Vonnegut and Vanilla Coke: Vacation in Dresden

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April 24th 2015
Published: April 24th 2015
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We hit the road pretty hard last night and most of today, so now that's the weekend, we're taking it a little easier.

Our bus trip from Jena to Dresden yesterday went perfectly - there was wifi on the bus, and the seats were very nice. I think this was a new bus line, in competition with the German national bus system. I'll definitely not mind using them again if I need a bus. This was my first time on the Autobahn, and though the bus didn't do any mind-blowing speeds, some of the cars and motorcycles passing us sure did. My new bag made the trip smoothly, too. A Russian family at one point asked Erica to talk to a friend in German as we approached one of the stops, I'm guessing just to make sure they were getting picked up. When we got to Dresden, we found out, though, that the bus only went to the main station, not to the one closest to our lodging. So, we got some tram tickets and set about trying to make our way to the other side of town. We had a couple of snags along the way, but we eventually got here after walking more than we had really anticipated. Again, my new bag is doing fine.

Our hostel is in Neustadt, the newer, more artsy area of town. So walking here was an adventure for the eyes, if nothing else. Lots of nightlife here. The "receptionist" was a chipper young lady who seemed to enjoy her job, and once we got to our room on the 3rd floor, Erica pronounced that that girl was "sooo stoned." I guess that explained her enthusiasm. We're in a hostel, for sure, but we were smart enough to book the room with the Trabant, nicknamed the "Trabi," an East German car from the communist days. We saw the room pictures of the hostel when we were planning this trip back in February, and I asked if we could request the room with the Trabi. We did, and we got it. My bed is actually inside the car! The doors still open, and the hatchback is permanently open, but the seats have been removed. It retains all 4 tires. The pleather is still there, as is the steering wheel and pedals. All the windows are intact, too. The engine is missing, otherwise they never would've gotten that thing up to the 3rd floor. Even still, I'm not sure how they got it up here. It really wasn't that bad to sleep in. And since we requested this room, it means that we don't have to share it with anyone, since it's a maximum of 3 people, and we've got 2 of the beds taken. Check out the photos!

Once we got settled in, we went around the corner to this döner-kebap place. There was an older Russian woman, who was very happy and grateful for our visit. Erica got something to eat, but I was mainly thirsty. I got a Fanta with kiwi flavor, and I recommend that. On the TV was some Russian show that Erica had already seen on a Bulgarian bus she had taken in Germany not long ago, it turns out. They also had some Russian talk show come on while we were there, so I was trying to practice my listening skills. It was pretty funny, what I could pick up. But we were both pretty worn out, so we headed back to the room and I was asleep not long after midnight.

This morning, we had scheduled the Kurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse-5 Tour for 11 AM. We left in time to take the tram there, which Erica had mapped out. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring the map of the streets to get to the tram stop with us, so after 10 minutes of thinking I was following her, she asked me which direction to go. A moment of panic ensued before we realized that we still had plenty of time, since we had also been mistaken about the time of our tour. We thought 10, so we still had over an hour to get to the tram stop. We stopped for breakfast and enjoyed the atmosphere in the outdoor seating at this bakery. Even then, we still made our tour with 10 minutes to spare.

The guy leading the tour was definitely interested in tying the book to the city, and even applying it to current events in Dresden. If you've not read the book, do that. What you need to know is that Vonnegut himself was a POW in Dresden on the night the Allies firebombed the town in 1945, and not much remained of the town after that. We got a little civics lesson about Dresden and walked along the River Elbe in the direction of the (in)famous slaughterhouse. We were allowed to go inside the buildings, which are now a convention center that has mostly been remodeled (some of the walls remain as they were, with new paint, of course). But most of the "gross" stuff is no longer there. You can still get a weird, eerie feeling when you're in the lower levels, which is where the men hid out during the bombing.

After the tour, we got some lunch in this Altmarkt Mall place and enjoyed people watching for a while. We also got some groceries to make pasta, since we have a kitchen at our disposal here. We visited the Frauenkirche, which had been bombed to near destruction (like most of Dresden). Only a couple of the walls remained (which is better than a lot of Dresden), though they've built it back up in the past 25 years. There's still a portion of the remnant wall out front. Inside the church, it was a bit over the top, but I guess that's what Baroque art is meant to be. We left the church, and I walked around on the Old Town side of the river while Erica enjoyed a beer at one of the cafe-type places on the square around the church. There's not really a lot to see around there - a few reconstructed Baroque buildings, some bridges over the river, and a lot of restaurants and tourist kiosks. The last thing we saw before taking the tram back to our side of the city was the reputedly-longest mural in the world - the Fürstenzug Mural, which shows the successions of counselor/leaders of Dresden from the Middle Ages until 1904. It is the largest porcelain artwork in the world, and you can see a good chunk of it at the top of this blog entry.

We've come back to the hostel for a little rest after walking a great deal in the past 24 hours. There's still a few things on our agenda, but I think that we're going to stick around this part of town tonight and tomorrow, and then we'll venture back over to the Old Town on Sunday.

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