Audi Forum, Ingolstadt, Germany

posted in: Europe | 4
Last weekend I had planned to travel by train to Ingolstadt to see the Audi automobile visitor’s center, called the Audi Forum. You may remember that I’ve visited the BMW visitor center, called BMW Welt, in Munich in the past. Also on my to-do list are the VW plant in Wolfsburg, and the Mercedes and Porsche factories in Stuttgart. However, Ingolstadt was a daytrip away from here so it was on my docket for Saturday. I happened to mention my plans to my student Carmela and her husband Ivan, two fast-growing friends of mine. Both of them attended the whisky-tasting excursion last week, so you would have seen them in the photos in that blog entry. They were very interested in seeing the Audi place, too, and Ivan graciously volunteered to drive us. Count me in! It so happens that Ivan had recently placed an order to buy a new BMW M3. He will take delivery in a few months at the center in Munich. Meanwhile, they gave him a loaner to drive until then. This brand-new BMW with leather upholstery, GPS, and all the other bells and whistles was our chariot to visit the Audi museum (which somehow must be against the rules but we didn’t care). The morning was clear and sunny after a little snow the night before. It gave the beautiful evergreens a Christmasy look:   

I have to mention that last weekend was the beginning of the week-long winter break for most of Europe. Kids were out of school and VERY many cars with ski racks were on the autobahn with us. It took us about three hours to make the trip which normally would have taken about half that time:

But we made it. And evidence of the local large employer was everywhere, including this somewhat puzzling decoration on the side of the local Burger King just off the highway:

The BMW’s GPS was apparently not jealous and led us to the Audi Forum: read more

Bonus Winter Story and Visit to Schweinfurt

posted in: Europe | 0

It’s rather difficult to write about an
outing in September today because I had such a wonderful winter experience
yesterday. Unfortunately I have no photos of it (I wasn’t sure if photos were
allowed), but I want to mention it nonetheless.

