Monday, May 23, 2011

If Rick Steves Showed Outtakes

Like Mr. Steves (and my paternal grandmother), I like to plan trips. I like to see some of the most important sites, get some local flavor, and do so efficiently and cheaply. But things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes things still turn out great, and other times you are just disappointed. There was a little of both in Dear Husband’s (DH) recent trip to visit Bach me here in Leipzig.
As if he had just played a concert
at the Mendelssohn Haus
The day he arrived the library where I’m researching was closed for a special occasion, so I was able to meet him in the afternoon without guilt about what I wasn’t getting done work-wise. We had a lovely time at the museum in the house where Felix Mendelssohn Batholdy lived (and died—of a stroke brought on by over-work and exhaustion—eek!). But the first two neighborhood restaurants we tried were closed (despite the signs on their doors indicating they should be open), so we ended up sitting outside and eating at the pub down the street. That day was redeemed.

I was able to arrange for DH to practice on the small grand piano in the seminar room of my apartment building while I was at the library during the week. After two months of his own stuffed-to-the-seams schedule of rehearsals and concerts for Easter and the end of the semester, DH was glad to get the chance to “do his own thing.” We spent the evenings and the weekend together. Saturday we ran errands, did chores, and then explored the permanent exhibit at the Zeitgeschichtliches Museum (Museum of Contemporary History) about life in East Germany. Happily, it was free. Cut to a scene of us enjoying a really delicious meal at a Chinese restaurant just across Lene Voigt Park from my apartment.

Sunday we went to the morning service at the Thomaskirche, Johann Sebastian Bach’s favorite church.* 
The theme of the hour and a half-long service was baptism. Four children were baptized, and the children who had been baptized the previous three months also came forward to light their baptismal candles in remembrance/renewal of theirs. St. T seems to do a brisk business in “fire insurance,” because there was quite the parade when they read the roll of names! I thought it was very mete that although a pillar blocked our view of the main chancel area where the baptisms took place, we could see a Renaissance painting of Jesus’ own baptism by John. (Later I learned that the pews at St. T used to face each other across the main aisle, so that pillar would have been less of an obstruction.)

After the main service, Holy Communion was celebrated up in the chancel. The much smaller congregation sat in two double rows facing each other—over Bach’s grave! Well, over his reburial vault, any way. He was originally buried in the New Cemetary of St. John Church, which lies outside the Altstadt on the route to my apartment. But when that church was torn down to put up some apartment buildings, they did a search for Bach’s grave (supposedly “six steps from the door of St. John Church”), found remains of an oak coffin of the kind used for important people, a thimble (from his second wife, Anna Magedelena?), and a belt buckle (from the belt used to secure his burial shroud?). These relics were put in a glass container and can now be seen in the Treasure Room of the Bach Museum!

Yours truly with the Diamond Fahrrad (manufactured in Karl-Marx-Stadt!)
on the Augustusplatz, site of effective peaceful protests against the regime in 1989.
Since we had eaten lunch with the St. T congregation, we were then free to go on an excursion I had planned for us outside of the city. Here is where a dirctor would have been handy. During the Museumsnacht I had picked up the first edition of a biannual newspaper Leipzig’s museums have put together and became morbidly curious about the Sanitäts- und Lazarettmuseum, which advertised itself with a photo of an exhibit of a field hospital tent (from the Napoleonic Wars), complete with a soldier who had just had his arm amputated. Blood and guts and gore! And if we could figure out how to get all the way out there (open only 1-5pm Sunday afternoons), it might be fun to picnic when we were done. The first bad sign was that their website gave only meager instructions on how to get there; this was followed quickly by error messages from the public transit website. Using Google Maps and downloaded copies of the tram and bus timetables, however, I had finally been able to piece together a half-hour travel plan of a tram and a bus plus some walking at the end. Although the weather was a tad cool and called for possible showers, we had enough time after the Bach Museum to give it a try.

After a full sprint in front of traffic, we were able to catch the tram. 15 minutes later we got off at the end stop and looked around (as it started to sprinkle) for the bus stop. A kindly old man pointed it out to us just as I realized that we had bought tickets for only one transit zone but would be crossing into another zone. But the bus was rounding the corner, so off we sprinted again. The bus driver waved us on. After a few stops, I thought I should either check the map on the bus or else ask the bus driver to confirm the stop we wanted. I possessed the vocabulary to ask, so I did. To my surprise, he told us we should get off right there and take a certain street and then ask for further directions. So we gathered up our stuff, got off (in the light rain), and set out. Five to ten minutes later without any signs of/for the museum, and having already asked one unknowing couple, I realized I had both the museum’s phone number and my cell phone. No answer (whoops—that was the Schumann Museum!). Still no answer; call back during the week said the answering machine. During the few hours of the week that they were supposed to be open!

