Showing Dresden Off to Others, Part II
Day 5 – Meißen
I hadn’t been back to Meißen since ’93, so that’s something. It’s a cool, old-looking city. We toured the Dom and went to the porcelain factory store (because the tour gets poor reviews). Walked around. Saw old buildings. Went to a bakery, although I wasn’t sure if that was meant as lunch or a light snack. I got kicked out of the factory store because I was wearing a backpack even though everyone else in the store was also wearing a backpack and was not getting kicked out. I dunno. Left me a little Meißen-negative.
I’d say Rothenburg did it better, but Rothenburg is kind of fake while I think Meißen is mostly original. Quedlinburg does it better. Next time I’m over there I should probably head back to the East Harz and re-verify. There are probably some good hikes around that area also.
I misstated myself: this was the first time back in Meißen since ’02 when I visited with the Nooduitgang, none of whom follow my blog.
The train rides to Meißen and back were fine.
Day 6 – Blasewitz
Somehow it felt like we’d been doing a lot of things, so we kind of took a day off to do less things. The major highlight, though, was taking the Straßenbahn out to Blasewitz first for lunch at a legit German restaurant, then to take a look at the Blaues Wunder bridge, which is I think mostly noted for not having been blown up in World War II like all the other bridges were.
Blasewitz is a neighborhood of Dresden that’s reasonably central — I think there’s maybe one other neighborhood between it and the central Altstadt (possibly two). But yet the photo above is the view down-river heading toward the Altstadt. Point being: even inside city limits, Dresden can look pretty pastoral.
Blasewitz is also one of the wealthier parts of town. A lot of villas and large homes there. It was my second choice for neighborhoods to stay in.
I guess I’ll mention our accommodations now. I found a place off AirBnB that was, like, the only two-bedroom, one-point-five bath vacation rental available in all of Dresden. It was well located in Innere Neustadt. OTOH it was a super hot week for May in Dresden, the place had no AC, and there was no way to get a cross-breeze going with the way the apartment was laid out. Therefore: it was hot and hard to sleep every night. Should have gone to Blasewitz, enjoyed the fresh breezes off the river.
Is that a thing? One day I’ll live closer to a river. I live a block and a half away from a river right now, but I can do better.
Day 7 – Kurort Oybin
Having Garry and Judie along for this trip was great in most possible ways. Made the vacation a lot more enjoyable, not least due to being able to see this place through someone else’s eyes. Having Garry there in particular, who always only ever has visited the Romantic Road parts of Germany when in-country, made me realize that if there is such a thing as homogeneous Germany, then the southeast corner of Saxony isn’t part of it. Or also, having on my previous trip to the country visited Bad Urach for Thomas and Kristine’s wedding — Dresden and its surrounding areas feel nothing like that place.
It’s interesting to me how countries in Europe, despite language barriers, still seem to blend into one another. In this corner of Saxony, it’s easy to feel the pull of Poland and Czech. Things are a little slower, less sophisticated, less developed, and less modern. It’s like this: when I think of going to Germany, I’m always thinking of Germany as Dresden. The reality, though, is that Dresden isn’t, I don’t think, all that German. Western Germany seems kind of homogenized — a lot of it looks and feels like the States. Dresden (and for that matter most of the east) never feels like it’s part of that homogeny. It’s like you’re visiting a whole other non-US country.
At any rate, those were things that really hit me on the day we drove out to Oybin.
For one, it’s hard to imagine that somewhere in the Schwarzwald there’s a drive-through ski jump in some stage of decay from which you can look out over the valley to the hill where the ruined cloister is.
Also, some of the elements of vor-der-Wende East Germany aren’t all that far away.
And then Oybin has this whole ruined cloister (abbey?) that, while not unvisited, isn’t overrun by tourists like it would be if it were a mere hour out of Mannheim.
And then we drove back to our Neustadt hot-box.
Day 8 – Moritzburg
This was actually Sunday. My brother and I drove out to Mittweida for church, where we were informed that it was stake conference and that, for some reason, everyone was meeting in Chemnitz. So we then drove out to Chemnitz only to find out that by “stake conference” they meant “regional conference broadcast from Salt Lake”, at which point we kind of noped out. But hey, at least I got to drive around a lot in the rental Skoda!
