Day 4: Continental and Regensburg

This morning I got up and enjoyed my now-normal brie, croissant, and orange juice for breakfast before we set out for our Continental site visit at 9:30.  Once I knew that we would be visiting Continental, I was expecting to learn about the tire company that I knew them as during our visit; therefore, I (along with the rest of the group) was surprised to see that our presentation was based on their focus on innovative technology to move the industry toward autonomous and connective vehicles, not just tires.  This is a smart move for Continental, as it will likely lend to their long-term survival and competitive advantage, and also an interesting one to learn about because it is not a topic that I am too educated on and that I always questioned.  After this morning, however, a lot of my misconceptions about this autonomous direction were cleared and now I am more interested and open to this change in the car industry.  Realizing that it is not the car that is completely in charge, but the car is made to assist the driver and its journey, eased some of my skepticisms about this idea of self-driving and communicating vehicles.

The second part of our visit at Continental was a tour of factory.  This tour was different than the other two, as we were given special robes and shoe covers that would ground us in order to protect us from electrical conduction running throughout the factory.  Before we could enter the factory, we all had to stand on a machine that tested to approve that our robes and shoe covers were successfully grounding us.  Two students, Liam and Jan, had difficulty getting grounded and after many failed attempts on the machine, a tour guide went and grabbed them big sneaker shoes that finally did the trick and gave them the green light to go on the tour inside the factory.

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Us in our fancy, protective robes! 

In the tour, we saw the production of the hardware that Continental produces and how they store these different systems.  Learning about how they run the factory was interesting and also amusing, as we had the opportunity to interact with a few of their robotic scooters that deliver parts to different sites and people in the factory.  These scooters respond to calling signals from different parts of the factory and bring the requested part to the caller.  If someone is in its way, the scooter will be sure to let them know and ask them to move so that they can get to where they want to go.  Similar to my experience in the BMW factory, it was really fun to see how robots are used in these factories and what different roles they play in the production of cars.

Once we successfully dodged the different robots moving around the factory and completed the tour, our time at Continental was finished and we moved on to the city of Regensburg itself.  Regensburg was unlike any city that we’ve seen so far in Germany and is my favorite place that we’ve visited!

We learned from our tour guide that the city of Regensburg is more similar to Italy than most cities in Germany because it is so close to the river connecting the two countries; therefore, the Italians had strong trade influence early on in the city’s history.  We walked through the European-styled stone streets and saw the large homes with Italian-styled courtyards that were built by the historic city’s most affluent families, saw a huge beer festival going on in one of the main squares of the city, and most notably we saw our first stolperstein.  Stolpersteines are brass cobblestones incorporated into streets all over Germany and its neighboring countries that make up a wide-ranging memorial to victims of the Holocaust.  Each stone displays a name and life dates of a person who was killed in the Holocaust who lived near where the stone is placed.  The purpose of this memorial is to commemorate the victims of this tragedy and to remind anyone who stumbles upon one of these stolpersteines of the Holocaust and to honor those who were cruelly effected by it.

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The Stolpersteine. 

After our tour, we went to Weltenburger, a traditional beer garden, for dinner.  The garden was very beautiful, with picnic style tables and flowering trees; however, it was our food that stole the show.  Everyone at my table ordered the same dish, a potato and beef dish with a bright white and orange fried egg on top.  I was at a table of all girls, so of course we spent about five minutes taking pictures before actually eating our meal (it tasted just as good as it looked!).  We all gushed over the meal and the day throughout the entire dinner!

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My amazing meal! 

As we were leaving the restaurant, we ran into a church procession that was going throughout the town, and stopped to watch as priests and worshippers walked and sang in Latin.  It was nice to casually stumble upon this procession and watch as it passed us by.  The procession was a perfect bonus sight to end our time in Regensburg and was one that seemed to fit the entire feeling of the city really well!

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