We consulted a map I had and determined we should have kept going on the bus after all. Back at the bus stop, it looked like another bus was coming in just 10 minutes, so we hung around, hoping to succeed the second time around. But when I asked this bus driver about the whole two zone-thing, it turned out his route ended soon. He got off the bus to show us the time table for the bus we really wanted and explained repeatedly that we wanted the other bus that came in half an hour, until I finally cut him off (“Thank you, I understand!”). At this point he went on his way, and we decided to bag the excursion, since we would have had only an hour at the museum (IF we had managed to find it), and it was no weather for a picnic anyway. So we ran to catch the bus in the other direction—and the first bus driver was driving! I explained that we had actually wanted to get off at a later stop, and he exclaimed that he was from around there and didn’t know anything about this museum. [!]

It was an unhappy ride back into town, as I had really had my heart set on getting a little dose of medical history and Napoleon. But sometimes plans don’t work. If only some had yelled “Cut!” after I got the wrong answer from the bus driver! “This isn’t working; let’s try you consulting the map instead.” If I had decided to check the map instead of asking the driver, I would have been able to confirm the stop we needed, and we would have at least seen the museum. (I don’t know how dinner would have turned out.) As it was, the rain had stopped by the time we got back home, so we decided to picnic in the large Friedenpark nearby. We decided to have a rest and read on a bench in the pretty little apothecary’s garden. And then it started to rain. When it let up, we decided maybe dinner should be at home after all, but on our way out, we stumbled upon the Duft- und Tastgarten, a smell and touch garden for the seeing-impaired. The Braille signs and the flower beds aren’t in the best of shape, but it was still kind of neat to wander around.
Spiny spines...of death!
I probably won’t get out to that museum on this trip after all. Maybe I’ll never see it. I didn’t expect to really learn anything about the history of medicine. I just wanted to be able to say I had gone. At least I speak the language around here. At the end of my 10-month stay in Germany I’ll be visiting Poland for a couple of days, and my vocabulary is limited to a few Czech phrases (hello/goodbye, please/thank you)! I wonder what kinds of failure stories Rick Steves could tell? What does his outtakes file look like? Closed museums? Food poisoning? Surly waiters? Dirty hotel rooms? Lost train tickets?

Do you have a travel outtake to share?

*--J.S. Bach was cantor of the Thomaskirche choir, in charge of musical instruction at the St. Thomas School, and music director of Leipzig’s five city churches: St. Thomas, St. Nikolaus, St. Paul (the University of Leipzig’s church), St. Peter, and the New Church. St. T and St. N were the main churches, and Bach alternated playing/singing/directing the services there. He wrote/chose the music for the others; and the choir boys who could barely carry a tune were relegated to St. Peter’s!

St. T has been lightly renovated since Bach worked there 1723 to 1750. St. N was extensively rennovated in the nineteenth century. The Peterskirche was torn down and rebuilt larger just south of the city walls in 1895. The Neukirche was demolished at some point, and the Communists imploded the Paulinerkirche on May 30, 1968. Despite little warning, some of its treasures were able to be saved; for instance, the small organ has been at the Peterskirche since then. Meanwhile the Peterskirche was badly damaged during WWII and both building and organ are still in the process of being rebuilt.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dresden by Day, Leipzig by Night

I have been accumulating cultural experiences from the last couple of months, and now I think I have a clever little rhetoric for putting them together. I’ll describe what I saw one sunny day in Dresden and then what I did during the recent Museumsnacht (Museum Night) in Leipzig.

The first weekend in April, on a really beautiful Sunday afternoon, I decided to walk ~45 minutes home from the swim hall where I had done a few laps after church. As I meandered through the Innere Neustadt, I noticed several sandwich boards outside the Dreikönigskirche (Church of the Three Kings). I had heard that the view from their bell tower is the best in the city, so I decided to investigate.