Then we went back to Dresden, probably ate or something, then headed out to Schloß Moritzburg to interact with more locals doing what locals do on a weekend.
Day 9: Glashütte and Seiffen
Next day we ended up going to the Erzgebirge, specifically Glashütte and Seiffen. Glashütte is the city where the finest German-made watches are made (if you know your watch brands — well, A. Länge & Söhne and Glashütte Original are hand-made here). Seiffen is where wooden Christmas ornaments come from. So — yeah.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of watch-making to be seen in Glashütte, at least not outside the pleasant museum at the center of town. OTOH, there’s a cool little church there that was fun to sit in and try to figure out what all the artwork was symbolizing.
Of all the churches we saw on this trip, this was the one that I could most easily imagine attending. FWIW. Probably because of all the dark colors.
And then Seiffen was Seiffen. I bought a couple ornaments, because what else was I gonna do? Garry and Judie bought something bigger, the identity of which has been lost to the ether forever. Or I guess I could ask them what it was.
Day 10: Festung Königstein and Dresden Abfahrt
Somehow this was only an eight-day visit, yet it has 10 days in it. Lost to the ether.
Festung Königstein is a fortress complex up in the Sächsische Schweiz. My co-travelers needed to end the day in Berlin and I in Kassel en route to the airport the following day or something.
Hadn’t been to Königstein since ’93 though. Forgot what a good little Ausflug it was. Took the S-Bahn out to Königstein town, then hiked up the hill so we could feel superior to those idiots who just drove to the top like, you know, idiots.
The fortress was used for a lot of different things over time and tells a pretty clear story of Saxony and its fall at the hands of first the Prussians then later Napolean. One of the things it was used for, though, was as a POW camp during WWI.
The one prisoner really likes his cat. He also kind of looks like my nephew-in-law.
And then, just as evidence I was there:
For tourist site qua tourist site, this one was probably my favorite of the trip. Wish we’d gone there with more time on our hands and without concerns about returning a rental car and catching trains. I’d sort of hoped to hit this up as part of a bike ride down the Elbe, but that didn’t materialize this time around. Maybe next year.
And then we went back to the apartment, packed up, then took the rental car back. Before taking the rental car back, though, my brother asked if I knew how to get to where we were going. I answered that I could walk there pretty easily, but that I was pretty sure that driving there would require us to make at least five concentric circles. I was pretty close to right-on with that estimate.
Finally, my thanks to all of you who think of Dresden as, at best, a place to stop over for a night between Berlin and Prague. You’re so right. So, so right.
Eight Really Good Days in Dresden
Last May I went on this trip. My good friend Thomas was getting married to Christine in the vicinity of Stuttgart. I was invited. Then I decided that since I was going to Germany anyway, I might as well spend some time back in the ol’ mission field.
I sometimes struggle with vacation. The one previous to Dresden, in which we drove around the South Island of New Zealand hiking to glaciers and waterfalls, eventually wore me out. I didn’t want that again. Also, I didn’t want to go to Dresden and have it turn into a greatest hits situation, when I was just re-touring the same places I’d toured in previous trips to Dresden (1992, 1995, 2002, 2006). So: a home base trip with Dresden as home base and finding a set of places to visit that were theretofore unvisited.
Anyway, it worked out pretty well.
Day 1: Arrival in Dresden
Flight: OKC to ORD, ORD to FRA, FRA to DRS. The FRA to DRS was such a cute, under-full flight, it was awesome. 737-300 IIRC. Very retro. When I got to Dresden, I had to wait a couple hours for my rental car to be ready (because I’d entered an incorrect arrival time). Eventually ended up with an A3 TDI. But this was before TDIs were known to be evil. Then I drove to my hotel in Dresden-Neustadt and commenced to walk around all day trying to stay awake until at least 8 PM (des Jet Lags wegen). Got a SIM card from the Vodaphone store; the guy there was very helpful, very cool about it. For dinner, I had some Turkish food that was terrible.
