarian Cheesecake, and Apple Strudel. Numerous tables are on hand in the platz where you can sit and relax. While dining here, be sure to notice the beautiful mural of the German countryside.


Sommerfest

Sommerfest Seating

Sommerfest Seating


The centerpiece of the Germany Pavilion is the clock tower. Inspired by a similar timepiece in Freiburg, the Disney version also includes a scaled-down glockenspiel as can be found on the Neues Rathaus (New City Hall) in Munich. Here, Hummel-esque figures appear each hour to chime a large bell. In addition, a cuckoo-style rooster emerges above the clock face, flapping his wings to a melody especially composed for Epcot.


Germany Pavilion Clock Tower

Freiburg Clock Tower

Germany Pavilion Glockenspiel

Munich Glockenspiel

Cuckoo Rooster


As we continue our clockwise tour around the platz, we next come to Der Teddybär Toy Shop. The construction style here is another good example of timber framing or half-timbering (fachwerkhäuser). As the store's name implies, this is the spot to shop for playthings. Costumed dolls, miniature dragons, and knights on horseback are just a few of the toys available. German candies and cookies are also sold here. But the real attraction is the Steiff teddy bears.


Der Teddybär Exterior

Der Teddybär Interior

Der Teddybär Interior

Bteiff Bears


The Steiff Company began with Margarete Steiff, a seamstress who in 1880 founded her own company making toy stuffed animals. In the beginning, elephants were the animal of choice, but in time, other creatures joined the line-up such as dogs, cats, and pigs.

Margarete's nephew, Richard Steiff is credited with creating the Company's first toy bear, which debuted at the Leipzig Toy Fair in 1903 to few accolades. Just as the fair was coming to a close, an American purchased Richard's entire lot of 100 bears and ordered another 3,000. At the Saint Louis World's Fair in 1904, the Steiffs sold 12,000 bears, securing themselves a top spot in the toy world. Authentic Steiff bears have a small metal "Steiff" clip in the ear and have become collector items.

Next to Der Teddybär is Volkskunst (People Art). In the early years of Epcot, this shop sold craft-type items that were handmade in small shops throughout Germany. A testimony to this can be seen in the stained-glass window of the shop depicting a young man building a birdhouse. Now-a-days, this shop sells music CDs, cookbooks, clothing, and other German-themed souvenirs.


Volkskunst

Stained Glass Window


One of the latest souvenirs to be offered around World Showcase are mouse ears tailored to reflect each nation's personality. Here is the set designed for the Germany Pavilion.


German Mouse Ears


However, not everything in the Volkskunst shop falls into the souvenir category. This store also offers a large selection of cuckoo clocks, a commodity synonymous with the Black Forest region of Germany. In addition, hand-painted eggs, created onsite, are available.


Cuckoo Clocks

Hand Painted Eggs


While shopping in Volkskunst, be sure to take a look at the facility. Once again, the woodwork is superb and the attention to detail outstanding. And don't forget to look at the ceiling.


Wood Carving

Volkskunst Ceiling


The last building in our tour of the Germany Pavilion (Das Kaufhaus - Department Store) is modeled after Historisches Kaufhaus (Historical Merchant's Hall) found in Freiburg im Breisgau. This structure was built between 1520 and 1521 and was once the hub of economic affairs for the region.


Das Kaufhaus

Historisches Kaufhaus


Have you ever wondered who the three monarchs are that grace the second story of this Epcot reproduction of Historisches Kaufhaus? Well to answer that question we must first look at the original building in Germany. Here we find Emperor Maximilian I, King Philipp the Beautiful of Castile, Emperor Charles V, and Emperor Ferdinand I. These were considered the four most influential and commanding leaders of the Hapsburg dynasty when the Historisches Kaufhaus was being constructed and the statues sculpted by Sixt von Staufen.

Since the Epcot version of this building is a scaled down reproduction of the original, there wasn't room for all four leaders. Someone needed to be omitted and poor Maximilian landed on the cutting room floor. When facing the building, the remaining figures are, from left to right, King Phillip I, Emperor Charles V, and Emperor Ferdinand I.


King Phillip I

Emperor Charles V

Emperor Ferdinand I


An interesting side note involves the sculpting of these three kings. The original photographs sent to the artist were shot from ground level, distorting the statues and making it impossible for the artist to reproduce the figures accurately. So a local Freidburg photographer was hired to reshoot the originals. To capture face-on likenesses, he rented a cherry-picker to raise himself up to the level of the statues for a more complete photo shoot.

