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July 9, 2011 by Chelsea Slone

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Our visit through Germany began at the Mercedes Benz factory in Stuttgart and ended at the BMW factory in Munich. With a country so involved in the automobile industry and a family in the business I’m sure you can imagine why our trip was centered around the car factories. Don’t worry though we didn’t skip out on the beer, pretzels, and wiener schnitzels, or the rest of the German lifestyle to tell you all about and with a car in our possession now our excursion through Europe has officially begun… So get ready for the (I’m sure bumpy and wild) ride ahead.

Our first stop at the Mercedes Benz factory in Sindelfingen, just right outside Stuttgart was the stop we had been anticipating since December 27th, the day we left for our year long venture. We were finally going to be able to get in a car and drive anywhere we wanted to go, anytime we wanted to go there and experience all the nooks and crannies along the way. After two planes, two trains, three metro stations, two buses, and one shuttle we found ourselves standing in front of the Mercedes Benz dying to hop in a car and drive off. But first we had to see where all the magic is made. We began the tour and were shuttled to one of the factory building where the c-class is made, which is the only factory available for touring. With our headsets and eye goggles we walked in to thousands of huge orange robots all moving in different ways to make the different parts. We were shown everything from the sheet metal ton the casting, to the fabrication, body shells, fitting of the mechanicals and electricals, wheels and upholstery, rear and front windshields, and the final product rolling down the end of the production line. Pictures were not permitted, but I snuck a few to post for you! We were also told many interesting facts about the amount of cars produced each day, for example there are 670 c-classes produced daily and a majority are in a silver color, the most popular color in the States. It was such a neat experience to be able to see the entire production process of a product from which my family makes a living. After the tour we went to pick up our temporary car to one and for all begin our drive through Germany and the rest of Europe.

In case you didn’t realize how long we’ve been gone, it’s been six months. That means six whole months of time gone by and not once sitting behind the wheel of a car. Tyler had driven in New Zealand in a right handed vehicle I didn’t attempt at, and told me I had to be the one to drive it out of the factory. So I jumped right in turned the car on and took off. I had planned on pulling over in the parking lot to let Tyler take over, but after I hit the gas, rolled the windows down, put on some music, and pulled off the lot I just couldn’t give it up yet. For ten minutes I could have sworn I was at home driving to sonic with mocha in my lap hanging her head out the window, then all of the sudden it started pouring rain and reality hit me…. I was in Germany… On the autobahn… entering rush hour traffic…In a brand new Benz we would sending home to sell in a matter of months… It was pouring down rain…. There was no where in sight to pull over… And I hadn’t driven in half a year. Needless to say I was ten and two for about forty-five minutes until it calmed down and I decided Tyler would probably be better at this whole shin dig. An hour later we made it to Baden- Baden.

When you pick up a car from the factory it comes with some perks, including two nights in a hotel with a choice of nearby destinations to choose from. We choose the beautiful little town of Baden-Baden, sometimes refered to as the rich Germans playground. We had to pick a place we wouldn’t have spent the money to go ourselves right? =) Baden-Baden was just how i had imagined or better. The beautiful little town had sidewalk cafes, little boutiques, cobblestone roads, and one big casino. It was a bank holiday, which in Europe is an excuse for a vacation. So the entire town was full of people from all over Germany for their weekend getaways and relaxation trips. It was a perfect place to spend two days, relax, and get ready for my MeMe to come visit.

We set out for Frankfurt a few days later to meet my MeMe at the airport and make our way through Germany down to Switzerland to pick up Tyler’s mom, Barbara. We were so excited to have visitors and spend a couple of weeks traveling around with family. After picking MeMe up in Frankfurt we set out for Munich and made a little stop in Rothenburg on the way. Rothenburg is a well preserved midieval old town in the Bavaria region of Germany. With barns made into hotels, and castles up on the hills around the town, this neat little town shows some of the historical side that is found in this country.

In Germany Christmas Markets are an important part of German tradition, and today you can find them all through Germany especially small towns, opened year around. The markets used to open next to the town churches two weeks before Christmas and fill the city with the scent of roasted chestnuts, gingerbread, and mulled cider or wine. Back then markets were huge events in the town and their were several different types of markets throughout the year, and in that time the Christmas market was actually called the winter market or “Sankt Nikolaus” market. Many of the christmas markets are very old dating back to the 17th century, and the one we visited in Rothenburg was one of the many old markets often visited while traveling through Germany. It was definitley filled to the brim with every ornament and decoration ever created!

