The reason we stop off in Wolfsburg on our way to Berlin is to visit the Autostadt, Volkswagen’s factory slash showroom slash car-related theme park. In fact, the only reason the city of Wolfsburg exists at all is because it was built by the Nazis in 1938 to house workers building the people’s car. It is still very much a company town: the local soccer team is sponsored by Volkswagen and plays at Volkswagen Arena.
People from all over Germany come here to pick up their new Volkswagen. You can also test drive the new models (Myles drove the Golf GTe, while Cath drove the Tiguan, and may well get one when she gets back home) and even take cars on advanced 4WD tracks. Despite having booked in advance to go on the 4WD track, they don’t have an English speaking instructor and therefore they won’t let Myles do it.
The Autostadt campus is a cross between a car show, a world expo site, the movie Gattaca, and Mindhead headquarters out of the movie Bowfinger. Each brand in the VW family has a building. We visit Porsche, VW (obviously) and Audi. Some of the pavilions are quite architecturally spectacular.
You can view all the cars and sit in them and so on. Until we win the lotto, it will probably be the closest we get to owning a 911 or an R8. Lamborghini doesn’t display any cars and only shows a film, so we don’t bother to visit their pavilion. We also don’t bother with Skoda, because, well, it’s Skoda.
Along with looking at cars, many of the pavilions have weird technology gimmicks as well. One pavilion, emphasising VW’s green credentials, features a child’s swing that ostensibly powers a camera to take a photo of you swinging. We were here some months before the VW scam was identified, so we didn’t think to check that this was actually real.
We missed out on a tour of the car towers, two 60 metre tall towers which hold 400 cars moved about by a mechanical arm, but we still get to watch them in action from the outside. It’s pretty incredible to watch. Every VW bought at the Autostadt comes with a peek inside, which almost makes buying one worthwhile (unfortunately it won’t fit in our luggage).
While the Ritz-Carlton adjoining the Autostadt has one of the best restaurants in the world (Aqua, coming in at 33rd in the world) our budget doesn’t stretch quite that far and we’re pretty happy with our much cheaper currywurst in the cafe. None of us had really expected to enjoy our day at the Autostadt, but it ended up being a very interesting and enjoyable way to spend the day.
Top 5 rejected titles for this article:
Who’s afraid of Virginia Wolfsburg?
What’s the time Mr Wolfsburg?
Big bad Wolfsburg
(and yes we know it’s pronounced volfsburg but that doesn’t lend itself as readily to wolf puns).