I didn’t get further than the lobby, however, because there some sort of special service was being conducted in the sanctuary. But that was okay, as this evangelisch (Protestant) church is apparently quite active in matters of social justice: there was a exhibit of art from Columbia sponsored by Amnesty International related to the on-going drug war. Apparently, when the country formed in the early 1800s, the landed class demanded a strong central government, while the urban bourgeoisie feared their power and wanted a weaker one. A century later (post-WWII), the resulting relatively weak central government was not able to stop the landowners from mistreating the peasants, who formed paramilitary groups in self-defense. These have since abandoned their Robin-Hood past of sticking up for the common people and are just as guilty of terrorizing the peaceful, law-abiding populace as the cocaine guerillas, who are fighting the (US-backed) military. I found the art pieces about living amid all this violence to be very moving.

After that I asked about the bell tower, which I was able to reach by going around outside. While reading about the history of the church building—destroyed during the 1945 firebombing—the clock struck three, and the bells’ peals drove a flock of teenagers clattering down the steps! I climbed up I-can’t-remember-how-many steps by myself and emerged to a brisk breeze and strong sunshine. Here are just two pictures, one looking south to the Altstadt (where I lived), and one looking north over the Neustadt to Albertstadt and the Main State Archive where I spent most of my waking/working hours.

1—Kunstakademie, 2—Frauenkirche, 3—Kreuzkirche, 4—Kathedrale, 5—Residenzschloss

The second weekend in May (first Saturday) was a Museumsnacht in Leipzig, in which the museums stay open late (some until midnight or 1am) and hold special programs. You buy one ticket (6 Euros for students) and visit as many museums as you want to or can. I had promised the only other North American DAAD student studying in Leipzig that I would call him when I got to town, and we were able to arrange with a friend of his (he’s Canadian, btw, she’s Scottish) to hit up a few of the events. Our evening began at 7:30pm, funnily enough, at the new Book Museum, right next door to the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek where I spend 50% of my time (the other 50% is in my apartment, sleeping). They were opening a beautiful new building, complete with local musicians. Leipzig’s history as a publishing center is only a little younger than its history as a trade city (the printing press had to be invented first!), so a book museum is fitting. In fact, it's the oldest and largest of its kind in the world. We looked at some of their books and heard the end of a tour before deciding to take off for the Edvard Grieg house and museum.

Leipzig also has a rich musical history (ever heard of J.S. Bach? what about Felix Mendelssohn? Gustav Mahler? Robert and Clara Schumann??). Norway’s favorite composer attended the conservatory here in the mid-nineteenth century, and he frequently visited throughout his life. In fact, he composed (or at least orchestrated) the Peer Gynt Suite in his fourth-floor apartment of the building that now houses a small museum about him. At 9pm we watched a 20-minute adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt play by a high school theater group from outside Chemnitz, complete with snippets from Grieg’s music. The actresses were very enthusiastic (especially the Mountain King’s minions), and afterwards they served us a dessert called Abandoned Bride (crumbled graham crackers, apple sauce, and quark (kind of like whipped cream)). I hadn’t known the story before, and I learned a little about Grieg (who had a happy marriage to his cousin and who apparently carried a little stone frog in his pocket as a good luck charm before concerts).

Last on our agenda was the little Psychiatry History Museum, because there was supposed to be a reading of creepy storied by a bonfire. On our way, we biked past the Hinrichtungstätte, the Stasi execution site during the DDR that is only open once a year, on Museumsnacht. 64 people were killed, most on what were probably trumped-up charges. The line to get in was out the door, but we were heading for the hip locale of Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse and pizza anyway. After sitting outside and people-watching while enjoying our drinks and munchies, it was time to hop back on our bicycles and look for the bonfire.

We arrived a little after 11pm to find a large fire, people chatting, and one woman holding a small book up to candle lantern and reading in what sounded like a desultory way. But we couldn’t tell for sure, because only the people sitting at the picnic table with her could hear, which was disappointing. She wasn’t projecting her voice at all. After a few minutes of straining we gave up and went inside and upstairs to see the exhibits. This cool little museum is exactly what you would want in a history of psychiatry museum: it devotes significant space to telling individual patients’ stories; it acknowledges psychiatry’s terrible history (such as the T4 massacres of disabled and chronically ill individuals that took place in 1939/40); and a side exhibit challenges the dependence of contemporary psychiatry on the pharmaceutical industry. There was also an exhibition of humanizing portraits of people we think are current psychiatric clients in town. One small room is given over to Daniel Paul Schreber, son of the man who founded the Schrebergarten movement (Germany’s famous little gardening colonies) and famous himself for having written an autobiography of his mental illness that Freud read and turned into a case study on repressed homosexuality. I found out that the park by my apartment is named for Lene Voigt, who in the 1920s was famous for her poetry in Säschisch, the difficult Saxon dialect. Because the Nazis found her style "ugly," she had a hard time publishing in the 1930s; in the early 1940s she was diagnosed with late-onset schizophrenia and institutionalized until her death in 1962. They also tell the life story of a man, also possibly schizophrenic, who was tried, appealed, and eventually hung in 1820-something for murdering his on-again, off-again girlfriend. His was the last public execution in Leipzig.