After our visit to Rothenburg we made our way to Munich, home of Oktoberfest, to experience some of the rich German food and amazing beer! Located in the German state of Barvaria, this amazing city is considered to be the beer capital of the world and the history of how it all began is quite a funny story. It began with the catholic monks during their forty day fast before Easter. They knew they couldn’t eat anything and had to create a drink to sustain their bodies, so with barley, hops, and water the monks followed a brewing process in the cold dungeons of their monasteries and created a drink to consume for the forty days of fasting ahead. If you noticed I didn’t mention the monks using yeast, but if they didn’t it wouldn’t have foam and wouldn’t be beer. The dark dungeon rooms where the huge open top wooden barrel lay brewing was of course filthy, there wasn’t such thing as tile dungeons at this time, and the walls were gown over with mold and formed yeast on top of the mold. So when the men would go to the dungeon and swing open the doors to check on the brewing process yeast was falling off the ceiling and walls into the barrel and eventually it would begin to foam and the men would know the process was finished. During all this time the Pope in Rome heard Barvaria was drinking another beverage instead of wine. He wanted to know about and taste this beverage for approval so he ordered them to bring him a barrel. They worked very hard to prepare this special barrel of beer for the Pope, and when it was ready to drink they got on their horses to transport the beer to Rome. After several days traveling through the hot summer heat they finally arrived in Rome, and when the Pope went to take his much anticipated drink of the beer he quickly spit it straight back out. The beer had obviously gone sour traveling for days through the heat, and the Pope approved the drink for the Barvarian people to drink but he did not want to have this made in Rome. He then told them they were allowed to have five liters a day and not more… And that is where it all began. Today during Oktoberfest the five liter rule has turned into a drinking game for the visitors.

Today in Munich they have the “Big Six” Breweries, to satisfy the thirsty Munichens. Augustinerbrau is the longest standing brewery found in Munich and has been brewing beer since as early as 1328. Auguestiner is renowned for brewing Munich’s best beer, and is clearly the pick of Munich’s beer drinkers. Lowenbrau is another one, and can can be found around the world. Number three is Paulaner, another brewery and considered to be the second favorite to Augustiner in the locals opinion. We were able to tour this popular brewery and sample their light or helli beer, special May beer, and their wheat beer at their micro brewery where it is considered to be the freshest beer in town because it is sold straight out of the tanks and never bottled. Hacker-Pschorr is the fourth brewery which is actually a consolidation of two Munich breweries. The fifth brewery in Munich is Spaten, the underdog. When naming the big six, it’s often forgotten or remembered last.

Last but not least the Hofbrauhaus, whch is certainly one of the most famous and the only one to have a royal connection. In 1589 Duke Wilhelmina V founded the Hofbrauhaus and brewery. We took an fun tour through here and saw a room full of little lockers filled with traditional German beer mugs. The mugs have been around since the beginning of the brewery and the only way they are aquired today is if they are passed down through your family. To be a regular at the Hofbrauhaus you have to visit at least one time a week for ten consecutive years, and then and only then are you considered a regular and get special privileges, like having your own table. You can sit at the regulars tables anytime of the day you like, but if they show up you must give up your seat. During the popular times like summer and Oktoberfest where lines of thousands are waiting to get inside it definitely pays off to be a regular!

German food is rich and delicious and can only be consumed in moderation. The most popular snack in Germany is a pretzel and they can be found in anyway you could ever imagine, salted, poppy seeded, topped with cheese, bacon, or tomatoes, and so much more. The Hofbrauhaus’ enormous pretzel will make you fall over, you have to sit down for this one. German sausages or wieners. As they calls them, are fantastic. This is another thing that comes many different ways, but no matter what kind you try it is a burst a deliciousness. Pork is by far the most popular culinary delight in Germany, and is served fried, boiled, and smothered with sauce. And no pork dish is served without potatoes in some form or another. It was all delicious, but is definitely not a food you could consume everyday, even the Germans love their different variety of restaurants. But not matter what they meal may be, their beer beverage choice won’t ever change.

Our last stop in Germany before heading off to Switzerland was the BMW Factory in Munich. The amazing factory and museum was a lot like Mercedes but super-sized. We were able to tour the factory here too where we saw many of the same things, but one thing we weren’t able to see at Mercedes was the painting process for the cars. This was an amazing thing to see at BMW and by far my favorite part of the tour. The entire museum and showroom was interactive for visitors. It was just an incredible factory! They had an “Individual BMW” area where you could custom create your car while sitting by a fire and a piano. The entire facility was over the top in every way possible and gave every visitor an opportunity for a unique and fun experience. It was a perfect place to complete our trip through Germany.

That all for now and were off to Switzerland to pick up Tyler’s mother and road trip through the gorgeous country of Italy. See you there!

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