Brian and Lanny Go to Europe
by Nick Brady
Roth came by early to pick Brian and Lanny up for their journey north. They had packed up everything, knowing that they would not be returning.
"It's hard to say goodbye," Lanny said to Emma. "You have become like a second family to us."
"We will miss you," Emma said solemnly. "We have been blessed by your visit."
"We will never forget you," Brian added. "I hope we will meet again sometime."
"It was a lucky thing that we met in the airport," Fredrick told them. "I think that it was meant to happen. Please have a safe journey. We will trust Roth to look after you."
"I will see that they are safe while they are with me," Roth assured them.
"No more hiking in the rain," Lanny laughed, fingering his canvas sling. "I am only wearing this to please Emma. Really, I am feeling much better."
Emma hugged them both. "Please do not forget us," she said. "You must write to us and tell us when you safely return to your home."
"We will, I promise," Brian assured her.
"I will miss you too," Deiter added. "Maybe I will come and visit you someday."
"You would be very welcome, any or all of your family. We would try to show you the same kindness that you have shown to us," Lanny said sincerely.
"Come now, we must go," Roth reminded them, and picked up Lanny's pack to go to his car.
A last round of hugs and a tear from Emma, and they were off.
The day was cool but clear, as they pulled out on the Autobahn and started for Ingolstadt. Brian sat in front with Roth and Lanny was semi-reclined in the back.
"Do you know Audi automobiles?" Roth asked.
"Yes. They are sold in the States," Brian said. "They seem to be very nice cars."
"Yes, I think so. In Ingolstadt is a big Audi factory. It is very modern and we can take a tour of it. I think you might find that interesting."
"I've never been to a big manufacturing plant before. I would like to see that."
Roth glanced in the rear view mirror to see that Lanny appeared to be asleep. "Lanny will like it too, I think," Roth chuckled. "Is he sleeping again?"
Brian looked back at him. "Looks like it. I think he's still kind of stressed out from his accident."
"We will make things easy for him."
"I would sure hate to see anything happen to Lanny. Do you think he's really OK?"
"Yes. I think so," Roth nodded. "He is young and will heal quickly. Already he is feeling better. I think you should not worry too much. You worry because you love him."
As they drove, Roth made conversation with Brian. "Do you know that Ingolstadt is famous for another reason? Do you know of the story about Frankenstein?"
"Yes of course. That is the famous monster, right?"
"That is the story, although in fact, the monster had no name. It was created by a young scientist whose name was Victor Frankenstein. But many call the monster by the his name. The setting for the young scientists experiments was said to be in Ingolstadt where the young man was a student in the university there."
"I didn't know all that," Brian admitted.
"There is an interesting story about how the book was written. Would you like to know it?"
"Yes. Of course."
"Well then, I will tell you. The story of Frankenstein's monster was written by Mary Shelly, the wife of the poet Percy Shelly. They were English and were spending a dreary winter near Lake Geneva, Switzerland not far from here. They and their friends were to write a story only to pass the time. She had difficulty thinking of a good story, but had a dream about this thing that was brought to life by electricity. It became her famous story."
"Brian was reminded of his dream about Lanny and his fall, but didn't mention it. "I can see how that might happen."
"It was not long before they approached Ingolstadt and the sigh on the autobahn read 'Ausfahrt'."
"What does ausfahrt mean?" Brian chuckled.
"It is 'exit'. This is where we get off," Roth explained.
"Oh! I thought it was something rude."
"No, no. It does not mean to pass gas," Roth laughed.
"Sorry. I guess that was pretty dumb."
"The factory is just up here," Roth pointed. "It is a very nice one."
"They went through an entrance and were asked for identification and issued badges that said, 'Gast'. Brian looked around and was very impressed. "This place is huge. It's all shiny and new – lots of stainless steel and glass."
"We must go in here," Roth indicated an attractive entrance. "It is the reception center. Lanny should wake up now."