In front of some technical drawings by a patient during the DDR
whose favorite topic was space and travel.
We hung out by the fire until 1am, when everything was supposed to close down. But the guy in charge of the fire was still feeding it branches, so I guess they let people in until 1am, and then you could stay until the fire died, which was going to be another while. But we three biked home our separate ways. My way was very separate, for I turned too soon and got briefly lost. A big problem for me here is the street names. Have I mentioned that Leipzig has a lot of history? Well, I meant to turn down [insert famous person’s name here]-Strasse, but instead I went down [insert famous person’s name here]-Strasse. Unlike other cities, where a [insert famous person’s name here]-Strasse stands out because it’s different from the streets with ordinary names (like Prager Strasse or Schützenplatz), Leipzig seems to have a lot of them. Many Dresden street signs had plaques explaining for whom the street was named—maybe Leipzig just has more more-famous people streets for me to get confused? It also doesn't help that the streets frequently change names. At any rate, I saw even more of Leipzig by night than I had bargained on!

Live from Leipzig!

I am renting a furnished room in a fifth-floor apartment in a Jugendstil building in the Reudnitz neigborhood of Leipzig. This “young-style” building dates to 1900-something and is currently mixed-use for an alternative health center, a couple artists, and apartments. In the center of the house is a winding dark wood staircase with worn treads and heavy newel posts. The apartment doors have glass panels that open(!) behind fancy metal screens. There is a wide central hallway with (closed) doors—very German. My room is large and on the front of the house; because there is neither a radio nor internet at there, I tend to open a window and listen to the sounds of the street and the basketball court in the park across the way. The windows in my bedroom are original, but those in the kitchen and bathroom are new. I share the kitchen and 1.5 baths with two roommates, also renting rooms from the landlady who owns the building. Because there is so much turnover, the apartment gives the impression of being white and “sterile” (according to my Dresden rommate, who helped me move in). I’ve put up pictures of/by my neice and nephew to personalize my space. Out back is a small Hof (courtyard) with the trash and recylcing recepticles, clotheslines, fish pond, and small patio that’s nice to use if the smokers aren’t. I park my bike out front.

When I visited Leipzig five years ago (June 2006) to do pre-dissertation research, the impression I got was of ugly old DDR-era buildings, construction, and not much “touristy” to do except see Bach’s churches. I have been happily mistaken on all fronts. There is a mix of architecture: despite the WWII bombing and numerous shabby-looking “Communist” structures, there are still some streets (reminding me of Vienna!) with rows of stately old apartment rowhouses, as well newer, modern-looking buildings. However, the Völkerschlacht-Denkmal, a pyrimidal monument dedicated in 1913 to Napoleon’s defeat a century before that at the nearby Battle of the Nations, is still objectively ugly. I have been surprised at how much green space there is here. Dresden has a reputation for its openness and for the wooded expanse of the Dresdner Heide, but Leipzig somehow manages to be both a bigger and a greener city. In addition, the bicycle paths here are far superior to those in Dresden, so I am hoping the weather continues to improve so that I can avoid buying a bus pass and just bike everywhere I need to go.

In addition, the cultural offerings are much broader than my old guide book lets on. When DH comes to visit, we will of course go to Sunday worship at the Thomaskirche (Bach’s main church) and probably also at least one organ concert. We wanted to attend the Mahler Festival, but only really expensive tickets are left, so instead we’ll hit up the Grassi Museum for its ethnographic exhibits, and hopefully the Museum of Contemporary History for an exhibition on life in the DDR. I’m also curious about the coffee museum!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Native American Awareness Post

Dancing Indian
It is a weekday morning while Dear Husband is visiting over Spring Break. We have had a relaxed breakfast, he is off to practice on a friend’s electronic piano, and I am at the busstop on my way to the archive. I usually walk this stretch (takes 8-10 minutes), but because I’m coming in late today, I decide to take the bus (1-minute ride). Suddenly there is a cheerful woman with a large microphone in front of me:

“HI! I’m So-and-So from Mitteldeutschen Rundfunk [radio]. Once upon a time there were cowboys and Indians. Completely anonymously, if you could choose, would you rather have been a cowboy or an Indian?” And she smiles encouragingly as she points the microphone at me.

