Saturday, June 27, 2009

briefly out of berlin

hubby and I are in dresden for a couple of days. we're not used to traveling together so there's that. dresden is wild and furry, the place we hung out night before last was much funkier than places we've been in berlin. then from there a short walk and we were on a bridge looking out at unbelievable old (in many cases, heavily restored) and grand buildings of different shapes and attitudes. It's wonderful to look at things above the water, the lights are reflected and the water makes it all shift and reflect and hide and be mysterious and reappear and multiply.

The water in this case being the Elbe. We were back the next day and in the daytime, in the gray, nothing was nearly as magical. Glad we had been there the night before. 

Hubby was in Krakow the weekend before with his oldest kindergarten friend. So he's walking around noticing and comparing this old East German city--which had centuries of history before, then was fire-bombed by the Americans and British at the end of WWII and then rebuilt, and then was an East German city with all the sadly boxy building that entailed, and now has all these really old landmarked buildings, standing empty, that are starting to get worked on and fixed up--anyway, comparing this old East German city with Krakow - I know I said all that about the buildings but really he was noticing the people - we saw here so many punked-up young people, and he said in Krakow, none of that. And we saw people of different colors - not as much as in Berlin, but still - and he said in Krakow, none of that. Outrageously homogeneous in Krakow, he said.

Also, last night we came home by way of the synagogue here - new synagogue - and I noticed: no guards! *Every*thing Jewish in Berlin is heavily guarded - I think I've mentioned - the kindergarten down the street from us, community centers, the Jewish museum, synagogues, schools, the Israeli embassy - everything. Policemen out front. Some of the places involve metal detectors as well. But here at the huge synagogue (which is a cool twisted-cube shape), with a big tree-filled courtyard connecting it to a community center: no guards anywhere!

(Which prompted another comparison with Krakow - hubby had visited lots of old synagogues and Jewish cemeteries - no guards - and he'd visited Auschwitz on the way back - no guards or security at all. Interesting.)

Anyway, what I really also wanted to say is that hubby has always laughed at me for comparing everything I see to Kinshasa. But what can I do? And as we were walking around and he kept thinking about Krakow, I kept thinking about Lisbon, and Addis Ababa - the two most recent places I have visited in a tourist-like capacity. Kind of weird I guess. But I don't know, there was something. One street, one view down one street, just brought back Addis Ababa to me - I can't really say how or why. And lots of things were making me think of Lisbon - the changing views from different high points - go climb some more stairs and find another view - the cobblestones, cobblestones, everywhere - and just being out and about and comparing this to our previous trip.

Yesterday afternoon we went to the Zwinger, which apparently used to be the location of part of the Dresden fortress - and at some point Augustus the Strong (late 1600s) came back from a trip and wanted to build himself something spectactular - used the location and built this lovely new thing - it's really wonderful, with vistas and elevated walkways across battlements and interior courtyards with surprising fountains - and a porcelain collection that shows glorious old Japanese and China porcelain and tells a little about how the Europeans tried, and tried, and tried to figure out the technique and finally did their own reverse engineering or figuring out (it was an alchemist who gave up trying to make gold and finally figured out how to make porcelain here) - and by the way what we call Dresden china is in German called Meissen porcelain (Meissen is a small town near Dresden where the china is made).

And it was supposed to rain all weekend but it barely has. Today, a little more out and about, then home to Berlin.

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