Cultural Immersion Course: Garmisch-Partenkirchen 2019

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In July 2019, 15  young people and 4 group leaders set off for a week of German culture and language lessons, on a Cultural Immersion Course to Bavaria. Staying in the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, known to the locals as ‘GaPa’, the group took part in thematic workshops, visited a local German school and enjoyed various cultural activities and excursions.

Nature and Mental Health in the mountains

Nature and Mental Health was the focus of the thematic workshops during the week and it soon become clear that Garmisch-Partenkirchen, famous for its landscape and mountain hiking, was the perfect setting for this topic! During the week the group reflected on all aspects of the theme, discussing questions such as:

  • Is there a link between mental health and nature?
  • How can we make nature more accessible?
  • What role does nature play in our everyday lives?
  • What are the similarities and differences between UK and German approaches to mental health and nature?

Nature in practice

Alongside these thematic workshops, the group were able to head out into the mountains of Bavaria and experience the positive effects of nature first hand! Excursions included:

  • A hike in the mountains from Kreuzeck to Osterfelderkopf with German pupils
  • A visit to Zugspitze – Germany’s highest mountain
  • A visit to Partnach Gorge
  • A swim in the Eibsee lake

With Germany experiencing a heatwave and temperatures close to 35̊C, the visit to the snow- topped Zugspitze and a swim in the clear, cool waters of the Eibsee were very much enjoyed by all!

The nature of the German language

As part of their Cultural immersion, the group also attended language lessons, themed around the local area. This gave the pupils a chance to learn new phrases and grammar that they could then practice immediately in a real life setting! The language lessons were led by a native speaker and included:

  • A fun lesson on Bavarian dialect and phrases, which the pupils used throughout the week
  • Vocab preparation and language activities ahead of tours (e.g. Zugspitze and nature vocab)
  • A lesson on the expressionist art movement, founded in nearby Murnau.
  • A language session on buying “bio” / sustainable shopping.

As part of their sustainable shopping lesson, the group went to various supermarkets such as Aldi, Wochenmarkt and Biomarkt and quizzed locals about their organic shopping habits! This was a great opportunity to practice what they had learnt with native speakers!

Visiting a local German School

While in Germany, the group also visited Werdenfels-Gymnasium, a local school where they were given a tour, had the chance to meet German pupils, and even attended the end of year Schulfest!

They also joined in with the school’s project day, which was themed around Sustainability, or Nachhaltigkeit! The UK  pupils were given a tour of the school’s environmentally friendly projects and even had a chance to collaborate with the German pupils on an upcycling task! For the group, this was a unique opportunity to experience German school life and develop international friendships.

The hike with the German pupils from Kreuzeck to Osterfelderkopf was also a highlight of the course, although it soon became clear that hiking in Germany is a little more strenuous than in the UK!

‘Ski- Jumping’ into the local history

As well as exploring the local landscape, the group delved into the history of Bavaria with a guided tour of Schloss Linderhof, home of King Ludwig II and a trip to the 1936 Winter Olympic Ski jump! The 1100 steps up to the Ski Jump were tough but definitely worth it for the stunning views of the neighbouring mountains at the top!

Lastly, the participants visited Münter Haus, in nearby Murnau. The summer home of Kandinsky and Münter, this was where the Expressionist movement began and the Blue Rider (or Blaue Reiter) almanac of Artists was founded. The group enjoyed learning about the history of the movement and seeing the place which had inspired so many artists!

Continuing Cultural Connections

Since returning from Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the participants have all stayed in touch. They are looking forward to continuing their German studies, now with their knowledge and language skills enhanced by the Cultural Immersion course!