Das Kaufhaus sells sporting items, clothing, and accessories. Many of these items bare the Puma brand name. Puma is a German company that produces high-end athletic shoes and sportswear.


Das Kaufhaus Interior and Cast Member

Das Kaufhaus Interior

Das Kaufhaus Interior


This completes my tour of the Germany Pavilion. As I said earlier in this article, a village like this never really existed - but yet it does exist. It exists in the memories of any traveler to Germany once they return home and recollect on their journeys.

As always, I have created a video highlighting the Germany Pavilion. Enjoy.




October 10, 2011

Germany Pavilion - Part One

The Germany and Morocco Pavilions hold an interesting honor among the World Showcase nations. They are the only two that have their own landing for the Friendship Boats that transit guests across the lagoon. Personally, I've never had a problem with walking around the promenade, but for those who do, this taxi service is a nice feature and drops guests off at the doorstep of Morocco or Germany.


Germany Friendship Boat Landing


Next to the Germany Friendship Landing is a large kiosk. Beneath its roof is a shop offering an array of glassware. Inexpensive clear-glass steins and souvenir items can be found here.


Germany Kiosk


But in the early years of EPCOT Center, this kiosk served a different purpose.

At the exit of Spaceship Earth in Future World was an area called Earth Station. Located here was a bank of touch-sensitive screens. At these screens guests could speak to a Disney host or hostess via two-way cameras and ask questions about EPCOT Center and make restaurant reservations. In addition, these screens provided a litany of information about all of the pavilions found at this innovative new park. An A to Z index presented data about every restaurant, shop, and attraction found here. All you had to do was touch the desired subject and pictures, film clips, and text was instantly displayed. This was cutting edge technology in its day.


Earth Station


There were also several satellite stations located around World Showcase providing this same service. The kiosk in Germany was one such location. Here you see my friends Donald and Eddie trying out this new tool with great amusement.


Satellite Information Station


Near the kiosk and off of the main promenade is a lovely park-like setting. Here you'll find a number of tree-shaded benches that look out onto World Showcase Lagoon. This is a wonderful spot to sit and relax for a few minutes when your tired feet can take no more. This area is also a great spot to watch Illuminations. Some of these alcoves are occasionally rented out to private groups to view this nighttime spectacular. However, when this happens they are usually cordoned off well in advance of the show.


Park and Benches

Illuminations Viewing Area


On the other side of this park, along the promenade, is a beer wagon. This is the spot to purchase a cold brew and a pretzel. Soft drinks and bottled water are also sold here.


Beer Wagon

Glasses of Beer


There are many stories as to how and when the looped pretzel originated, but no hard evidence exists to back up these accounts. One tale claims that Italian monks invented the treat as a reward to children who learned their prayers. Another story claims the pretzel was created in a monastery in southern France. But regardless how the pretzel came to be, it has become synonymous with Germany. Pretzels are made from flour, water, and yeast. Before baking, the dough is dipped in a lye solution which gives it its distinctive color and chewiness. After baking, the pretzel is usually sprinkled with coarse salt. Germans call this variety "Laugenbrezel."


Pretzles


The first annual Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival was held in the spring of 1993. Each year since the festival's inception, the always beautiful Epcot is transformed into an even more magnificent park with the addition of topiary, displays, and thousands of additional plants and flowers. If you've never attended this event, it is worth considering when planning your next trip to Walt Disney World.

One of the early exhibits for this festival was a garden railway built next to the Germany Pavilion. Each year, a miniature town and train was erected for the delight of guests. However, the layout became so popular that it was eventually decided to make it a year-round exhibit. The display features LGB trains and structures.


Garden Railroad

Garden Railroad

Garden Railroad


LGB stands for Lehmann Gross Bahn (Lehmann Big Railway) after the company's founder, Ernst Paul Lehmann. All locomotives, track, and accessories are built to run in rain and snow - which is why the Epcot train continues operating even during summer downpours. LGB trains are "G" gauge (scale), meaning the track's rails are 45 mm (1.772 in) apart. During the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, LGB often has a booth in this area selling their wares, along with some specially designed Disney engines and cars.

Next to the garden railway are restrooms. Although all of the World Showcase pavilions have facilities, some are located within restaurants. Only Norway, Germany, The American Adventure, Morocco, and the United Kingdom have easy to access restrooms.