"I'm awake," Lanny told them. "I was listening, but just resting my eyes."
Inside the center they were greeted and asked to wait for the next tour. They were informed that an English speaking tour would be available later but decided that Roth could translate anything of importance.
When there were about 10 people gathered, a young man stepped up and indicated that they were to follow him. They were a mixture of old and young, men and women.
They walked down a corridor that took them past part of the assembly line. They watched as a huge roll of steel was fed into a machine which cut lengths of metal and slid the sections into a series of presses that stamped out sections of body panels that continued on to another area. The panels were fit together and welded onto a frame section that began to look like an automobile. There were employees who supervised the process and assured that the pieces where aligned properly, but the welding was done by robotic arms that twisted and turned into the right positions to welded the parts together.
"Is this all done by robots?" Lanny asked.
"Much of the heavy work is done by these machines," Roth explained, "but not all of it."
They watched in amazement as the completed bodies were conveyed to a large vat of gray rust proofing. It was slowly rotated until it was completely immersed then rotated up and out to proceed down the assembly line. Various other components were united with the body until doors were swung into place and bolted onto the body.
They followed the moving process and watched as the engine, transmission and other mechanical components were added. These components had been assembled on other lines, and merged together with the basic body. Workers followed and did some of the fine work with special tools they they swung into place. Wiring harnesses and electrical components were fed in and secured. Everything moved slowly and steadily. The workers kept busy but did not seem to be rushed. It was a marvel of efficiency.
The interior components were swung into place. Headliner and carpeting was laid in. The instrument panel, door panels and seats were pushed in on devices that put them into place where technicians saw that they were properly positioned and fastened securely. Window mechanisms where dropped into place and attached to electric motors. On the exterior, lights and bumpers were snapped into place. Wheels and tires were bolted onto the axles. The activity was a balance of mechanical and human activity that was orchestrated to keep the process moving at a steady pace.
As the car began to look like it was nearing completion, it passed through a series of inspectors who checked the fit with small gauges, and passed their gloved hands over everything to check for small flaws. The tour guide explained the process and Roth did a running translation.
"This is just fantastic," Brian exclaimed. "Everything has been figured out to come together at just the right time. How do they know that everything works properly?"
"That comes next," Roth explained. They watched as each completed automobile was driven into a large booth and positioned over rollers in the floor. Computerized instruments were connected, and a technician stepped into the car, started the engine and began to go through a simulated road test. When everything checked out properly, it was driven out the other side of the booth where an attendant drove it outside and expertly parked it to be prepared for shipping.
"What happens if one of these cars flunks the test?" Lanny asked.
"If so, it is pulled aside and corrected," Roth told him. "But at each step in the process, everything has been inspected and tested. If something is wrong, it will be found before it comes to the end. I do not thinks that very many will fail."
"I have to admit, this is very impressive," Brian said.
"It is German Engineering," Roth smiled with pride.
At the end of the tour they were thanked and invited to see the gift shop. Inside were caps and jackets with the Audi logo, and many scale models of automobiles.
"Oh man. Look at these," Brian said as he admired the display. "There are models of all the different cars that Audi makes."
"Some of these are of the racing cars made for the big European auto races," Lanny noticed. "Some of these models are really big."
"Yes, yes. And they are remote controlled," Roth explained.
Brian leaned in and looked at the prices marks in Euros and laughed. "I think these are a bit too expensive for me. They are really cool, though."
"They would be hard to fit in a back pack, anyway," Lanny laughed. "Sam and Ben would love to have one of these."
Brian shook his head. "They'll have to settle for a soccer ball."
"I think we must go. The tour is over and we are not to look around on our own. Are you ready?" Roth asked.
"Sure. Maybe we can stop for some lunch," Lanny suggested.
As they drove back through Ingolstadt, they stopped at a small cafe and went inside. "What would you like?" Roth asked.
"Whatever you recommend," Brian smiled. "You're the expert."
"I would like bratwurst. Does that sound good to you?"
