This summer, I had the opportunity to live in Germany for three weeks by participating in the German American Partnership Program. I stayed with my exchange partner, Lisa, and her wonderful family in Moosburg, Bavaria. It was the experience of a lifetime! I brought back many memories, souvenirs, and pictures, and I want to share a few today.
When my school group arrived in Germany, our exchange partners greeted us with bags full of German candy. After introducing my partner, Lisa, to the Orange Bird in America, she, too, fell in love with him and painted him on my bag! (She’s an amazing artist!)
The first weekend we were there was dedicated to following the soccer Euro Cup. Germany was playing, so we went to a “public viewing” to watch the game.
We got there five hours before it started, and it was during that time that I had my first German pretzel. The pretzels sold at the Germany Pavillion in Epcot’s World Showcase are horrible compared to these. In Germany, they are soft, freshly baked, and coated in butter.
Five hours seems like a terribly long time to wait for a game, and trust me, it was. But in the end, it was worth it. This public viewing was at the Munich Airport. By the time the game rolled around, the entire place was filled over capacity. I was so happy we got there early and were close to the screen with a little more breathing room than the late arrivers had.
We watched the game on a big screen, and each time Germany scored, every person there jumped, screamed, and hugged each other. It was amazing to see so many people coming together to support one shared dream, almost like a much rowdier, sports-related Illuminations.
I returned to Munich a few times with friends and my host family. On one of those occasions, we went zorbing in a lake near Munich’s Olympic Park. We were given five minutes to jump, roll, and crawl in these big plastic balls floating on the water. It was so much fun and would be a cool addition to Walt Disney World’s recreation.
We also traveled outside of Germany into Austria to play in the Alps. The mountains and surrounding landscape were breathtaking. It was obvious how much this region inspired the Walt Disney films and theme parks. For example, my best friend, Alexis, bonded with a butterfly, proving that animals really are attracted to princesses!
Another example from the Alps is Disneyland’s Matterhorn. The real mountain is in Switzerland’s Alps, which I unfortunately didn’t visit this summer. But I did have a chance to do some hiking in the Austrian Alps, where the landscape is equally lush.
Above are the Disneyland Alps. Below are the real Alps.
I found even more inspiration for Disneyland’s Fantasyland! In Storybookland Canal Boats, you float under vine trellises. These trellises abound in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
Above is from Storybookland Canal Boats. Below is from Germany.
One of my favorite moments of my trip was in Austria, when we went into a salt mine and rode on a real mine train! Walt Disney World’s Fantasyland is soon getting a mine train of its own, and after riding one like a true dwarf, I couldn’t be more excited. We even got to wear special “mine suits” and slide down to different levels of the mine!
My friends posing as each of the seven dwarfs and one as the hunter!
To celebrate my last weekend in Germany, my host mother and Lisa planned a trip for me to visit Bonn, Germany to see the Pixar 25th Anniversary exhibit! It was the best surprise, and I learned a lot about the true magic behind Pixar. It was an amazing exhibit. If it comes back to America, be sure to see it!
At our farewell dinner, four of the American girls wore the dirndls we bought. Dirndls are traditional German dresses that are still worn today to festivals and at biergartens. The female cast members in Epcot’s Germany pavilion wear them, and the costumes worn in Fantasyland are inspired by these styles. I hope to someday visit Epcot wearing my dirndl!
Germany is a wonderful country with wonderful people in it. You will find so much inspiration from the Grimm fairytales, nature, and artwork there. You can visit Switzerland and see the real Matterhorn and stop by Austria for a ride in a real mine train. It takes your fantasy and makes it reality. Germany and its neighboring countries have so much to offer and should definitely be added to any Disney fan’s bucket list.