Week 4

Week four was wrap-up week for many students on the trip. For the weekend of week three, everyone except for me and two others went to Prague. Instead, I decided to stay and work on a few things that needed to be done. On Sunday, I and the other two people went to a show in the Tiergarten played by an Irish band that Sara Thögersen, one of the coordinators from the program, is a part of. The liveliness could be felt all around at the show. People were dancing, drinking, and laying about on the grass. It was relatively relaxing to take a short break before going back to classes and more tours.

Game Science Center

On Monday, after classes, we went to the Game Science Center, which had many interesting video game-related demos, including a ping-pong game where one must attempt to pop falling balls, a game that was with LEDs and a ball on a spring, a fox that mirrored one’s facial expressions using a face-detecting camera, a music maker that was controlled using building block pieces, and a demo of virtual reality using an Oculus Rift.

Berlin Wall Memorial

Tuesday, we took a tour of the Berlin Wall Memorial and one of the former ghost stations of East Berlin. Inside of the station, there was a map of what the train transport system looked like between West Berlin, and it listed all of the stations which were designated as ghost stations. Ghost stations were stations that rested inside the boundaries of East Berlin and had paths through West Berlin. The Soviets feared that people in East Berlin may attempt to flee into “fascist” West Berlin using the train system, so they set up anti-fascist security measures to prevent this. Inside of these ghost stations were guards, who were ordered to shoot anyone who attempted to exit the trains at these ghost stations.

A short distance from the station was a large section of the Berlin Wall with a decommissioned guard tower nearby, which had been preserved as a memorial to the people who died attempting to pass over the wall. There were photographs of people from 1961 to 1989. There were a total of 138 deaths at the Wall, in which 98 people were shot dead by the Soviet guards attempting to cross over the Wall, and 30 were killed in the vicinity of the Wall.

Farewell Dinner

Our farewell dinner was hosted by Dr. Jacobsen and his wife at their apartment in Berlin. We had a three course meal that was very tasty, and then we played the bear game. The bear game is a competitive game in which players gather in a circle and take turns rolling a die. When someone rolls a 6, they can choose a bear that they want. When everyone has chosen a bear, the overseer starts a timer for 20 minutes, and the players continue rolling the die and passing it to the next player. If they roll a 6, they may trade their bear with someone else’s bear. Once the time is up, everyone keeps the bear that they have, unless they want negotiate with someone else for a trade.

I ended up getting the exact bear that I wanted, but I made the mistake of making it obvious that I liked my bear, and so I garnered attention from people who also decided that they wanted my bear. In the last minute of the game, the bear was in someone else’s possession, but I managed to roll a 6 just in time to take it back. It was a fairly tense game, where everyone — some more than others — was worried about their bear getting taken away from them without them being able to retrieve it back in time, but it was as well very exciting for the same reason.

My bear, Heinrich Himbehr
My bear, Heinrich Himbehr

Volkswagen

Thursday was the last official tour, and it was a very cool one. We went to the Volkswagen production plant in Wolfsburg to take a tour of the inside and look at how a Volkswagen car is produced. We rode in a customized Golf, in which the top was removed and the back was fitted with a trailer to fit an additional 8 people. We were able to see various models of cars being assembled on the same production lines, as well as cars that were being custom-made for customers. It was requested by the tour guide that we not take any photos while we were in the plant, so I will not be able to show any of the process here. We were told that what we saw during the tour was only a very small part of the plant, and that it would take an additional few days to see the entirety of the plant. I believed him; the place was absolutely huge.

On the tour with us was an older man and his grandson. One of the other students on the trip sparked up a conversation with the grandson, and found out that the older man was taking a tour of the plant because he would be working there as the manager of the plant one week from then. Later, after the tour, I talked to the grandson and found out that much of his family worked as managers of various European car production plants. The grandson said that he was from Norway, and that his family was quite rich. He told me that the home that he lives in cost the approximate equivalent of 12 million Euro, and that he was thinking about getting a Bugatti as his first car for his 18th birthday. We also talked about other things, including Norway’s education system, which he said was one of the most rigorous in Europe. This is something that I have read to be true, as Norway has very high standards for its people. Soon enough, however, it was time to go back to Berlin, so we said goodbye and boarded the train.

A very small portion of the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg
A very small portion of the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg
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