"Sounds great to me," Lanny agreed. "You order and I'll pay. I insist."
Roth spoke to the waitress and in a few minutes she returned carrying a tray with three bratwursts on rolls, with mustard and sauerkraut, fried potatoes, and Coca-Colas. "I know you are surprised, but I like Cokes, and I am driving. So I will wait until this evening for my beer."
"Is our next stop Nuremberg?" Lanny asked.
Roth nodded as he ate his sandwich.
"What will we see in Nuremberg?" Brian wondered. "I remember from World History that is was where they tried all the big Nazis after the war?"
"Yes. There is much history there," Roth agreed. "Not all of it we are so proud of."
"What will we see?"
"There are the usual castles, of course," Roth smiled. It is famous for Lubkuchen, I think you say gingerbread. It is also famous for the Christmas Market and many toys are made here. These are nice things. But most people outside of Germany only know it for the Nazi period."
"Why is that?" Lanny wondered.
"If you have finished your lunch, let us be on our way," Roth suggested. "I can tell you about it in the car."
When they pulled back onto the Autobahn, Roth continued. "I am not a great student of history, but what I know about Nuremberg is interesting, I think. This place has seen many problems. You may know that the original Roman Empire lost its power in about the year 500. By this time the region was mostly Catholic, and there was some desire to re-establish the empire. As I remember, it was in about 800 when The Pope appointed Charlemagne as Emperor of what they called the Holy Roman Empire. It was called Roman because of the Roman Catholic church, not because it was descended from the Rome of the Caesars. The territory included much of what is now France and Northern Italy as well as the smaller countries around Germany. From the beginning there was a history of intolerance of those who were not Catholic. There were massacres and banishment of the Jewish people, and after the Protestant Reformation, many conflicts between Protestants and Catholics."
"But that was a long time ago. How long did it last?" Lanny wondered.
"I think until about 1800. But there were always quarrels about who was in charge. There were competing kings and even competing Popes. In some cases the King was over the Pope, and sometimes the Pope was over the King. I think that at one time, the King and the Pope both excommunicated each other. People were so disgusted with the situation, that it contributed to the Protestant Reformation.
"It was then that much conflict began between Protestants and Catholics. From about 1300 until 1800 there were many wars between the factions, and also with the Turks and with Napoleon. it was very confusing, I think. Even after the Holy Roman Empire was gone, there were more wars and much arguing. There was the desire to create a united German Empire. Some wanted to include Austria and some did not. In 1871 what is now Germany was created."
"Did that end all the fighting?" Lanny asked.
"I think maybe it was better in some ways," Roth told him. "But there was great suspicion of Catholics because it was feared that they would be more loyal to the Pope than to the nation. A series of reforms made things smoother. Even Jews were allowed to integrate into the population and many were very successful. Then there was immigration of many Russian Jews who were more difficult to assimilate, and that complicated the situation. I think that dislike of Jews was still strong among many people.
"This situation continued until the declaration of World War I. That lasted from 1914 to 1918 with Germany's defeat. After that war, the German people suffered greatly."
"But we are going to Nuremberg. Why is it so important?" Brian asked.
"Adolf Hitler made it important for the Nazis when he was the Chancellor. Nuremberg was important to the Holy Roman Empire, and I think he wanted to make it a center for his new empire – the Third Reich. He may have been crazy, but he was a powerful leader. There were important military headquarters in Nuremberg and also large factories manufacturing important weapons for war – submarines, tanks and aircraft. A concentration camp was located here and he used the prisoners for slave labor. He gave passionate speeches and had huge rallies at Nuremberg. He made it a center of Nazi ideology and propaganda. He was a master showman really. He promised to make Germany great again."
"I don't know much about Hitler except that he killed all the Jews, or tried to," Lanny remembered.
