I’m still trying to figure out Munich. It is clearly a large city (pop. 4.3 mil) but there is a certain “small” feeling to it. It doesn’t feel as small as Dresden, but it feels much smaller than Berlin (pop 3.5 mil). Perhaps it is the fundamental friendliness of the people here. Specifically, they have a capacity for friendliness that has been deficient elsewhere.
In Munich, people in hospitality-based jobs, such as hotels, are often locals. In Berlin, locals don’t seem to hold those jobs because there is a skill-set (ie warmth) that they seem to lack. Instead, they import the talent, and people working the desks at the hotels are from places like Spain and Switzerland. When they insist on using locals, answers to simple questions provoke stark responses like, “It is not allowed.”
In Dresden, importing the talent isn’t as much an option, but people there seem marginally warmer than Berliners at baseline.
So this morning we headed out, passing again through the viktualienmarkt and Marienplatz. We paused periodically to gaze at pretzels in the windows as we passed by. Bavaria is known for her pretzels, and I’ve been eating gobs of them while I’ve been here.
Our first goal was to make it to the subway. That was the easy part – the hard part was naviagting the subway, which they seem to keep secret here. Contrary to what one would expect, given my experience with the local populace, in Berlin there was extensive signage indicating the many public transportation options. Here, other than the sign indicating a stop, they post almost nothing. There are no big maps showing the full system in all of its colorful splendor; rather there are monochromatic miniscule maps posted discreetly on the wall.
D went to the ticket window, where they provided a printed map (in color) and directions to our target: the Olympic Village.
Why the Olympic Village? Well, unlike the vast majority of Olympic Villages, this one is still in use, so that would be a reason. But it’s not.
This was our target: BMW Welt (World). This is, in a sense, a big showroom of BMW, Mini, and Rolls Royce. The greeter at the door didn’t seem to have heard of Detroit. I guess that’s OK, as most Detroiters probably couldn’t find Munich on a map of North America.
On the upper level we see the area where people can come and pick up their cars. Rather than taking delivery of your new BMW at a local dealer, you can arrange to do so here in Germany. You then drive the car for the duration of a vacation, and drop it off with BMW, who then imports it to the US as a used car. M should have done this.
Notably, the car I liked best, the 1 series, is not available in the US, so I won’t be doing this either.
Across the street is the original BMW factory. We hadn’t pre-arranged a tour, but space was available on one of the scheduled tours, so we went for it. Our guide was an embittered Portugese woman who was quite taken with her own sense of humor. Still, she was warmer than the average German, which again demonstrates the German need to outsource hospitality.
The tour itself was photo-free, but it was really an interesting tour, walking through the plant, looking at raw steel being pressed, parts assembled, vehicles painted, and intact cars driving out. We were both taken aback by the small number of humans who work in the plant, many of whom are there to provide support and maintenance for the robots.
This is the BMW World Headquarters. To the right is the BMW Museum. After the tour, this was our next stop.
There, we saw classic motorcycles (look at this beauty).
And classic cars.
They had plenty of classic cars, starting from the early days of the company, moving through to the present. Following a pattern we have seen here, they glossed over their role in World War II. In much of Germany, people and businesses seem to refer to World War II in vague, noncommittal terms, avoiding acknowledgement or responsibility (to clarify: by the end of the war, 50% of the 50,000-strong BMW workforce were from concentration camps).
On a more upbeat note, I really love the Isetta.
They also had one in the BMW Welt. I could have a pair!
Finishing up at the museum, we had managed to spend our entire day at BMW. With dusk fast approaching, and my leg aching, we returned to our hotel. On the way, we passed the world’s largest asparagus!
We went to dinner, where once again I relied on Google Translate for parts of the menu. This is really a great app. You can point the camera on your phone at a page, and the software will translate it on the fly. It’s not perfect but it’s pretty darn good. I was tempted by the chicken breast on crisp Plato, but decided instead to have the pig filled with Obama. It was delicious, and something I may make for my friends some time.
I’ll tell E it’s beef.
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