Day 2: Zwinger, Military History Museum
Day two, I woke up. I had taken enough Simply Sleep and Melatonin to keep me down until 6 AM, which I thought was a pretty good feat. Hooray for science!, etc. Went around and saw many of the same old sites in Dresden’s Altstadt. While doing so went against my intent to “only do new things”, (a) there was a lot new about Dresden’s Altstadt vs. the last time I had been there back in 2006, and (b) it would seem kind of messed up to visit Dresden and somehow just avoid the entire Altstadt. Messed up in the negative sense.
Eventually, I did something new on Day 2 by first going to the Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon at the Zwinger and then, in the afternoon, visiting the Military History Museum. The salon was a cool visit; back in the old-days, there were official timekeeper-astronomers, who established what the official time in Dresden was, based on precise measurements, etc. On display there were a number of related instruments (z.B. very early telescopes), a huge assortment of watches and clocks throughout history, and some art-tools, such as the world map that had a different clock (and time) for all 360 degrees of longitude.
The salon appropriately (?) investigated, I caught a Strassenbahn up to way-outer Neustadt for the military history museum. This museum was likewise empfehlenswert. Not only does it display a military history focused on German military exploits, but it does so from a staunchly pacifist perspective — which isn’t really what I, as an American, am used to from a military museum. Whereas American military museums are very ready to make cool war stuff come across as cool war stuff, the museum in Dresden is considerably more circumspect (you mean war has a non-glorious downside?). As a result, you don’t leave the place wanting to volunteer yourself, buy an extra couple flags for the front yard, or even underwrite a new trillion-dollar (-euro, -DMark) fighter plane appropriations bill.
Day 3: Bike Riding the Elbe
For Day 3, I asked the hotelman to rent me a bike and he did. So I rode the bike to the Neustadt Bahnhof, bought a ticket for Schöna, and missed the train leaving for there by about 20 seconds. Waited for another half-hour, then took the next train south into the Sächsische Schweiz. One nice thing about Dresden-area tourism is that I feel no compulsion to translate place names out of the original (because, really, does Saxonian Switzerland mean any more to anyone than Sächsische Schweiz? eh, maybe, whatever). Got off the train in Bad Schandau, because that’s where the train stopped (it would have been another 30 minutes in Neustadt to get the next one to Schöna is why). Rode to the Czech border, then rode downstream back to my hotel in Dresden, following the Elberadweg, a bike path that follows alongside the Elbe river all the way (supposedly) to the North Sea. There aren’t a lot of places to buy water between Pirna and Dresden.
Day 4: Going to Church in Mittweida
Day 4 was a Sunday, so I drove out to Mittweida, one of my old wards from the mission days, to attend church. It was a great experience. I recognized pretty much everyone. They had no clue who I was. So it goes. Nevertheless, could not have been a warmer welcome. It made me resent the church in Oklahoma just that much more. Well played. A lot of good conversations and friendliness. This being Sachsen, they asked me to talk in sacrament meeting and then, after church, I fielded multiple invitations to come over for dinner.
I remember when I was a missionary (a) being very tired and (b) thinking my mission president was ill-suited to leadership, but more to the point (c) thinking it was kind of amazing the extent to which the church members (in the small-town wards in particular) took care of each other and the missionaries and how they seemed very unlike what I would expect of myself as a church member back home. This seems to still be true. Or it least, it did as of May 2015.
Day 5: Oybin in the Zittauer Gebirge
I was inspired by this post from Erin Jensen back in ’13 to visit Oybin, a place of which I had theretofore not heard. I drove rather than taking the Schmalspurbahn. Parking was weird. There’s a ruined old cloister up there in the mountains. The pictures tell most of the story that there is to tell, but basically it’s like spending a few hours in a Caspar David Friedrich painting. And then I had some amazing sauerbraten with böhmischen klößen at the bottom of the hill. One of the coolest sites I’ve ever visited, whether that shows up in the photos or not.
Oybin is located in the Zittauer Gebirge. Mountainous area. To get up to the ruins, you have to
climb a mountain walk a gentle uphill path.
Also nearby was this ski jump that you drive under and that probably has a pretty good view of the ruins on a clear day.
Day 6: Schloß Moritzburg
Back in the day when Saxony ruined all of, well, Poland, the prince of Saxony built a lot of stuff. Among those things were this vacation home, Moritzburg Castle, which originally went up in the mid-1500s. America had been discovered, what else was there to do?