"Hitler blamed the Jews for all of Germany's problems and his final solution to that problem was to eliminate the Jews. That was almost too terrible for people to believe. I think that most Germans were not aware of what happened in those camps, or choose not to believe it. Anyone who asked too many questions was in danger of joining them," Roth explained. "The number is debated, but I think that he put over five million Jews to death. Also a lot of political dissenters and even Catholic priests. Hitler hated a lot of people, especially Jews or anyone who disagreed with him."
"This is hard for me to understand. Where did this guy Hitler come from?" Brian asked.
"Hitler was born in Austria, but when he was three, his family moved to Passau. You have been in that place," Roth reminded them. "I suppose he had a difficult childhood. His younger brother died when Hitler was 14 and by the time he was 18, both of his parents had died. He wanted to be an artist but it seems he did not have enough talent for that. He moved to Vienna, worked as a laborer and lived in a shelter for awhile. I think at that time Vienna was very conservative and he learned to distrust Jews and foreigners."
"How did he get into politics?" Lanny asked.
"That was later in his life. He wanted to get into the army, but he failed his physical examination. Then when the First World War started he managed to get into the Bavarian army. He was wounded and decided he liked war. He found it exciting, I think."
"He stayed in the Army and joined the German Workers' Party which was very nationalistic. They were against almost everything. They were anti-Semitic, anti-Capitalist, and anti-Communist. I guess he liked that. Maybe it made him feel important.
"When he got out of the Army, he started working for the party. He designed the swastika flag. Did you know that? He gave exciting speeches and was elected Party chairman."
"How did he get from that to German Chancellor?"
"Roth laughed, "First, he took a little detour. He led his party in an attempt to overthrow the Bavarian government and was sentenced to five years in jail, but he was released after one year. While in prison he wrote his book, Mein Kampf – that means My Struggle. After he got out of jail, he promised to behave and was allowed to lead his party again.
"Then he had a big opportunity. The stock market collapsed in America and the world went into the great depression. This affected Germany very badly. There were no jobs and people were hungry. Hitler was a very powerful speaker and promised to fix everything so he became popular. Maybe they were stupid, but maybe they were mostly desperate.
"The Nazi party became so strong that it dominated all others and Hitler was appointed as Chancellor in 1933. It was very unfortunate, I think. As Chancellor he had tremendous power. The party set fire to the Parliament building and blamed the Communists. Hitler managed to get himself granted emergency powers, and soon, he was basically a dictator. That was the beginning of some terrible times for us."
"What were these emergency powers?" Lanny asked.
"It meant that he was in charge of everything and could do whatever he pleased. He eliminated all those who opposed him and said that he was simply restoring order. It was frightening, but he had the support of the people. Hitler ignored the restrictions placed on Germany after the First World War and that made the country more prosperous. He said that Germany needed more Lebenstraum, that is, Living Space, and in 1939 he invaded Poland and started the Second World War. We now see Hitler as a kind of madman, but at the time he was very popular with the common people."
"And everyone supported him? That's hard to believe," Brian shook his head.
"Roth shook his head. "Remember that Germany was very depressed economically, and the military buildup put people back to work. He created the Autobahns so he could move troops and supplies across the country very quickly. He paid for much of this with money he confiscated from the Jews, and anyone who opposed him was eliminated. That's what dictators do."
After this lesson in German history, they found themselves nearing the town of Nuremberg. "We are almost here," Roth told them.
"For someone who doesn't claim to be a historian, you know a lot about all this," Lanny said.
Roth shrugged. "It is the history of my country. We learn much of this in school. We know it is important for us to understand such a terrible time. I hope it will never happen again."
"That's really sad," Brian said.
"Yes, yes. My beautiful country has a rich history," Roth explained. "Germany has contributed wonderful things to the world in art, music, science and religion. But there is a dark side to our history as well. It would not be honest of me to hide this from you. Now it is late in the afternoon. I suggest that we find a place to sleep tonight first, then I want you to see something that I think you will enjoy. Is that a good idea?"
"You're the boss," Lanny smiled. "Whatever you think best. Let me see what I can find for us." Lanny tapped on his phone and after shaking his head several times, smiled and looked up at Roth.