I actually don’t understand her question until the very end of her Spiel, which gives me very little time to react. By the usual rules of conversation, it’s my turn to speak. However, my first reaction is to object to the question entirely, since what she’s really asking (historically speaking), is whether I would rather have been a resource-hungry, racist imperialist or a victim of genocide. But I'm not sure I possess the vocabulary to address that subject on the fly. And of course, that’s not what she’s asking. She wants to know what character I would want to play in the American West fiction Germans have consumed voraciously since Karl May’s (1842-1912) immensely popular novels began appearing in the 1890s.

Kary May--a native Saxon--had a rough life. As a young man, he spent eight years in prison for theft and fraud. He had trouble with his publishers that led to the dissolution of his first marriage. And at some point he began to believe he had experienced the exotic adventures he wrote about the American West and the Orient.

After getting out of jail the second time, and since his teaching license had been revoked, May tried to live on the straight and narrow by publishing short stories set in his native Saxony. Then he branched out to the genre of travel writing. Eventually he began writing allegorical narratives of the triumph of Good over Evil set in exotic locations: escapist fiction for Germany's nervous middle classes. Around the turn of the century May did actually travel across much of Asia from Egypt to Indonesia. A little while later he spent six weeks in the upstate New York area. But Germany's most famous portrayer of the American West never set foot anywhere near the Mississippi, much less beyond it. Rather, he discussed the human condition using archetypes like the "noble savage" (Apache Chief Winnetou) and Winnetou's white blood brother, Old Shatterhand. The Karl May Museum in the Dresden suburb of Radebeul is located in "Villa Shatterhand," named for May's alter-ego, who in the tales acts as a cross-cultural bridge from the amoral morass of Western Civilization to what May imagined as the purer society of the Native Americans.

These ideas were popular when May was writing and remained popular because of his writing. "Indian" themes are common in the popular literature I am looking at for my dissertation. For instance, while researching the posh Lahmann's Sanatorium, famous for its dietary cures and located in the wealthy neighborhood on the heights above my first Dresden apartment, I found the following image in a local newspaper in 1910. The sanatorium "guests" had celebrated Fasching (Carnival) "in an especially merry (or humorous) way" by dressing up as "Indians," complete with wigs and face paint. What fun to frolic in the woods! As long as we're back in time for Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake)!
„Karneval im Kurort Weiβer Hirsch,“ Illustrirte Neueste. Wochen-Chronik der Dresdner Neuesten Nachrichten. Nr. 9. (Sonnabend, 26. Februar 1910), S. 8. Courtesy of Dr. Marina Lienert, Institut für die Geschiche der Medizin, TU Dresden.
May  has long been an influential figure in German literature; his books have sold 100 million copies in German and another 100 million copies in almost 40 languages. German author and Nobel Prize winner Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) once said, "He is the most brilliant representative of a truly original type of fiction--i.e. fiction as wish-fulfillment...." And that is precisely the difficulty I have with the radio interviewer's question on this morning. Isn’t it nice for 21st-century white Westerners to imagine themselves as "cowboys" and "Indians," while the reality was and is--at times grimmer, but certainly always more complicated.

So I could challenge the question. Instead, I use the vocabulary I do have to answer something banal along the lines of, "I would have been a cowgirl, because they had so many adventures." And the smiling interviewer moves on the the next busstop. Since then I have checked the MDR website a couple times, but I haven't found out whether my little blurb ended up on the radio or not. I did learn that one of the most popular German songs a year ago was Jörg Bausch's "Cowboy und Indianer," a pop love song: "Come, take out the lasso, we'll play cowboys and Indians! ... If you surround me, I'll give myself up to you."

Better are the lyrics the German pop band Die Prinzen sing in “Mein Bester Freund” (My Best Friend). The rollicking verses list Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, and Winnetou as "mein bester Freund." Why? "Because they fight/ against injustice in the world." At the last verse, the upbeat tune slows down as they sing,

"Unfortunately these friends are all dead
and that is very difficult for me.
Unfortunately, these friends are all dead,
they were in my imagination."

