Day 4: Regensburg, Romans, and Robots

Day four began much the same as the previous days, with a quick breakfast followed by a ride to our destination, which was Regensburg today. I noticed on the bus ride that the bus driver, despite speaking no or very little English, still had American music playing. Although Americans also listen to music from other cultures, I just find it interesting that American music is essentially the music of choice in Germany despite the different language. I also observed a commonality between Germany and the US: there is construction everywhere. Construction zones, with the ubiquitous Caterpillar-made machines lying around the site, can be found in the cities, on the highways, and everywhere in between, just like in the US. I supposed that having a similarly modern transportation network demands a similar amount of construction work and maintenance.

The bridge across the Danube leading into Regensburg’s Altstadt

Once in Regensburg, we went on a brief tour of the city. We saw the Rathaus, the Dom, an old Roman gate and tower, and the “skyscrapers” of the medieval world. I found it interesting how the rich showed off their wealth by building the tallest tower possible. It is an example of how some human behavior never changes no matter the time or culture, as people still regularly flaunt their wealth through material possessions around the world today. One oddity we saw on the tour was some artwork depicting Donald Trump in a very satirical and comical fashion. This explicitly showed how little people around the world think of our president, and it was a little bit sad to see something like that. It is a stark reminder of America’s issues, and it stings more because it is coming from a foreign country.

The gate of the old Roman fort once located where Regensburg now stands

After the city tour, we headed out to Continental’s facility. I found their presentation a little lackluster when compared to Hirschvogel’s presentation. It felt like the hosts simply did not have the knowledge that our host at Hirschvogel had, which is understandable given the size of Continental, but was disappointing nonetheless. The presenter’s English was also not as good as the presenter’s English at Hirschvogel, but, while noticeable, it did not significantly impact the presentation’s content. Despite the somewhat vague presentations the company gave, there were some points that caught my attention. The tour guide in the production facility mentioned that they use kaizen, and employees are encouraged to come up with innovative ideas, with rewards in place for successful ones. This is almost exactly what Hirschvogel is doing, and I was pleasantly surprised that Continental is doing it as well. Also, both Hirschvogel and now Continental have mentioned a cooling Chinese market as a short-term concern. The fact that both companies so far have mentioned it may make it worth looking into for the presentations next week. Lunch at the company’s canteen, which it shares with Siemens, followed the first presentation, and it was about in-line with the other cafeteria-style meals I’ve had so far. The production facility was very different from Hirschvogel’s. Whereas Hirschvogel had more traditional manufacturing machinery and a more conventional set-up, Continental had extremely modern plant equipment and facilities. Robots called scooters roved around and performed various tasks, and the equipment was often accompanied by high-tech computer interfaces and other technology. This modernity makes sense given the company’s scale and products, but it was impressive nonetheless.

At Continental in Regensburg

The conclusion of the tour was followed by a ride back to Regensburg’s Altstadt. We had about an hour of free time before dinner, during which a couple of guys and I browsed in some small shops and went into the Dom a second time. Dinner was at a traditional German restaurant. I had schnitzel with fried potatoes and onions, and it was excellent. During both lunch and dinner, I was sitting next to a German student, and we had good conversations in both English and German. We discussed the prevalence of small and medium-sized businesses as opposed to large corporations in Germany and the contrasting prevalence of large corporations in the US. We agreed that we preferred the small businesses over large corporations, since it supports the local economy and often allows for better quality products or services. We also touched on the wealth divide in Germany, with Baden-Württemberg and Bayern containing most of the wealth. Although not as clear-cut, this separation of the wealthy and impoverished also applies to US states, with some states doing quite well while others, such as West Virginia and Mississippi, struggle. Once again, I was pleased with my conversational German skills, which continue to improve as I talk to more German students.

The side and rear of the Dom in Regensburg

Dinner’s conclusion meant that it was time to head back to Augsburg. After a long drive, we finally got back to the hotel and prepared for an early morning the next day. Although it did not top yesterday, we did a lot of fun things today, and I did a good amount of German speaking with the German students, which is one of my favorite things to do, since I get interesting and valuable cultural insights while sharpening my language skills. Continental, although not as cool as Hirschvogel in my opinion, was still an impressive company, and Regensburg is a beautiful city that was well worth seeing. I’m very excited for tomorrow’s company visit at Audi, and I am looking forward to talking to some new German students from the Audi group.

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