Brief Stop in Dresden

Trip Start Jun 01, 2006
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Trip End Ongoing


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Thursday, October 19, 2006

So, train to Dresden. Of course, I speak no Czech and was a bit confused and did my usual and - worry I am on the right train, worry I am getting off at the right place. It worked out.

Dresden is mostly famous in the U.S. for the massive Allied bombing in WWII that resulted in the great firestorm (See Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five). Declared a 'free' city, it was supposedly a safe haven and was crammed with refugees as the war ended. However, the Allies bombed it in a manner called 'carpet bombing' and they were far too successful. The resulting fires multiplied and coalesced to create one gigantic fire that consumed the entire city. While this was a great tragedy of destruction, the human loss was phenomenal. As the fire grew, it created a great wind and sucked up all the oxygen from the air- about 40,000 people died that night, many from suffocation, in a 'safe haven'.

Dresden has been rebuilding ever since. Their greatest effort has been to meticulously restore the old buildings in the city center- and there is great pride in the near completion (at last, 60 years later) of the "Frauenkirche" (Our Lady's Church).

I arrived in Dresden late in the afternoon, and had to search for a room, get one, manage the streetcar system to get there, find the hotel, check in and get situated. By that time, it was almost 5 in the afternoon so I did not get to go into the restored church or any museums. I did take a walk as dusk fell and looked at the old city center. Citysizewise Dresden is small, but jewel like. Built on the banks of the Elbe, the important 'old' buildings (restored) cluster on the banks and rise up, lit at night, and remind me of Budapest and Prague, but much smaller. It is a city that can be 'seen' in a day, walked in little more than an hour. So I walked it and took in the sights (no pictures).

As it is getting colder and I was in the 'newer' part of town, I did some quick shopping- I can no longer wear short sleeved polo shirts and a light jacket! So, two new long sleeved shirts (two polos left behind) and I am eyeing winter coats, gloves and scarves and am sure I will purchase both in Berlin as I was shivering so while walking in Dresden!

On the train now to Berlin, no room reservation even though I spent 2 hours last night trying...I hate this part and prefer to know where I am going but it cant be helped. I had long conversation with an exceptionally chatty German man on the train. He is heading home from Prague for medical reasons but has a neat job for the European Union advising the Czech government on 'Social Services'.......hhhmm, something right up my alley indeed! I may look into this further at some point!

Klaus is quite chatty. He has to have fem/pop bypass and rushing back home. He used to be Merchant Marine and when I show interest in his travels- he tells me about them. Then he tells me he is starting a group to sing old sea shanty songs- all of which are in English (the 'lingua franca' of sailing days). I learn a great deal about sea shanty singing- especially when he starts singing them to me, for about an hour!

Sea Shanty Website: Crossjack is in German, website- think based in Oldenburg. He is singing to me about King Louis. Learning about capstan vs windlass shantys (call them 'sea songs' not shantys): different beat and rhythm because they needed different speeds to lift and raise various sails. Also there are 'pumping' shanties that vary based on the type of pump, and 'bunt' shanty for furling the sails. He knows about 40 songs and is singing them to me. There are apparently shanty books that were published mostly at the end of the 1800's and are collectors items (fascinating stuff). "Sailing down to old Maui", "When I first landed in Liverpool, I went upon a spree", "Don't go to sea once more", "Riding on a dunkey (not a donkey, but the straw of the sea bed)". And so on.

I get off train in Berlin!
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