The last day of the trip was a free day, so I decided to meet up with my host family from my previous trip to Germany, since they live in Bavaria. After enjoying my time in Munich on Saturday, I suggested that we spend the day there. I wanted to spend as much time as possible in Munich, so I got up to get on an early train, but it ended up being late, which, given my conversations with the Germans about Deutsche Bahn, did not surprise me. Once in Munich, I met Felix, my host brother, and we decided to do a bus tour, followed by a visit to the Olympiapark and BMW. While walking to the bus, we did some catching up, and I learned that he is studying law in Regensburg. Since both of my parents studied law, I am familiar with how studying it in the US works, and from what he explained, it works somewhat differently in Germany. In America, you cannot study law as your undergraduate degree; three years of law school are required after you undergraduate degree, which are followed by the Bar exam. In Germany, law is an undergraduate option. He said that he will study for nine semesters, then work two years at a law firm, and finally take an exam to become a lawyer himself. I feel like the German system of undergraduate study followed by work experience makes more sense than the US system’s seven years of schooling, since work experience is more valuable than taking classes. The many years of schooling required was one big reason why I did not even consider studying law.
We also discussed his recent trip to America. He said that everything was much bigger in America, which is what most people say when comparing the two countries, and he also mentioned how buildings and cities in America are new in comparison to those in Germany. This latter point gets at one of the reasons why I love Germany so much. In the US, there aren’t many long-standing traditions, and there isn’t a very unified sense of culture or history. In Germany, the history extends back thousands of years, with buildings providing physical evidence of that history, and they have long-standing cultural traditions. These two elements combine to provide a rich cultural experience that does not exist in the US. Munich is a great example of this rich culture. As we toured the city, there were simply so many significant buildings and sites to see, each with its own history and meaning. One could spend weeks there and still have not seen everything it has to offer.
Since I had already seen the city center on Saturday, we spent more time outside of it, in particular at the Olympiapark. We went up the Olympiaturm, and at the top we got a breathtaking view of the city and the Alps beyond. I was struck by how green the city was despite its size. Many large US cities lack greenery, but the Germans, unsurprisingly, have made sure to have plenty green space in Munich, which only adds to its beauty. After descending the Olympiaturm, we headed to BMW’s showroom. They had a number of electric vehicles on display, but what interested me the most was their display about autonomous driving. They had a prototype of a big smart-screen from which you could control everything about your car. While it was an interesting glimpse of the future, it left me uneasy. All of this connectivity seems dangerous to me, since a system like that could be hacked. I would rather do some tasks manually, such as driving and charging my car, rather than leave it up to an AI system that could be compromised, break, or have bugs in its code. Fortunately for me, this technology is still a long way off, but the loss of control concerns me.
We went back to the city center for dinner at Der Pschorr. As we rode in, however, there was a strike blocking the road for a while. Low-level workers from various stores were striking for higher pay and better conditions, similar to the strikes going on in France currently. This trip has certainly given me a good glimpse into the German political climate, as I’ve seen a number of strikes and protests in addition to the campaign signs for the European Parliament elections. There seems to be a good bit of unrest in Germany at the moment, which is also how the US is right now. At dinner, we discussed a variety of topics, but of particular interest was our discussion of different mobility trends in Germany. Shared e-bikes are becoming popular in Germany, and e-scooters are being tested in Bamberg. These are the same kind of trends as in the US, except with a more European spin (bikes instead of cars). Also, I learned that BMW has a service comparable to Audi on demand, which we learned about on our visit in Ingolstadt, so it seems that, although Audi portrayed themselves as innovative, most car companies are doing the same things to try to tap into the current trends. From what I’ve learned on the trip, it doesn’t seem that any company has a significant edge over its competitors.
After dinner, they walked me back to the train station, and then it was time to say goodbye. I hope that we can arrange another meeting, either in America or Germany, since I enjoy spending time and speaking German with locals. Once they left, I took the train back to Augsburg, where I had my final Döner for dinner before packing up for the long travel day ahead of me.