Restrooms


The platz, or plaza, of the Germany Pavilion is like every village in Germany and like none of them. You see, it's actually a conglomeration of architectural styles that can be found in the Rhine region, Bavaria, and communities in the German north. A collection of buildings from the 12th to the 17th centuries blend together seamlessly. But then, that's the way of real life, new structures are continually being built next to older ones. The difference here is that modernization stopped long before steel and plastic came onto the scene. The end result is a fairytale village that the Grimm Brothers would be proud to immortalize in one of their stories.


Platz


In the center of the platz are a fountain and a statue of Saint George and the Dragon.


Fountain and Statue of Saint George and the Dragon


Fountains like these were common in villages during the Middle Ages. The everyday use of indoor plumbing was still centuries away and a central water source was the spot for townsfolk to fill their pails.


Fountain


This statue of Saint George slaying the dragon is modeled after a sculpture found in Rothenburg, Germany. The first photo is in Rothenburg, the second in Epcot.


Saint George - Rothenburg, Germany

Saint George - Epcot


Saint George is the patron saint of soldiers and references to him can be found throughout Europe.

According to legend, Saint George was a Roman soldier from Syria Palaestina and a priest in the Guard of Diocletian. The fable of Saint George and the dragon goes something like this. It seems a dragon (or crocodile) made its nest within a city's water source. In order to draw water from the spring, the dragon needed to be distracted. So each day the citizens brought the creature an offering. At first a sheep was presented, but when none could be found, a maiden was selected. The unlucky girl was chosen by drawing lots. One day, a princess drew the shortest lot and was carried off to the dragon. Her father, the king, begged for her life to be spared, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. Just as the princess was being offered to the dragon, Saint George happened by and slew the beast. This story was a favorite among crusaders who brought the tale home to be retold again and again.

The positioning of Saint George atop the Germany Pavilion's "water source" is no accident. He is protecting this life-giving fluid for the town's inhabitants.

I will discuss the various Germany Pavilion shops and restaurants moving clockwise, starting from the Karamell Küche (Caramel Kitchen).

The Karamell Küche shop uses two different styles of architecture. In this next picture you see a structure that would be typical of a craftsman's workshop. This was appropriate because this building was originally designed to showcase its former sponsor, Goebel, the makers of Hummel figurines.


Karamell Küche Exterior


The second facade is a good example of timber framing or half-timbering (fachwerkhäuser - timber frame house). This method of building uses heavy timbers joined by pegged mortise and tenon joints. Buildings like these can often have a foundation of stone or brick which can rise up a meter or more in height. Steeply pitched roofs are also common to help deflect the snow. This type of construction is common throughout much of southern Germany.


Karamell Küche Exterior


Examples of this type of architecture can also be seen in the Magic Kingdome's Fantasyland.


Fantasyland


The Karamell Küche shop is sponsored by Storck USA, makers of Werther's Original Caramels. This candy company was founded in Werther, Westphalia, Germany in 1903 by August Storck. This store also has the distinction of being the only freestanding retail location for Werther's in the world. A close observer might notice that a current TV commercial for Werther's begins with an exterior shot of their shop here at Epcot.

When entering this shop, there is a definite direction for pedestrian traffic flow. The tour begins with the kitchen on the left side of the store where guests can witness the making of these delicious delights. From there, they pass by a glass case full of irresistible treats. Then it's onto the cash registers and a dizzying display of prepackaged candies. You'll find an array of caramel goodies including caramel apples and popcorn, chocolate covered marshmallows, rice krispie treats, cookies, strawberries, and much more.

I know it will be difficult to pry your eyes away from the sugary confections, but try to pay attention to the interior décor while shopping at Karamell Küche. The shop is beautiful and the woodwork exquisite.


Karamell Küche Kitchen

Making Candy

Karamell Küche Display Case

Karamell Küche Registers

Karamell Küche Display Case


Before we continue our tour of the platz, we need to take a side trip to the outside, left-hand side of Karamell Küche. It is here that you'll find a wishing well and Snow White, eager to meet her fans of all ages.

The story of Snow White is well known in many European countries, but it's the German version by the Brothers Grimm that is the most familiar to audiences. It was the Grimm version that Walt Disney based his first full-length animated movie on in 1937.

Currently, Snow White is greeting guests at 11:30am, 12:15pm, 1:15pm, 3:10pm, 4:10pm, 4:55pm, and 5:50pm. But it's always wise to check the signboard in the area for the most current times.


