We have been going at a hectic pace for the past two weeks. Today was a chance to have a breather and really explore a city. The city of Bremen has a lot of history, amazing architecture, and a lot of shopping, all within walking distance. The students (and profs) got to sleep in a bit today. We met in the hotel lobby around 10:30am and went for a walk to see some of the city in the daylight as it was dark when we were walking around last night. There was a farmer’s market in a couple of the city squares that was nice to walk around. We were able to walk through St. Petri Dom, one of the catholic churches in the center of the town. After our short walking tour, the students were on their own for lunch and the rest of the day.
We began Friday morning with traveling to Wittenberg. Wittenberg is a town in East Germany where the town charter was granted in 1293. This town is famous for being the place where Martin Luther lived. This is also the place where Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Castle Church doors on Octover 31, 1517. As a group we walked around the city for a short time.
The first stop in the town was at Martin Luther’s house. His house is now a museum that can be toured but we arrived before it had opened. The next stop was at the Town Church. The Town Church was behind the market square and is known for the two towers it has. At this church was where Martin Luther would preach as well as where he married his wife, Katharina Von Bora. The church was also significant to Martin Luther because that is where his children were baptized.
Lastly, we stopped by Castle Church, the place where Martin Luther nailed his Theses. Martin Luther would only sometimes preach at Castle Church. Martin Luther is also buried at Castle church under the pulpit where he would do his preaching. The original doors that Martin Luther nailed his theses burnt down but now there are 2 bronze doors that have all 95 theses in Latin engraved on the door. The church was also closed so our viewing was from outside of the church.
After we saw the town of Wittenberg we began our travel toward the Mercedes-Benz factory tour.
The other day we were able to visit Dachau concentration camp and tour the memorial that has been set up there. This was one of the most interesting and powerful visits on the tour. Out of respect for the thousands who had died there I did not take any photographs. We arrived at about 9am and started walking around the outside of the camp and read some of memorial plaques. We then went inside the camp and were allowed to freely wander the camp. Most the camp was demolished but some had been rebuilt or restored. Walking though these buildings, the gas chambers, the over crowded barracks, the crematorium, you were really able to get a feel for the atrocities that happened there. I think that being able to visit this camp had a really big effect on everyone in our group. I know for me, I’ve seen a fair amount of World War II movies and read a decent amount about it. Seeing a camp in person had so much more effect on me than seeing it in movies. Just being able to stand where the events happened really helped to put the events in perspective for us.
After leaving we had probably the most silent bus ride of the trip so far. Over the next few days we will begin to discuss and unpack all of the things that we have learned on this trip. I think that one of the core experiences that people will have benefited from will be from this trip will be the time we spent at Dachau concentration camp. I am excited to see exactly what everyone got out if it compared to myself.
After leaving Wittenberg on Friday morning, we settled in for a four-hour drive to the Mercedes-Benz plant in Bremen, Germany. We passed the time playing games, listening to music, and reading; we also enjoyed a brief stop for lunch along the way. Unfortunately, traffic conditions resulted in us arriving at Bremen about one hour later than we had originally intended. Nevertheless, we received a wonderful tour upon arriving at the plant.
Formed in 1926, the Mercedes-Benz company is known for their luxury vehicles. Their motto is “the best or nothing”, and John “the Legend”, our tour guide, was sure to emphasize this point while he showed us the various stages of assembly for the cars. Much of the manufacturing process is automated, and it was exciting to watch the mechanical arms assemble the framework of the cars in what seemed to be an effortless manner. Free space in the plant is not to be wasted, so there were multiple times where the casual observer wondered whether the robots would crash into each other or accidentally damage the car parts as they moved them around; however, they were programmed to operate quickly and efficiently, and every movement was coordinated smoothly with the other robots nearby. John also explained that, far from relying too much on the computer and robots to do all of the work, a team of technicians is always on hand to monitor and repair the machines if necessary.
We moved from the assembly floor to the body shop, where the frame of each car is fitted with things like a windshield, seats, etc. John explained that this plant was operational around the clock, with multiple shifts of workers ensuring that the production line never stopped, night or day. With this work drive, the plant produces around 1,600 cars per day! As John put it, “time is money”, and it was clear from the efficiency and streamlined operation that we witnessed that Mercedes-Benz doesn’t plan to waste any of it.
Like every business we’ve had the opportunity to visit on this trip, Mercedes-Benz is committed to preparing for success in the future, and in addition to taking advantage of modern computer and robot technology they also plan to release a fully electric car in 2019. Overall, our class had a wonderful learning experience as we got to see firsthand why Mercedes-Benz is world-renowned and successful today, as well as how they are prepared to continue with that success tomorrow.
Steelcase and Munich
Upon our arrival to Munich, we went to the Steelcase learning and innovation center. This is a new building for them, which was built in 2017, and it is used to help create new ideas, help show their costumers how their business could look with their furniture, and to be an international location for customers overseas.
Our guide gave us a tour through this new building, and talked about their business. He was especially proud of how they do not have a traditional cube farm, but instead have desks that anyone can use. People are free to go where they want and work where they want. It was a very interesting idea and was good to see how some companies might have new or different ways of running their offices someday.
After the tour, we were dropped off in downtown Munich. We were able to go to the town square and explore on our own for a little while. Then it was time to go to the famous Hofbrauhaus for a group supper. This was a very cool experience. You walked in to the sound of a band playing some traditional Bavarian songs, and see long wooden tables and benches put together. We found our reserved section tucked away in the corner and enjoyed a pretzel before we had our meal. Meat(two types of pork I believe) and a kind of potato or dumpling were had for our meal. It was a very hearty meal and a neat experience to have.
Even though we only spent a little bit of time in Munich, I felt like we were able to see a bit into the specific culture of the region of Bavaria. While we traveled we could see the white and brown farmhouses, saw cuckoo clocks, and had a pretty traditional meal at a restaurant that has been there for a long time. It’s not everyday that you can say that.