As my Exchange Program in Germany begins to wrap up, I decided to make two more trips.
Its been a really fun and adventurous. I have seen many new places, learned different cultures, and met a lot of new and interesting people. Living in another country for two months will open your eyes to many new things and and will test you. It was an adjustment eating out and paying for water and even somewhere paying to use the facilities, but it's all a learning experience. It definitely makes you appreciate things that we take for granted living in the United States.
We took a quick three hour trip to visit Wolfsburg, home the Volkswagen (VW) headquarters/factory/museum. It was a quaint city where you can definitely see the VW stamp. VW employs about 53,000 people and the name is all over the town on the museum, city arena, hockey arena, and soccer stadium. Almost everyone in the city drives a VW or Audi. I have never seen a company have such an impact on one city. Once on the VW campus I went into the Lamborghini, Bugatti, Audi, Porsche, and Volkswagen museums (all brands owned by VW). We also toured two large towers that houses all new sold VW's after they leave the factory and are waiting to be pick-up from a buyer. A car never travels outside. Once it leaves the factory floor, it goes under ground to the tower where it is mechanically lifted to a parking space. Once the buyer arrives, the car is picked and moved underground to the large showroom floor, a few steps away. Pretty cool operations. Next stop Berlin.
The city of Berlin was like stepping back in time as you enter past old boarder checks. The difference between Berlin and other cities in Germany is the fact you can see and feel recent history. I lived in Berlin as a kid, it's hard to believe that at the time the Berlin Wall separated the city. The city center has definitely changed, as it contains all brand stores and most of american food chains. Like a real tourist, I went to the Hard Rock Cafe, and the local burger is not a burger. Instead it is a Curry-wurst (a bratwurst rolled up on a burger bun with lettuce, pickle, and curry-wurst sauce). It was delicious. After eating, I visited the Nike Store (another favorite spot) before going off on a night walk. Seeing a city at night always seem to give me a different perspective. I don't know if it is the lights or fewer people but either way cities are beautiful at night.
Berlin didn't disappoint. The first thing I visited was the Victory Statue before heading to the Brandenburg Gate. Brandenburg Gate was definitely one of the monuments that I am glad I saw at night. Close to the Gate was the Reichstag Building where German government representatives met and delegated. From there we headed to see Checkpoint Charlie. This was the last standing checkpoint that the US & Germany used during when the Berlin Wall was standing. Seeing that sight was a surreal moment.
The next day I traveled again to the same locations before heading to see parts of the Berlin Wall that are still standing. At the Wall, you can see memorials showing the differences between living on the East or West side and the drastic measures people would take to escape East Berlin. Tunnels are still there reminding us of the drastic measures people would take. It's hard to image that it hasn't been 30 years since the Wall came down. Before, people and lives were divided by the Wall. In parts where the Berlin Wall is now missing, brick paths are embedded into the streets as a symbol to remind the city of their past and future.
Our last stop was the Olympic Stadium, the site of the 1936 Olympics. It was an amazing feeling standing in a stadium that housed the Olympics. These Olympics were full our history with American Jesse Owens winning 4 Gold Medals, a remarkable accomplishment in Germany where Adolf Hitler was still a symbol of power.
This was my last German adventure. Now I need to knock-out my last presentation and paper at Reutingen University, then back to the United States and Purdue University.
I am really appreciative for this opportunity to see the world. Many times we talk about new experiences but never find the time, or we read about things that have shape history and never have the opportunity to see it for many reasons. I have been very fortunate to see many things I have only read about in books or seen in movies. I have plenty of pictures and memories now to share and know that I leave Europe with a great appreciation not only for what we have in the United States but for life and what has shaped our lives.