"If you don't mind sharing a room with us, I think we can all three stay for about $50."
"Yes. Of course. If you do not mind that I sleep in your tent, I can be happy in your room," Roth laughed.
"It is the A&O Nuernberg Hauptbahnhof. I reserved and paid for the room. Here is the address," Lanny showed the phone to Roth.
"I think that is not far away," Roth said after looking at the address. "We can unload our bags and find some dinner."
They looked the room over and decided it would be fine. There were three single beds and it was clean and neat. "This has more room than our tent," Brian laughed.
They went back to the desk where Roth asked the clerk to recommend a place to eat. "He says that the Wanderer Bieramt will be good. Will we try that?"
"Lead the way," Lanny told him.
They drove a short distance to an old building with a tall tower on one side. Nestled in the corner was a white wall with tables and chairs outside next to the cobblestone pavement. They went inside and looked over the menu posted on the wall. "What will you have?" Roth asked.
"As usual, we will trust your judgment," Lanny replied.
"Then I think I would like some wurst – some sausages. Will that be good for you? And I want a beer. Will you join me tonight?"
"Sure," Brian shrugged. "This is Germany after all, and your beer is very tasty. Even I have to admit that."
"Good! Then I will order something for us."
The inside of the restaurant was small and crowded, and the tables outside looked inviting. They went out and waited for a few minutes and a young man carrying a large tray on his shoulder, came out and found them. He laid out three glass steins of beer, and plates of grilled sausage surrounded by cooked red cabbage and creamy potatoes. It smelled wonderful.
"This is good!" Lanny exclaimed after a few bites.
"I am so happy that you like it," Roth said. "This is real German food. This nation runs on sausage and beer."
As they ate, Lanny asked, "What does our tour guide have planned for this evening?"
Roth chewed for a moment then looked thoughtful. "There is a famous church here. It is also named Frauenkirche, and is interesting. Today is Saturday, and at 6:30 there is a Eucharist. We can attend that and see the church. Perhaps also hear some nice music. Would you like to do that?"
"Sure. We are good church boys. Is it alright for us to attend since we aren't actually Catholic?" Brian asked.
Roth shrugged. "Anyone may attend, and if you want to receive Holy Communion, they will serve you if you appear to know what you are doing. You said your church is very similar."
"I don't think God will strike us dead," Brian smiled. "Kind of 'don't ask, don't tell', right?"
"Yes. I think so," Roth smiled. "We can go a little early and look at the inside."
They enjoyed a nice walk to the old church and paused to admire the architecture. It was nicely decorated on the outside, but relatively simple in style. It had a single steep roof that came to a peak in the center, with a large tower in the center of the entrance. There was a fine clock with bells and dancing figures that moved when the clock struck the hour.
Inside they went up near the front and took a seat. The church seemed larger on the inside than they would have guessed. The interior was supported by rather plain stone columns which were decorated with gilt objects. The pipes of the organ were exposed and very numerous. It did look interesting. They sat and waited for the service to begin while more people came in and took their seats. Just before 6:30 the organ swelled and the service began. There was a procession of choir and servers followed by a priest in lovely vestments.
Brian leaned towards Roth and whispered, "This looks very familiar except that the organ is a lot nicer. You would feel at home in an Episcopal church."
"Umm. Perhaps I will visit you some day. Will a Catholic be welcome there?"
"Oh sure. We'll take anybody," Brian chuckled.
The service was in German, but other than that, was easy enough for the two Americans to follow. When the Eucharist was celebrated they went up with the others and received the elements without incident. After the service, most people left but they lingered to have a better look at the interior. No one bothered them as Roth told them what he knew about the history of the place.
"This church is quite old. It goes back to the 1300s I think. It replaced a Jewish synagogue that was destroyed during a pogrom at that time. More of our interesting history, I'm afraid," Roth told them.
