P1030014-1.JPGMary in front of BMW Headquarters

We took a cross-town train yesterday to the site of the 1972 Summer Olympics. It is now a well-maintained park that features several sport facilities plus a giant arena where concerts and special events are regularly held. Cheek-by-jowl with the Olympic site is a curvaceously modern building known as BMW Welt (World.) Connected to BMW Welt is a BMW Museum. The museum was closed yesterday but the Welt was bustling.

Once inside, it quickly became clear to us that BMW Welt is basically a giant showroom for BMW products; a glorified dealership if you will. I had expected something a little different – perhaps more on the line of a museum. It reminded me a lot of the pavilions that once graced the world’s fairs of old. There were a few educational exhibits and interactive attractions but 90% percent of it was dedicated to showing off BMW cars and motorcycles.

I am, of course, vaguely aware of BMW’s reputation as a sporty, well-made car. After visiting BMW Welt, I now know that BMW is more than just another car – it has a cult following. I can’t imagine hundreds of people taking the trouble to visit, say, a large Ford showroom but BMW doesn’t seem to have any trouble pulling them in. Among our fellow visitors were more than a few Japanese men in dark blue suits (Toyota spies?) BMW is clearly a car company on the rise.

For the BMW enthusiast who can’t yet afford an actual car, BMW Welt sold a large variety of less expensive paraphernalia: BMW sunglasses, BMW gloves, BMW socks, etc. As you might expect, BMW sunglasses are well-made but expensive. I came away with no souvenirs; Mary settled for peeing in a BMW toilet.

P1030016.JPGBMW Babe?

Mary’s visit to the toilet reminds me of our visit to the Olympics site a week ago. The pool where Mark Spitz won his seven gold medals is still open for business. For 4 Euros ($5) anyone can swim there. We considered coming back another day with our swim suits and giving it a go – you know, so we could say we had swum where Mark Spitz did his thing. Coming back down to earth, we realized it’s a long way to go for a swim so it’s probably not going to happen. But on that same day, we also strolled through the training facility where the gymnasts practiced and kept themselves limber before the actual competition. Mary used the restroom there and said to me upon exiting “Well, maybe I’ll never swim in the same pool as Mark Spitz but there’s a good chance I peed in the same toilet as Olga Korbut!”