May 4th & 5th – Welcome to Augsburg

Travel Day & Day 1:

Even though our flight wasn’t until Saturday morning, I would say the trip really started with dinner Friday night at the Union Grill with everyone, which was really nice. Then the next morning a group of us woke up early to make a Pamela’s run to start the day off with a full stomach. Right at 10am we caught a bus to Pittsburgh International Airport for our flight at 2pm to Chicago. After some exploration, rest, and fun on the moving sidewalks, we boarded the Bombardier CRJ700 and flew to O’Hare.

Our United Express Bombardier CRJ700
Breakfast at Pamela’s

After arriving at O’Hare, I was immediately hit with the enormity of the airport itself. It felt like we were walking forever between the arrival gate and our departure gate, but that was still only a fraction of the entire airport. While there, we found more (cooler) moving sidewalks and some pizza for a snack before the 8-hour flight to Munich. On the flight itself, I slept almost the entire time, only waking a couple of times. When we arrived in Munich, I was feeling refreshed and ready for the day.

People mover at Chicago O’Hare

Upon arrival at the airport and after passing through customs, we grabbed our bags at a normal bag carousel. After getting the bags, we walked out of the baggage claim area and past all of the chauffers and saw a BMW i8 Roadster parked on a platform – the first of many amazing cars that I would see today.

After waiting about an hour, we hopped on a Mercedes coach bus for the ride to Augsburg. The bus itself was much nicer than any bus I have ever ridden in the United States having electric reclining seats and curtains on the windows. The ride itself was amazing too, having a lot of scenic views of the German countryside.

Interior of the Mercedes coach bus
Old propeller planes outside Munich Airport
Taken from the bus on the way to Augsburg

Once we arrived at the hotel, we met the German professors from the University of Augsburg that we would be working with, and received funds for food as well as a pass for the public transportation of Augsburg, consisting of trams and buses. After this we went on a walking tour of the city, and saw many of its most well known sites. This includes the Dom, a church built in 954 AD. The Dom was amazing and intricate, and even has the oldest stained glass windows in the world, dating back to the 1100’s!

Exterior entrance to the Dom
The five stained glass windows in the Dom dating back to the 12th century
More (newer) stained glass windows in the Dom

In addition to seeing the Dom, we also walked through the side streets to the town square, where you can see the Town Hall and the Perlach tower, which would have been very busy had it not been for the cold weather (low 40’s). We didn’t get a chance to go into the tower, but we did make it in to the Town Hall to see the room decorated with gold at the top of the building. This building was nearly completely destroyed in bombings during WWII, and was rebuilt from scratch.

Walking through the streets of Augsburg
View of the Perlach Tower (left) and the Augsburg Town Hall (right)
Ceiling of the “Golden Hall’ in the Town Hall

Throughout the tour we also saw some Roman ruins near the Dom, and also learned that the city emblem of Augsburg is a pine cone. Throughout the city you can see sculptures of pine cones, and they are even on the sewer grates!

Later that day we visited the Fuggerei, which is the oldest social housing in the world. It was set up by Jakob Fugger in the 1500’s. The Fugger’s were so rich in their day due to the gold and silver trade that today they would put billionaires like Bill Gates to shame. They were set up because they were so rich, they feared that they would go to hell, and to offset this they put a lot of money towards their city and towards helping the less fortunate. They opened the Fuggerei as a form of extremely cheap housing for those who were in a tough financial situation that was not necessarily their fault, but maybe they happened to find themselves in a tough spot.

Inside the boundaries of the Fuggerei

To finish the day, we ate dinner at a classic Bavarian restaurant with the German students from the University of Augsburg that we would be working with going forward with our presentations. Following that, we were all tired from our long trip, and we made it to bed back in the hotel.

The takeaway of the day:
Germans are much more aware of US politics even than most US citizens. At dinner with the students, we talked a lot about that and it was really interesting to hear how much more they knew about our government and its processes than we knew about theirs, even after we had studied up on German and European politics.

Car of the day: BMW i8 Roadster

BMW i8 Roadster

The BMW i8 Roadster is the newest model of BMW’s i8. It was the first thing I saw coming off of the plane, and it was a sign of there being exciting things to come on this trip.

Runner up: European Spec Ford Focus RS.
I, unfortunately, was not fast enough to catch a picture of the lime green Ford Focus RS, unique to European markets. Released in 2009, the Mk. 2 Focus RS was not made available to the US market, and the RS was not available in the US until 2016.

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