Day 4: Wolfsburg to Itzehoe
Heute Morgen habe ich ein Führung durch den VW-Fabrik gemacht. Heute Nachmittag bin ich nach Itzehoe gefahren.
I had an early start today since I had to be at VW’s headquarters at 10:15 to start my guided tour of the factory here in Wolfsburg.
After a large breakfast of bread rolls, ham, cheese, and a hard boiled egg, I packed my things and loaded it in to the car. On these types of road trips, that is the thing which I find most annoying: I never stay anywhere long enough to actually unpack. Within 24 hours it has to be pack and loaded again.
It was another warm, Sunny day so I left the car parked under a tree outside the hotel (free parking there) and made the 20 minute walk to VW, Gate 17 (the Visitors’ Entrance). The 90 minute tour of VW would be in English and also on the tour were visitors from Spain, India, Turkey and Germany – including a group of people who work for VW IT Services and a couple from India who also work for VW in Wolfsburg.
The tour starts with a 17 minute film showing the factory and the stages of production for a VW Golf, the most famous VW car. Afterwards, we were lead in to the factory and were driven about on a train towed by a VW Golf.
The factory is massive, a couple of kilometres from one side of each production wing to the other. Plenty of people cycling about inside, or driving forklift trucks, and other vehicles to transport goods and people to where they need to be.
Strictly no photos inside apart from one photo point where the guide was able to take a photo.
I found the tour very interesting, seeing how the raw materials come in and are then pressed in to the shape they need to form the car. Then the car receives its colour (the paint room was the only one we couldn’t go in to), and further down the production line the dashboard unit, premade in the basement, is placed and fixed in to position by a robot. (The way things work at VW is that robots work, humans control).
The VW factory in Wolfsburg makes cars not just for Germany but also for countries which drive on the left – Britain, Australia, Japan, Cyprus, New Zealand, etc. Cars with both left and right hand steering wheels were coming off the production line, I reckon it was about a 50/50 split.
The tour was very detailed and very enjoyable to see a working factory, producing cars. In places the factory also smelled a bit like Currywurst (Curried Sausage) – sausages are produced in the on-site butchers, and that’s how they feed their workers. VW produces more sausages than cars!
In Germany, a visit to VW is quite an occasion. When you a new VW the company puts you up for a night in the on-site hotel – then after breakfast you get a tour of the factory before you go to the towers where a giant vending machine delivers your new car to you! About 600 cars per day are delivered in this manner.
Not far from the VW Factory is the Autostadt, a VW Museum run by VW (and this is where the Customer Centre and the towers are located) – but it really needs a whole day there… so next time!
After a quick bite to eat I walked back to the car, which thankfully was still parked in the shade. The sat nav set for Itzehoe – ETA 16:15 (a 3 hour journey). To expect that to be accurate was ambitious.
The first half of the journey was not on the Autobahn. I followed the B4 to Lüneburg – had to turn round at one point because of roadworks and then take a detour to rejoin the B4 later on. This section of the journey was single carriageway, with slow moving traffic. I ended up stuck behind lorries, not able to see to overtake, on a couple of occasions.
At Lüneburg I reached the Autobahn and it was then dual carriageway all the way to Itzehoe. I was on the home straight. Or so I thought. Not long after crossing the border from Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony) in to Hamburg I stopped at the services and bought an ice cream. Then the final push – just 75km to Itzehoe.
Unfortunately this was a Friday afternoon and this is where the traffic started to build up. What should have been a journey of about 1 hour actually took double that. From about 5km before the Elbtunnel there was a solid traffic jam which stretched all the way along to the A7/A23 interchange and then up to Pinneberg where there was an accident.
For the first time I had to drive in the ‘Rettungsgasse’ (Emergency Lane) formation. This means cars on the left hand side get as far over to the left as possible – cars on the right get as far over to the right as possible – and emergency vehicles go through the middle – see the footage from my Dashcam here.
The Germans, for the most part, really are very disciplined when it comes to their Rettungsgasse formation. In theory, you’re ment to form a Rettungsgasse every time there is a traffic jam but in practice it only happens when an emergency vehicle comes through.
Once clear of the accident the road opened out, I was within 50km of my final destination and I put my foot down, reaching a top speed of 157km/h – just under 100mph (my indicated speed was 102 but I know the speedo overreads a little so I’ll go with what my GPS tracker recorded).
At that speed I covered the rest of the distance to Itzehoe in no time at all and finally made it to Itzehoe at 18:10 – just in time for the group evening meal organised by the twinning association, at 19:00.
Tomorrow – Saturday – a busy day. Itzehoe’s annual Weinfest takes place and as guests of the town I will be attending along with Richard, a long time visitor to Itzehoe from Cirencester who was involved in the early days of the link between the two towns. He, like me, is very familiar with the drive to Itzehoe having made the trip by road for years.
Fed and watered, I’m off to bed now.
Today’s Mileage: 164.7
Accumulative Mileage: 922.1