Wishing Well

Snow White


The next stop on our tour takes us to Die Weihnachts Ecke (The Christmas Corner). The exterior tower of this lovely shop was inspired by Hegereiterhaus in Rothenburg.


Die Weihnachts Ecke Exterior

Hegereiterhaus in Rothenburg

Die Weihnachts Ecke Interior


As the name implies, this shop sells Christmas goods. A large selection of inexpensive to high-priced ornaments is available here -- including a wide variety of Disney adornments. I especially like this hand-blown Mickey.


Mickey Christmas Ornaments


At one time, this shop carried a large sampling of nutcrackers and smokers, a German holiday tradition. But alas, this selection has been whittled down to just one example of this beautiful art form.


Nutcracker


But another German tradition has not been forgotten, the Pickle Ornament. Legend has it that the pickle, a symbol of good luck, was the last ornament placed on the tree (after the children went to bed). The first child to find it on Christmas morning was rewarded with an extra gift from Saint Nicholas. If a family could not afford an extra gift, the lucky finder of the pickle was rewarded by being the first to open a present.

A large selection of these pickle ornaments is available at Die Weihnachts Ecke.


Pickle Ornament


I have read accounts that this tradition has absolutely no roots in German folklore. But even if it is bogus, it is still a fun activity that any family could incorporate into their own family Christmas custom.

Next to Die Weihnachts Ecke is Stein Haus (Stone House). This structure is another fine example of the half-timbering (fachwerkhäuser) style of construction. Notice the rockwork on the first floor.


Stein Haus Exterior


The main commodity sold inside this shop is beer steins and a few t-shirts that fit well with a beer drinking attitude. The word stein is a shortened form of Steinzeugkrug, which is German for stoneware jug or tankard.


Stein Haus Interior

Stein Haus Interior

Stein Haus Interior


The history of the beer stein goes something like this"

In the middle ages, sanitation practices were virtually unknown in Europe. Sewage was often disposed of in rivers and streams, making the practice of drinking water a dicey proposition. So folk started drinking beer with an alcoholic content just high enough to kill most bacteria. Even children drank this brew.

In the 14th century, along came the Black Death (bubonic plague) which was killing Europeans by the thousands every day. There were many theories as to how this killer was spread, but hard facts were few. In an effort to stem the disease, a law was passed in Germany stating that all drinking vessels needed to have a lid to keep out diseased flies. Thus, the stein was born. Most steins of the time were made out of stoneware (clay that is fired in a kiln), but as time went on, other materials like pewter and porcelain became common.

Since we're talking about alcohol, let's switch from beer to wine. The next shop on our tour is Weinkeller (wine cellar). Low ceilings, dark woods, and oak casks create a cozy atmosphere that almost allows you to make believe you're actually underground. Approximately 50 varieties of German wine are sold here with around 80% of them being white. Around 20 vintages are available for tasting for a charge of $5-$6 per sample. A number of tables are scattered throughout the room for groups to congregate around.


Weinkeller Exterior

Weinkeller Interior

Weinkeller Interior

Weinkeller Interior


When entering or exiting this shop, be sure to take a look at the decorative light fixture positioned above the door. If you study it carefully, you'll discover a bunch of grapes hanging from the bird's beak. Ornamental fixtures like this are a common sight in Germany. Another can be seen by the entrance to our next stop, Kunstarbeit in Kristall.


Ornamental Light Fixture

Ornamental Sign Fixture


Kunstarbeit in Kristall (art work in crystal) is housed in a building inspired by The Römer in Frankfurt. The Römer belonged to the Römer family who used it for their business until they sold it to the city council on March 11, 1405. It was converted for use as the city hall where it has continued in this capacity for over 600 years. On the night of March 22, 1944 The Römer, and much of the city of Frankfurt, was destroyed by an Allied bombing raid during WWII. The Römer was subsequently rebuilt.


Kunstarbeit in Kristall Exterior

The Römer


Back in Epcot, Kunstarbeit in Kristall carries a large selection of stemware, vases, jewelry, bear mugs, and crystal art pieces. While browsing here, be sure to take some time to check out the beauty of the shop itself. Once again, the woodwork is outstanding. This shop is run by Arribas Brothers.


Kunstarbeit in Kristall Interior

Kunstarbeit in Kristall Interior


In the early years of Epcot, this shop sat empty. Original plans called for this area to be a tourist bureau where guests could actually book trips to Germany after touring various displays and viewing virtual tours of the countryside. However, this never materialized.

That's it for Part One of the Germany Pavilion. Check back tomorrow for Part Two.



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