  About 2:00 p.m. yesterday (Sunday), the
matron of the family that runs the restaurant next door rang my doorbell. I
can’t say we are close friends, though we are friendly and I love going to
their establishment, so it was a surprise. Turns out she had bought a ticket to
the Christmas concert here in our village and couldn’t use it. She asked if I
wanted it.
  I had wanted to go to the concert but
didn’t have anyone to go with so I didn’t buy a ticket. So now I had a free
one! The concert was at 5:00 p.m. so I had time to get ready but not time
enough to post my travel journal, which is why I’m posting it on Monday this
week.
  You should know that, though it’s been
really cold here, it hadn’t really snowed until yesterday. There were flurries
early and then about 11:00 a.m. it began falling in earnest. Not heavily but
steadily. So steadily that I could hear people on the street shoveling the
sidewalks every couple of hours. By 5:00 p.m. there was about four to five
inches on the ground and it was still snowing.
  I donned my coat, scarf, hat, boots and
gloves and set out to the concert hall. It’s only about a five-minute walk from
here and I love walking in the snow, so I was looking forward to it. It’s dark
here by 5:00 p.m. this time of year, but because the sky was full of snow and
so was the ground, there was the impression of twilight. And snow, you know,
mutes everything, so it was quiet as well. I had a grand walk down the street
in the winter wonderland, with snow flocking on every branch, fence, bench and
windowsill.
  I have always wanted to see the inside
of the building where the concert hall is located. Its name is Unteres Schloss,
which means something like “Lower Castle.” There’s a good picture of it here. If me and Google translator are
any indication, the website says it was built in 1743 by Carl Maximilian
Zollner von Brand, a local land baron. It has served various purposes,
including an inn, over the years. Today it serves as a registry office of the
town government and they hold many events in the ballroom. There’s also a very
good Greek restaurant on the ground floor. I have to pass it whenever I walk to
the local supermarket and many times I’ve heard music or singing emanating from
the upstairs window. This day I got to see where it originated.
  The upstairs concert room was small,
smaller than an average American hotel ballroom area, but very beautiful. The
ceiling and walls had plaster stucco motifs. I could tell it was all done by
hand because they were ostensibly symmetrical designs but they weren’t quite
the same on both sides. On the walls were mirrored sconces with candle-shaped
lights. On the deep windowsills were small candelabra with upside down apples
used as candle holders. I could see the snow still falling outside beyond the
windowpanes.
  Most of the room was taken up by rows
of wide, upholstered wooden chairs, each with the night’s program in the seat.
At the far end of the room was a grand piano flanked by a Christmas tree and a
couple of lighted music stands.
  Presently a woman came to the piano and
a younger one stood beside it. They performed a short Christmas song. The
singer was a soprano and I recognized her voice from my walks past the place.
After this song the piano woman welcomed everyone and the program began.
  Later there was a man who played the
violin and two children, a boy and girl about 8 and 7, respectively. They
played various classical Christmas pieces together and separately. When the
children dutifully churned out their parts, you could almost hear the
metronome! From what I can gather from information gleaned from the program and
from appearances, the pianist and violinist were married and the kids were
theirs.
  The soprano showed up again, too, a
couple more times. Joining the program a few times was an older gentleman who
played the zither. His songs were traditional German folk songs and he seemed
tickled pink to bring them to us. At one point after intermission, the lights
were brought down and only the Christmas tree illuminated the room. The pianist
read us a traditional German Christmas story by the light of the tree. That was
nice!
  I wouldn’t say the music was the best
I’ve ever heard, but the program was well organized and executed and everyone
seemed to be enjoying themselves. After the performance, they gave everyone a
small ceramic angel Christmas ornament as a keepsake.
  As I walked home in the still-falling
snow, I thought what a lucky girl I am! Next year, you’re all invited to come
with me to the concert – I promise to bring my camera this time.
  So, here’s the travel journal entry I’d
originally planned for this week:
  Back at the beginning
of September (Labor Day weekend in the USA), I was invited by my German
teacher, Frank, to visit the nearby town of Schweinfurt to see some friends of
his and enjoy a music festival.
  I have been through
Schweinfurt many times by train, but I’ve never visited its old center. I knew
it probably wasn’t as pretty as my Bamberg because it was not spared the bombs
in WWII. A critical ball-bearing factory was located there that the Allies
destroyed, along with other parts of the city. If you’re into that kind of
thing, there are some interesting WWII pictures of the destruction here.
  Schweinfurt, whose name translates literally as “pig ford” or a place where the pigs cross
the river, dates in some form from about 740 A.D. Because it’s on the river, it
has been fought over many times and destroyed more than once.
  Today, Schweinfurt is
still industrial and is locally famous for its new shopping mall (2009). It is
home to an American army installation as well, although it was slated for
closure by 2011. It has yet to happen. There is an army post in Bamberg, too,
that has been designated for closure in about two years.
  Anyway, Frank drove
us in his Opel station wagon to the old town center one balmy Saturday to meet
his friends. I’d met some of them before at his birthday party last year. No
one seemed to know where we were meeting, but that’s why God made cell phones,
right? We managed a parking spot and walked toward the general area where we
thought the group might be.
  On the way I saw this
magnificent building, whose name or purpose I haven’t been able to determine. I
just like the copper clock tower:

As we were walking toward what we
thought was the right place (wasn’t), I spotted a fountain that had metal lines
embedded into the pavement around it and radiating outward:

On the metal bands were words, in
German, of course. Frank began translating some of them for me and he
recognized the text as famous German poems and literature. One excerpt was from
William Tell:
We thought we were headed in the
direction of the Old Town, but ended up at the new shopping mall instead. As do
so many cities, Schweinfurt has installations of giant fiberglass animals that
stand for the city and that have been decorated by artists. Schweinfurt, of
course, chose the pig as its mascot. Here’s one at the mall entrance:
  Once we turned around and headed in the
right direction, we encountered street musicians entertaining the sparse crowd
of passersby. They were of all ages, persuasions and musical genres:


These guys were playing
that most annoying song, “Knock Knock Knocking on Heaven’s Door.” It’s played
TO DEATH in Europe I think because it’s so easy to remember the words and the
grammar isn’t complicated. When I announced I hated the song, the musicians
overheard me! Yikes! They were good-natured about it, though. (Great, now I got THAT song in my head from writing this!)
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