Had hunting grounds, a couple lakes, yellow castle, some pretty decent landscaping. I went into the castle. They forbid photography for some reason. OTOH, there wasn’t really all that much to photograph — old beds, old tapestries, a lot of mounted antlers, some fine china and silverware. But the outside was pretty legit. There was also a restored Ju-52 airplane flying around (apparently Lufthansa did the restoration and tours Germany selling rides).
Day 7: Working in Dresden
I had to help revise a draft of a paper on Day 7. It was therefore sort of a work day. Which I guess was okay. Walked around Dresden some. Took a couple more photos.
Day 8: The Erzgebirge
Fine, Day 8 was more about leaving Dresden. But on the way out I stopped by a few places: Glashütte, Seiffen, and some ruined castle the name of which is lost to the ether.
Glashütte was/is the center of German fine watch making. They took a break during DDR times, but now there are several watch factories in the small town, many (most?) exclusively manufacturing hand-made watches. If you want to pay $50,000 fora watch that you still have to wind by hand, this would be a good place to look. Seiffen, on the other hand, is the Saxonian center of small, wooden Christmas decorations, so, you know. Then the place the name of which I’ve forgotten is a fortress that doesn’t exist any more. And my camera battery died after three photos there.
So there was that.
Bathrooms in East German Apartments I Used to Live In
The real tragedy is that I only have photos of 3 1/2 of the bathrooms. And really not the good ones either. Man, but I’d *kill* for a picture of the Döbeln plumpskloh (sp?), especially if it showed off the mid-winter frozen condensation on the window and toilet seat. Man. Oh well.
The upside of these photos is that they give me good ideas of what I should do with my house I’m maybe gonna buy in Pittsburgh. Very good ideas. I’m sure you can imagine the home I’m hoping to create is going to be very different from this one though!
I’m not sure how using the Gera bathroom for two months did *not* kill me. And it was the nicest one I had the whole two years. The washer-dryer combo emptying into the tub is a nice touch. Sehr mode!
That one was at the Kurt-Fischer-Hotel (which was not actually a hotel; we called it that because if someone was getting blitzed home, that missionary stayed their last night with us — I’m sure I personally inspired everyone who came through there to eventually straighten up, fly correctly). The shower fed off a two-gallon hot water tank; the desk lamp over the sink seems like an under-utilized concept. And if I could, I’d usually try and hold it till I got to Tiergartenstraße 40 in the morning.
I don’t think the bathtub actually worked here, which explains why the definitely non-functional communist Schleudermaschine is inside it. And the best part of this apartment was that we had a Nazi fork among the silverware. Should have grabbed it on my way out. Biggest regret of my mission.
The toilet is through that door. The door is down the stairs from the apartment. Because it’s not a flush-toilet, that’s why it’s nowhere near the actual apartment (I figure).
Um, so yeah. Then here’s my ranking of Best Bathrooms of East German Apartments I Used to Live In That Are Not Pictured Above:
- Döbeln – Frost on the inside window of an in-house outhouse toilet closet!
- Halberstadt – For some reason the apartment had 12 rooms and covered 2,000 s.f., but the bathroom was contained in a cubby hole. (We had a library in that apartment, a workout room, a clothes-drying room, and a room where we threw unwanted baked goods.)
- Hohenstein-Ernstthal – Very little recollection of this bathroom except that it was in the kitchen.
- Hof (bei Weber) – Though technically in West Germany, Hof was East Germany in spirit. And we had a neighbor who was always begging to borrow our shower because he was tired of having to bathe in his sink. A lot of things wrong with that. (Also wish I could have scored a copy of that tape Denny and Kalama(?) made for Omi Weber — so many regrets.)
- Mittweida (bei Jentzsch/Laube sort of) – We were living in an apartment that the Laube family was renovating while living in alongside us. Got walked in on a few times (they hadn’t gotten around to putting a doorknob on the bathroom yet).
- Hof (the *good* Wohnung) – Utterly westernly normal.
PS, Re: the headline, it’s the *apartments* that I lived in; I did not live (primarily) in the bathrooms.