Yesterday, our Sprachkurs class took its second and last excursion, this time to Stuttgart. We all piled into a big Mercedes van and our teacher’s Peugeot, and headed off down the road, with more than one destination planned.
First stop, the Ritter Sport chocolate factory in Waldenbuch. The first thing you notice here is that upon stepping out of the car, the very air itself smells like chocolate. From there, we headed into the showroom/museum thing they have there. While there, we monopolized a display/toy that would dispense free chocolate, then watched a short movie about the plant (and got more free chocolate), then headed to the store downstairs. The prices were pretty good here, about 50 to 70 cents for a bar that costs 2.50 or so in the States. I only bought a few bars, but some others came out of the place with 20 pounds worth of chocolate.
After that, we went to Boeblingen, a rather ugly town, but with one great redeeming factor: IKEA. Upon hearing this, we managed to convince our Sprachkurs teachers to take us there. All bowing before the cheap-retail-houseware gods, we quickly dispersed to do our shopping. I got a lamp to replace the crappy one that came with my room, a small rug, and a small winerack. There was a larger rug that would have covered most of the floor of my room that I wanted, but they were sold out. I still wish I had more time there though–I would have gotten a new pillow and some cookware and some glasses and some sheets, and, and, and… Massive and awesome doesnt begin to describe the place. The thing that baffles me though is that they opted to build it in a tiny place like Boeblingen–Tuebingen, a town with 25,000 students who need cheap housewares could have singlehandedly kept the place in business.
After that, it was off to Sindelfingen, just outside of Stuttgart for the best part of the day: the Mercedes factory. The first thing that pops into my head from viewing this place is precision. Much of the assembly work is done by robot, and it’s incredible to witness the precision with which these things work. I mean, these robots are sliding entire dashboard assemblies in through the door and screwing them in, with less than an inch to spare on any side, and never even touch the car. And in the press shop, where the metal is stamped into its shapes, massive two and three story high machines press and cut the metal with a thump that shakes the floor like something out of Lord of the Rings. The whole thing managed to restore my faith in German engineering, which had been waning as of late.
After that, we finally made it to Stuttgart proper and after dinner and a beer at an outdoor cafe, we headed to our first German soccer game. It was interesting, but after the Mercedes tour, not much measures up. We had a good time watching the rowdy fans, though.
Anyways, this weekend, we are planning to go to Munich for Oktoberfest. I’m sure I’ll get plenty of pictures and stories out of that, so stay tuned.