The music picks up again with the final chorus: "THERE-FORE, now I fight/ against injustice in the world."

There is nothing wrong with fantasy, unless it substitutes for knowledge about the real world. And in the real world, many Native Americans are marginalized members of American society; they still live with the consequences of decisions made a century ago or more. Not coincidentally, the United Methodist Church recognizes this coming Sunday (May 8) as Native American Ministries Sunday. I invite you to "fight against injustice in the world" with me by a) learning about these ministries and b) contributing (no amount too small!) to their scholarship fund. The link tells the story of one seminary student who has benefited from this fund and can take you to their secure line donation form.

"AND WE'LL fight/ against injustice in world./ Yes we'll always fight/ against injustice in the world!"

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The River Elbe

Loschwitz as Winter Wonderland
Reorganization of the zodiac notwithstanding, I am a water sign (Cancer), and I loved living near the magnificent body of water that is the River Elbe here in Dresden. The first three months I lived on a central, low-lying Platz on the right/northern bank, but in general the terrain is elevated there, with scattered small vineyards along the higher slopes. I couldn't quite see the river from my bedroom window, but just around the bend in the road stood the famous Blaues Wunder ("Blue Wonder"--first suspension bridge in Europe without pylons in the river). The last four months I lived on the left/southern bank, a few minutes' walk from the Marienbrücke, with the Neustadt across the river. One of my favorite memories from this time will definitely be the sight of the beautiful, reconstructed baroque buildings of the Altstadt, seen from a Strassenbahn while crossing one of Dresden's many bridges over the Elbe.

There are currently seven major bridges. In addition to the Blaues Wunder and the Marienbrücke there are the Albertbrücke, the Carolabrücke, the Augustusbrücke, the Flügelwegbrücke, and the Autobahnbrücke. The controversial new bridge is the Waldschlößchenbrücke. The Dresden Elbe Valley had been listed as a World Heritage Site, but when Dresdners voted in a 2005 referendum to build another bridge to relieve traffic congestion, the valley was listed as "Endangered." The city backed away from the plans, but a court ordered that the referendum had to stand, and in 2009 the Dresden Elbe Valley was de-listed as a World Heritage site (only the second time that has ever happened). Many people are upset because the bridge will be modern-looking and quite long (probably one reason why a bridge wasn't built across that stretch of river before). But I can attest that it is necessary, because at the moment there is really only one Strassenbahn line that serves that stretch of city, and when it's late or not running, you don't have many options.

I decided to take a picture of the Elbe at the beginning of each month, as a memento of my time in Dresden. Below is a chain of images of the river, the first three looking toward my first apartment (Oct., Nov., end of Dec.) from the far side of the Blaues Wunder. In the first photo, you can see there was Hochwasser (flooding) when I arrived. I waited to take the November photo until after I had run my errands, and by the time I was ready to walk back across the river, the beautiful morning had clouded over. The early December photo is at the start of this post; we had snow on the ground continuously from the week of Thanksgiving into January. The third photo below I took on moving day the last week of the year.

The new views are from the near side of the Marienbrücke at the beginning of January (still snow). While I was gone on the East Coast in mid-January, the snow finally melted, as the February photo shows. The March image is unfortunately over-exposed, but the April one hints at the nice blue skies we sometimes had. The bottom image shows my last day, cloudy in Dresden at the end of April.

Of course, the Elbe isn't always beautiful. In 2002 there was terrible flooding. The stereotypical German Stube (hunting-themed pub) down the street from my second apartment had a mark at least waist-high on the wall, showing how high the water was then--and that wasn't exactly close to the river. Here's an image from the river-side amphitheater at Schloss Pillnitz with markings of historical floods; the 2002 deluge is the one off to the right, as high the epic flood of March 31, 1845.

I am in Leipzig now, which has a river (the Weisse Elster), but is somehow not as defined by it as Dresden, "the Florence of the Elbe," perhaps because as the river runs through the city, it is surrounded by parkland (a flood zone?). As it turns out, Leipzig has lots of parks and Schrebergärten (those little garden colonies), so even without direct access to the Weisse Elster, the big-city architecture is broken up by green space. I am finding Leipzig a prettier city than I had originally thought.

Editor's note: This, my farewell post for Dresden, was slightly delayed by the difficulty of having laptop, camera, cable, and internet all in one place at the same time.