Everything packed? Toothbrush? Check! Passport? Check! Sunglasses? Check! If so, come and join me on a quick trip around the world. Our unique, almost magical journey begins in Spain and ultimately leads us to the technology centre in Ludwigsburg. Don’t worry, though, we won’t be gone long. Before we leave, let me set the scene …

In 2016, MANN+HUMMEL celebrated its 75th anniversary as a company, having evolved from a modest Swabian filter plant to become an international enterprise. That calls for a celebration! All of us here in Ludwigsburg were very excited to be marking this very special milestone and our locations around the world joined us in our jubilation. Luckily for us, this meant we received a mountain of gifts from far and wide.

Prepare for take-off

Is there one item that you would typically associate with the whole of Spain? It’s a tough call as the Iberian Peninsula simply has so much to offer! For our colleagues, however, there was only one possible answer: castanets! As a symbol of the culture and zest for life in Spain, they make a perfect 75th anniversary present. From a typically French 2CV and a ball steeped in history from Himmelkron in Bavaria to a wooden nativity scene from the Czech Republic, all of the gifts we received have one thing in common – they are products of a specific culture and represent the key values of their respective country.

A group of our southern colleagues decided to take this idea and come up with something that would combine creativity and freedom with a certain carefree attitude and elegance. The result was a prestige object that spans the generations and even has a link to the MANN+HUMMEL mascot ‘Hummeli’. I am talking about a Vespa, originating, of course, from Italy. The manufacturer of these vehicles, Enrico Piaggio, was involved in the invention of the scooter so many Italians had him to thank for their ability to get from A to B. Since the shape of this model of scooter reminded him of a bee or wasp, he affectionately gave it the name ‘Vespa’.

Ladies and gentlemen, hold on tight as we continue with our journey. Please make sure that your seats are in the upright position and fasten your seatbelts. If you look out of your windows in just a moment, you will be able to make out the outline of Turkey. There you can listen to the sounds of the waves crashing and feel the warmth of the sun’s rays. In the morning, the smell of fresh Turkish coffee fills the air, wafting through the streets (and the offices in the MANN+HUMMEL building). No surprise, then, that our anniversary present from our Turkish colleagues was a pair of coffee cups. We will now take a slight left turn and head towards Russia. We will make our way from the Ural Mountains over the North Siberian Lowland south of the Arctic Ocean to the Central Yakutian Lowland. The diversity of this country is reflected in its famous matryoshka nesting dolls. Turned from wood, they vary in design, colour and size, offering a symbolic representation of the variety seen across the length and breadth of Russia. A few months ago, a version of this piece of Russian cultural heritage made its way to us here in Germany. In China, too, there are similar emblems that are representative of the nation. With less personification, stone lions exude power, tenacity and courage here. Said to protect the residents of the building they guard, these beasts are now keeping a watchful eye over employees in Ludwigsburg.

We are now approaching our next destination: India. Prepare for high temperatures, as here the mercury even hits 30 degrees in February. With this in mind, the symbolic items chosen for us by our Indian colleagues were something of a surprise. The employees in the south (Tumkur) and the north (Bawal) both settled on an item of clothing as their gift to us. The Mysore Peta is a turban that used to be worn by kings and today is used to mark special achievements. This gift was accompanied by juttis – truly multifaceted shoes. Whether in an understated or flamboyant design, this footwear is suitable for every occasion, making for a reliable everyday option that can also be kept on to dance the night away.

Before we move on to the next continent, we first need to quickly stop off in Singapore. As I said at the start of our journey, all of these gifts are intended to convey certain national values and Singapore is no exception. The Merlion is a typical symbol of the country – half-fish and half-lion, this creature epitomises the nation, reflecting courage and agility. It’s time to make a move a bit further over the Indian Ocean and we still have the Atlantic Ocean ahead of us. As luck would have it, we come across a ‘small piece of land’ on our way. Our colleagues over in Australia steered clear of gifts based on animals, clothing and vehicles, and instead gave us a football. In a nation of sporting fans, ‘Australian rules football’ is incredibly popular here. As you can tell from the name, this game was invented down under and is still only played there.

Now it’s time to travel back in time, so to speak, and towards the sun. If you check out of the window, you will see that we have now crossed the water. We are currently flying over Argentina and Brazil – homes to more of our colleagues who sent us two fantastic gifts. Please switch off your electronic devices and prepare for landing! Welcome to Mexico! This is a country with a rich history, unique nature and intensely flavoursome cuisine. But which emblem represents this country best? Our colleagues settled on the Aztec Sun Stone or Calendar Stone. The original monolith was sculpted during the heyday of the Aztec Empire, but was buried by the Spanish at the time of the conquest. It was a long time before this object was rediscovered and it is still revered by the locals today.

America is just a stone’s throw away from here, giving us chance to delve into the history of the car with a Ford or set off in search of Elvis. There’s no need for us to make this journey any more, though, as both this historical vehicle and music industry legend have already found their way to us. Now we can have a taste of America in Germany – awesome! We are heading back home now, making our way slowly but surely. Why not have one last look out of the window and enjoy taking in the silhouettes of the countries below us. Right now we are flying over the United Kingdom, home to the traditional red telephone box – and now we have one of our very own!

In 2016, all of the objects, symbols and emblems I have told you about during our journey found their way to our technology centre in Ludwigsburg. Although every single one of these items has its own story behind it, when they are all collected together they represent a huge part of our world.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please make your way to the nearest exit – we have reached our final destination.