It’s my last day of visiting old haunts. I have enjoyed my trip down memory lane. There is still a distinct difference between east and west Germany; here it’s more laid back and the people are friendlier. Other ways they remain linked to the past; the WiFi is rubbish, there’s still a Woolworths and a C&A, even the odd Trabant.
We start the day with a different car and a tour of the Glaserne Manufaktur (the transparent factory) where they manufacture the VW E-Golf. The building, made entirely of glass, sitting in the corner of a park, is quite a sight. We opt to walk the 2 miles to the factory because we have been told it is difficult to park there!
To be honest, the factory is little more than a PR stunt. In this high tech, state of the art facility, they make 70 cars a day. Cars are put together (all the parts are manufactured elsewhere and brought to the factory by tram) by a combination of robots and men in pristine white dungarees.
There are up to 70 factory tours a day, where you can follow a car through the assembly process. Apparently, the
robots could function 7 times more quickly but the line runs slowly because the workers feel the pressure of performing before so many people. Once complete, the cars are mostly exported to Scandinavia – the Germans are yet to embrace the idea of electric vehicles.
The factory tour is actually really interesting. However, my favourite bits are seeing a badly behaved child fall into an ornamental pond and watching a remote control lawnmower chasing some ducks round the lawn.
After our tour, we head for the Grosser Garten. As the name suggests, the garden is so large that it has its own railway to transport visitors round its main attractions. Unfortunately, the old man is too tight to pay the €6 ticket price and my legs are really sore today in a delayed reaction to the weekend’s marathon attempt. So we make do with just visiting the botanical gardens before returning to the hotel to rest. It’s not the best botanical garden we’ve visited; part of the reason may be the enormous hare we watch scoffing its way through the exhibits.
We round off our final evening in Germany with an obligatory kebab. I don’t want to
walk far so we go to a tiny shop round the corner called Hamid’s where the kebabs turn out to be stonkingly good.
Then we turn our attention to financial issues (this is urgent as we have no money and the old man requires beer and doughnuts). Our cash card, replacement for the one cloned in Argentina, has very stringent security measures. In order to use it, you must first go online and authenticate the card. Authentication lasts for 10 minutes. With such poor WiFi coverage, this is no mean feat. The nearest cashpoint is an 8 minute walk, so the old man has a 2 minute window in which to authenticate the card at the hotel and hotfoot it to the cashpoint. If there’s a queue, he will need to return and start again. I have visions of this becoming quite a saga, and I am right.
Attempt 1) – 12 minutes to reach the bank – fail.
Attempt 2) – reaches the bank in time, but machine explains it doesn’t give money to foreigners – fail. (And another freedom of movement fail. After just 3 days in Germany, I am rapidly coming round to the idea
that Brexit might be a good idea, as the EU doesn’t seem to exist anyway.)
Attempt 3) – at bank in tourist area which advertises the fact it is prepared to deal with foreigners. Card not accepted – fail. Rude email to card provider.
Attempt 4) - different card – success!
We now have plenty of Euros. I don’t like to mention to the old man that in a few hours time we leave the Euro zone and will presumably need to go through a similar palaver to obtain zloty. Our final day in Germany has been tiresome. Bring on Poland.
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