They took their time walking back to their hostel, looking at those small shops which were still open. Roth bought a package of gingerbread for them to snack on. Many of the buildings were covered with half-timbered walls and painted panels. It was very picturesque to Brian and Lanny's eyes. By the time they returned to their hostel, it was dark and the streets were less crowded.
There was a small pub attached to the hostel and Roth stopped there. "Can I tempt you with another beer? It is a customary thing to do on a Saturday evening, eh? Friends sit and share a glass of beer and talk with each other."
Lanny nodded. Brian smiled and admitted, "I think maybe I've been a little judgmental about your beer. I may be developing a taste for it."
"Good. Then let me treat us to a drink, since you paid for the gas in the car and bought my dinner. You are even paying for the hostel. At least let me buy us a round of beer."
"Lanny smiled, "I think we are feeling guilty for all the hospitality that was shown to us in Munich. But we couldn't refuse your kind offer."
They sat outside at a small table and Roth ordered beer and a bowl of pretzels to munch on.
"You have shared a lot of history with us today," Brian said. "And not the sort of history I expected to hear."
Roth nodded. "Perhaps I told you too much. But it bothers me that we sometimes like to forget about that part of our history. Some people say that it was bad, but now we must forget the past. I don't think so. I think we must remember those things. If we forget them we might make the same mistakes again. There are still some who do not like Jews or foreigners. That troubles me. If I only tell you pretty stories, you do not really understand us."
"There are parts of American history which aren't very pretty too," Brian told him. "When our white European ancestors migrated out across the country, they treated the Native Americans disgracefully. We stole their land and when they resisted we slaughtered them. We sort of like to forget that part."
"And the history of slavery in the States is really a sad part of our past," Lanny said. "There is still a lot of discrimination against black people in parts of the country. And there is great resentment on the part of many African Americans against the economic inequality that still exists. None of us have a past untainted by a certain amount of shame."
"I think so," Roth agreed. "And there is still a problem with homosexual people. I think that is more of a problem in America than in Germany. It troubles me to think about it. Especially now that I know you. I am a little afraid for you sometimes."
"Those things are improving," Lanny assured him. "Those problems are less serious then they were at one time, but they are still around."
"Part of that sort of thing comes from religious fundamentalism," Brian said. "But part of it is just a resistance to the idea that we are all equal. Some people just want to be sure that they are better than somebody, and resist the idea that we are all equal. They want to be sure that somebody is beneath them."
"Yes. I think that is part of why Jews have been so outcast. Is that human nature?" Roth asked. "I wish that was not so, but I think it is. Not for everyone, but for some. It is the terrible problem of terrorism in the world today. I think that Islam is not a violent religion, but there are some who twist it into something terrible. That is a result of a different sort of religious fundamentalism, I think."
Lanny shook his head. "There are Christians who do about the same thing. The reaction to violence is more violence. I don't know if that will ever change."
"I don't know how to change that," Roth admitted. "It is not in my power to change other people. But I can be sure that I treat the people I meet with respect. Maybe that is all any of us can do."
Brian drank the last of his glass of beer. "Can we solve the problems of the world with only one glass of beer?"
"No, no. It will take much more beer than that," Roth laughed. "Maybe if we could get all people to drink beer together, it would be a better world. Do you think so?"
Lanny raised his glass and smiled. "If we could get them to try and understand each other it might help."
"Are we really so different from each other?" Brian asked.
"I don't know," Roth shrugged. "It will take much more beer before I think I have the answer to that. I think maybe there is not enough beer to solve that problem. At least, not tonight."
"Right. I think I'm about ready for bed," Lanny admitted.
Roth smiled. "Maybe you would like to go to bed now. I think I want one more glass of this nice beer. It will take me an hour to drink that. Please go and spend time with each other. Is that a good idea?"
Brian looked at Lanny and smiled. "That might be a good idea. You ready for bed?"
"I think so," Lanny agreed. "Enjoy your beer Roth, and thanks."
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]