German efficiency took over as soon as we boarded the flight to Munich. Although the plane was full, the struggle to stow all the luggage that people schlepp on board these days to avoid extra fees was quick and we took off before the stated time. Meal service was prompt, we were able to watch a film we'd been wanting to see, and the time passed quickly. After flying to Asia and Australia, the trip to Europe isn't nearly as grueling as it used to seem. We landed early. Immigration lines were short and the luggage was twirling around the carousel before we even got there. And as we left customs, Hartmut's smiling face was waiting for us. What more could we ask for?
We crammed his thrifty European car with luggage floor to ceiling and headed to Munich and the Olympic Village where he lives. Feelings of nostalgia and deja vu swept over us as we returned to the apartment where he first was our host in 1980. Although the Olympics took place here in 1972, the facilities have been lovingly maintained and it is clear that having them here benefited the community and Hartmut's family in particular. Too bad that Chicago will not benefit from hosting the Olympics as well.
In our jet lagged state we are rather worthless and want nothing more than to nod off unless we are on our feet. We walked to BMW World, an enormous modernistic facility created for those taking delivery of new cars as well tourists with the dreams of one day owning one. This visitor center is an architectural masterpiece in and of itself and featured indoor and outdoor restaurants of varying prices as well as a shop where you could purchase BMW souvenirs. Alluring samples of the latest models were available to sit in.
We decided to take a tour of the BMW factory where robots ruled the day. It appeared that only the tedious, undemanding jobs were left for human beings to do. The robots did a highly skilled square dance, moving in and out to weld and glue and paint. The floor was so clean you could eat off of it and the noise levels were humanely low. The factory was out in the boonies when it was first built, but now it is surrounded by city and running out of space to store spare parts. Trucks bring supplies just in time and each car is assembled according to the wishes of its ultimate purchaser.
After a nap surrounded by the gamboling kitties Hartmut's daughter shares her home with, we took a quick stroll on the grounds of Nymphenburg Castle, a mini Versailles built by the royal family of Bavaria. We reminisced about the night Hartmut brought us here to enjoy a candlelight string concert on the grounds. Even though the temperatures are wintery, many folks were out strolling along with us. Picturesque swans sailed on the manmade lakes.
It is wonderful to be back in Europe revisiting some of our favorite places and people from thirty years ago. Now if only we could sleep through the night and get our brains in gear...