Crashed out in the bus after a long day walking Berlin… Steve fits some bits to Pumper that we acquired at Wolfsburg… a continual stream of people drop by to check us out in the parking lot in Potsdam, and a family so inspired by our adventure they donated a bottle of Champagne we were told to drink when we reach Russia. Not sure we can make it last that long. Gifts we are happy to receive, random acts of kindness are always welcome.
Sooo amusing as one after another, onlookers try to wrap their heads around the fact that we have really driven here!! Just the tonic and encouragement we needed… the previous night we were both set for divorce and quite prepared to live at opposite ends of the planet, rather than in the confined space of a VW Bus!!! .. Nothing like reaching the end of your rope and questioning the madness of it all!!! Our blogs might mislead into thinking this is all a lark, every minute of every day… But there are bad days, and there are ugly days… when it becomes an ordeal of the worst kind. When our frustrations coincide… watch out! The thing is, you probably wouldn’t read the blogs if they were all about ugly days. So this will have to suffice as equilibrium. Take our word for it… it ain’t always a ‘Dream’!!!
Re-connecting with twin, Phil for a couple of days of camping and exploring, and the much anticipated tour of Wolfsburg.. Little did we know just how much of a treat this would be…
First, the Harz region… and a stunning10 mile hike up Brocken mountain, unfortunately much of it in the clouds, to an old Soviet listening post and the area where during the cold war people would risk life to hang glide from the East German side of the mountain to freedom on the West side, hoping the thermals and winds were favourable, and the DDR guards were either sleeping or poor shots! There are reminders of the Cold war dotted around the country side like watchtowers and long abandoned checkpoints. Sobering examples of how hard it seems for people to get along!
Wolfsburg, the VW mecca!! Home to the largest auto manufacturing plant in the world and the spectacular Autostadt ( www.autostadt.de ) where visitors experience world-class displays of the VW family of vehicles, and a car museum that takes some beating. We were beyond spoilt to have met Carston, VW executive, at the UK car show who rolled out the red carpet with an all-expenses paid tour of this magnificent facility!!
Sitting in luxury vehicles, top of the list the Audi R8 Spyder at 260,000 Euro!! Top speed 317 km/hr and only 333 of them produced to date… Gulp!! Audi, Lamborghini, Porsche, Bugatti … We sit in them and salivate!!! This is what life is like in the fast lane.. The fast cats that whizz by us on the autobahn and leave Pumper quivering at the shock of it… 250 km/hour is nothing for the likes of these beauties!
Rolling around the manufacturing plant in a VW Golf train, with our charming guide, Italian Giacomo, we are treated to the most incredible tour. 20,000 plus robots dancing in unison, as they majestically construct the latest VeeDubs each individually tailored to the customer’s specifications. The factory is absolutely spotless and makes most hospitals look shabby!!
Out of bounds for today: the Golf assembly line, just 8 days away from a new model launch, top secret and not for the eyes of visitors.
Up to 600 cars per day are picked up from the Autostadt by the customers, each one setting in motion an impressive automated glass tower storage and delivery system that finds and delivers the specific car with flair!
Dragging ourselves away we drive a few hours to the outskirts of Berlin to the park and ride at two and a half euro for the night and day!! They do have this P+R system organized. Just wish the loos did not cost so much, a Euro for a pee seems like such a rip off!!!
Berlin was not what we expected, lacking the charm of the likes of Amsterdam, Brussels and other European cities… but a heavy day of history lesson!
Hitlers rise… what was WW II all about… the atrocities… The Iron Curtain… Check Point Charlie… “Tear down That Wall”… East meets West!! All so touristy, more museums recounting the history than you can imagine, even if sometimes difficult to discern the messages. One cringes that those dark days could spawn such commercialism.
Of note though and both free were: The Jewish War Memorial and the ‘Topography of Terror’ museum… both leave you speechless. The systematic extermination of the Jews, the aged sick and disabled, homosexuals, sympathizers, social misfits, and Roma’s is impossible to understand. How could the rest of the world have watched as these government policies were put into place, and even being complicit in the growth of The Third Reich? Leaves us both too drained to even contemplate the many museums… The “Free Tibet” demonstration in front of the parliament building observed by more than a few Berlin police can make one wonder if much ever changes!!
We try our hardest to be informed tourists… up to speed on the many rules and distinct ways things are done… there is little ‘grey’ in Germany!! There’s the right way and a wrong way, we so often get it wrong and get a good giggle in so doing!!,.. Can you get arrested for entering or exiting a store through the wrong door? You would think so given the reactions of employees, and just dare to drive around the parking lot without adhering to road markings! Why would that be so hard for us to figure out!!
Next leg of the adventure? Poland!! 500 km’s to Auschwitz and Birkenau… scenes of the worst of humanity!!!
Peace and love… just keep imagining!