The Highs and Lows of Dresden

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April 26th 2015
Published: April 26th 2015
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This weekend trip has been mostly stress-free, which is partly how I define a successful vacation. I feel like I've seen most of what Dresden has to offer, and anything that remains will give me a reason to come back.

To start off with, yes, we went to the Lebowski bar, and there are several pictures of it here. They do indeed have the movie showing - I assume that it's on repeat, since we didn't really stay there long enough to make sure. The decor is also Lebowski-inspired: the art, including framed objects and wall murals, all either show scenes from the movie or props that could easily have shown up there. They even have bowling shoes hanging from the ventilation piping above the bar. It's pretty small - longer than it is wide, by about 6 times. Most of the people there were outside, and even then, there are only 2 small tables on the street, which compete for customers of other establishments on either side of Lebowski. It's not really all that awesome, to be honest, unless you're a die-hard fan of the film. I'm not, though I do enjoy the film. I'm sure some of my friends would have considered this some kind of pilgrimage. If so, Dresden awaits!

Saturday was a beautiful day here - cool and sunny with no rain. Our main objective was the flea market in the morning. We slept in, since everything we wanted to do was in walking distance, and nothing opened particularly early on Saturday. We stopped by a place called Curry & Co., home to one of Germany's most famous culinary inventions of the past few decades: the currywurst. No trip to Germany for an outsider is complete without one, in my book. So we got the currywurst with fries and cola. It was passable, though the local guides claim that it is the best in town. Erica claims that Jena's currywurst is better, and less expensive.

At the flea market, we walked around for probably an hour, just getting the scope of what we had. It was pretty big. I was on the hunt for DDR stuff (that's East Germany, for the unfamiliar) as well as anything from before then (i.e., Nazi stuff). I found loads of DDR stuff, but when we did find Nazi stuff, it of course usually has some kind of fluorescent tape over the swastika. I found a Nazi Party member badge, but the guy wanted 40€ for it, which I neither had nor was I willing to pay. Turns out, if I really wanted it, I should've paid, since they routinely sell for twice that much. I finally found a guy who had stuff I wanted - a DDR Tourist badge for my traveling hat. While there, I also found a 1939 penny from the Third Reich, as well as a Luther Day 1933 badge. He wanted 10€ for the lot - 2€ for the coin, 3€ for the tourist badge, and 5€ for the Luther badge. I said I didn't want the Luther badge that much, so he said I could have all 3 for 8€. I took his offer.

After that, we meandered back to the New Town side of the river, just taking our time and going in no real direction. We saw a couple of fountains, a little park with a statue of a naked guy shooting an arrow over to the Old Town side, and there was even a guy who washed his hands in the dirty fountain water. We stopped by a Konsum, the East German supermarket, on the way back to the room, where I found some Vita cola Pur - the black kind that actually tastes a little like Coke. It's the only kind of that brand that I'll drink. It was all manufactured here during the Communist days as a Coke knock-off, and people still drink it today. When we got back to the room, we made the pasta that we bought Friday at the grocery store for very cheap. For cheap pasta, it was pretty good. We even toasted some of the free rolls that the hostel had left out and added garlic and butter for some improvised garlic bread. We were quite full - and it was the first hot meal on this whole trip that I've prepared. Usually, it's either restaurants, sandwiches, or snacks.

Today was a little more eventful. We had a tour of the VW Plant scheduled for 3PM, but we didn't really have anything else scheduled. So we took our time getting up and moving. We finished off the pasta for brunch before heading out to the Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Simeon of the Wonderful Mountain. Try saying that 3 times fast! I had seen it from the window of our bus on Thursday when we were coming into Dresden, and I made it a priority. The onion domes are all blue, which was just spectacular to me. They were holding some services when we got there, so we didn't get to go inside. But the outside was cool enough.

Our next stop was the Hygiene Museum. It sounds boring, and some of the stuff inside was. But they had an exhibit on anatomy that mainly consisted of wax models of people's body parts, mainly faces and genitalia, and a LOT of them with syphilis. It was pretty gross, for the most part. It was really hard to get anything else out of the exhibit. I felt dirty and also got a friendly reminder or 10 about the inevitability of death. That's just not something I keep on my mind, or in the back of my mind, these days. Yes, it was somewhat of a reality check, but it was an unfriendly one. Luckily, they did not allow photographs, although I probably wouldn't have taken any anyway.

Finally, we were ready to go to the Gläserne Manufaktur, the official name of the VW Plant in the middle of Dresden. Unfortunately, we had to get from the museum to the factory in the rain. I was fortunate enough to have a dri-fit shirt on, and Erica was fortunate enough to have an umbrella. Otherwise, things would've been much worse. Our tour, in English, was led by a guy named Ivo, who was very-nicely dressed and spoke with good English, though with a strong accent. Erica and I were the only native English speakers in our group, so a lot of the times, I felt like he was talking to us. There were 4 or 5 rude East Europeans on the tour, but I'll say no more of them. We got to see some nice cars and the assembly line where the cars are put together. The plant wasn't operating at the time, but there were cars in various states of construction all over. Most of them were black. They make the VW Phaeton here, as well as some Bentleys. We got to see both types. It really was a fascinating 1.5 hours walking around and seeing the craftsmanship. Of course, I could never afford any of these cars, and I'm sure that's what most of the other people in our group were thinking, too. If not, they were delusional. We weren't allowed to take pictures of the assembly line, but we could take photos of the stuff in the show room and the lobby, as well as the room with the 1937 Horsch, which was gorgeous.

We made one last stop tonight at the Döner shop around the corner. Our favorite lady was there, and it was busier than normal. But she remembered us (in fact, every time we've walked by on the street, we've looked in, and if she's seen us, she'll wave at us). I got a döner box, which is basically the döner meat on top of fries, covered in the sauce of your choice. It was soooo good. We told her that we had really enjoyed her food and company, and we could tell that she liked us because she didn't really talk to any of her customers except to take their orders. When the place cleared out except for the 3 of us, she engaged us in conversation every time. We will miss her.

One of the realities that I've had to face while here is that EVERYTHING shuts down on Sundays except for restaurants and public transportation. Indeed, if you have a shop inside the main train station, you can stay open. Otherwise, you're closed: pharmacies, grocery stores, etc. I guess I can appreciate that, but coming from America, I'm not used to making sure all my shopping gets done before Sunday. There are benefits, for sure, but it would be something I would need to get used to if I ever decided to make a more permanent move over here.

Tomorrow, I'm heading back to eastern Europe - up first is Prague until Thursday, then on to Romania for 8 or 9 days (don't know yet!). I'll be parting ways with Erica around noon tomorrow, and that will be sad. It's been nice to have some company on this trip for the past week. I'll be by myself until May 16th, which is 19 full days from the time I leave Erica until the time I meet up with Eno in Pisa, Italy. Well, I made the solo voyage for 34 days before I met up with Erica in Germany; 19 days shouldn't be any problem.

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