Monday, February 25, 2013

Dresden: Then

As counterpart to my Dresden: Now blog post about contemporary art, "Dresden: Then: concerns a museum trip I made my last day in Dresden to the Panometer Dresden. Yadegar Asisi uses a computer and photographic or historical images to create enormous 360-degree panoromas of ancient Pergamon and Rome, Mount Everest, or the Amazon rainforest. They've been exhibited in Dresden, Leipzig, and Berlin. Each panaroma is printed on an enormous piece of canvas and hung as a cylinder. Asisi has manipulated the images so that the best perspective is from a stand in the middle, as if you were standing in a tower. He's done two historical versions of the Saxon capital, both in the eighteenth century of Augustus the Strong. The first one was supposed to be a snapshot from 1756. The second one combines various real persons/events with a general feel for the time period; in particular it plays with light. The "sun" rises and sets, there's a thunderstorm, and at night you can see the light of "candles" in the windows. These are photos I took (without flash).

This is the bridge that August built.

You might remember from an earlier post that August II was an Elector in the Holy Roman Empire. After the Thirty Years War (1618-1848), Saxony was declared Protestant from the Elector on down to the lowliest serf. Well, Augustus wanted to be king of Poland, which was/is a Catholic country, and he was okay with converting in order to purchase the crown (1697). (His poor wife was not, however, and she wrote tearful letters to him and their son about her prayers for their immortal souls.) The rest of Saxony was allowed to remain Protestant (breaking the rules of the Treaty of Westphalia, 1648).

Augustus needed someplace to worship, so the Hofkirche (court church) was built, with an elevated, enclosed walkway to the Residenz, so he wouldn't disturb the Bürgers going to and from mass everyday. This is the view from the top of the observation tour as if you were standing on the top of the tower of the Hofkirche. The "Kathedrale" has white statues around the outside of disciples, saints, and Church fathers. On the right-hand side, in the shadow of the breaking dawn, is the tower of the Residenz. Further to the left is the rest of the Altstadt. The Elbe River is behind and to the right. In the background lie the half-finished grounds of the Zwinger.

Here is a better view of one of the statues around the roof, and below is a famous itinerant preacher (I forget his name and schtick) and Clara, the Indian rhinoceros (she visited in 1747). There are lots and lots of details like this to be seen all around the panometer. There is a free guide for some of them--or you could buy the book to see them all.

"Behind" that group, higher on the cylinder, is this shot of the gate of the Zwinger. This area was originally part of the city's fortifications. Then, at the end of the 17th century, Louis XIV had just moved the French court to Versailles, and August II wanted something similar. It was supposed to be an oval palace surrounding gardens. Begun in the early 1700s, it was three-fourths complete when Augustus died (1733). His son's court abandoned the project. Just over a century later (1847-1855) Gottfried Semper was hired to design an art gallery to fill the last fourth of the oval (and the opera house in the square to the right.

Finally, there has long been a sort of rivalry between the Hofkirche and the big Protestant church nearby: a little earlier the Frauenkirche was being re-built as a monument to Protestantism--yes, even with a name like Church of Our Lady! Here it rises majestically above the red rooftops of the Altstadt. This is a good quarter turn to the left from the first image and was also taken in "the morning hours."


These are the images of "Dresden: Then" that came out the best. I hope they've given you a good sense of Baroque Dresden and the panometer as a neat way of presenting images. Next up: Leipzig!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Snowy Postcard

Some of you have gotten more snow than you would like, and some of you have gotten less. This snowy postcard is for the latter group. Thursday just after 4pm, it started hailing noisy little pellets that made the streets and rooftops white. Then the big fat snowflakes started. By the time darkness had fallen, we had received a good 2-3 inches. Friday some melted, but then temps dove back into the 20s F, so we've got just enough of the white stuff for backyards to be pretty and sidewalks to be a mess.

Here are two shots out our front windows from Friday morning, before DH shoveled and before the streets were plowed.

There's a double-wide driveway somewhere under there...

Now that most of my departmental committee work is done, I should have some time to finish composing the posts about my trip to Germany. Consider this a placeholder until then. Wherever you are, stay warm and safe!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Dresden: Now

This is the first of two posts about Dresden, where I spent two weeks of my recent trip to Germany. I lived there for 7 months in 2010-2011, and I really appreciated the chance to re-connect with some of the friends I made then and there. I didn't spend all of my time in the archive and library--just most of it. For breaks I enjoyed some of Dresden's artistic offerings. One night, I attended the opening of a gallery show by a friend of my hostess. The artist paints in the porcelain factory at Meissen by day and at night creates her own fantasy and floral watercolors. I wish she had a website so I could share some of her beautiful pieces.

This is the Main State Archive of Saxony, where I did a lot of work.
Another night, my hostess and I bought last-minute tickets to the Semperoper, the beautiful old theater in the Altstadt named after its architect, Gottfried Semper (1803-1879). The building was destroyed once by fire in 1869 and again by the fire-bombing in 1945; the 2002 flood also caused some damage, but it has been wonderfully restored. (The "marble" interior has always been fake, but it's quite convincing.) The ticket prices were rather steep, even at the door, so CF and I got Hörplätze. What good, you may ask, is a listening seat for a ballet? Excellent question. Our seats were in the highest section on the far right, such that the right third of the stage was obscured from view. There were still quite a few seats available on the floor, so during the first intermission, we moved down there (with the permission of the ushers). Imagine that: front-row seats at the ballet for 7.50 EU each!

Neither of us knew what we were seeing (we declined to pay for a program), but I think I enjoyed it more than CF did, who is a little older and fairly conventional in her tastes--much like the art scene in Dresden. It turned out that on the program for that night were four selections under the heading "BallteRusse: Reloaded." (Sounds like a James Bond movie title!) Each piece had been originally created for the Russian Ballet but was being performed by the local company.

The first piece, "Noces," was completely modern in music, choreography, and staging. It began in complete silence that was replaced by the stomping of the dancers and eventually by the dissonant tones of a choir. About a farmer's wedding in the country, it came off to me like a satire on love and relationships, what with the way the guests manipulated "the happy couple." CF didn't like it at all, but I at least was intrigued by the variety of shapes and forms the human body can assume.

"Faun," the second piece, was also modern, using the music of Claude Debussy to tell the sordid tale of the illicit lust of a priest for a choir boy. I think my companion "liked" this one, as it wasn't as "ugly" as the first. It didn't hurt that it involved nearly-nude male dancers, who all looked slender and buff! (By contrast, the female dancers looked scrawny and underfed from the front row.) The dancer portraying the slithering Satan did an excellent job.

George Ballanchine had choreographed the third piece, so of course it was beautiful in the sense of modern ballet. "Apollo" involved three muses dancing for the favor of the Greek god. This was CF's favorite.

After a third (!) intermission, we finally saw "Sacre," new choreography to Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring music. CF didn't like it, but I don't think she appreciated the historical significance of it, and I had insufficient vocabulary to explain to her about the riot the choreography caused at the premiere in Paris in 1913. Unfortunately, we know little about the original movements, so this year many companies will be re-choreographing Stravinsky's music to mark the anniversary of the piece. In fact, Dear Husband and I have tickets to attend such a performance here on campus later this semester. At any rate, by that point it was almost 11pm, and I had nearly fallen asleep in my chair.

Taking in a dance or instrumental music performance in a foreign country is of course easier than seeing (and understanding) a play or stand-up comedy routine. What kinds of performance art have you enjoyed while on trips in foreign countries?

Next time: a look at Dresden's past.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Germany West: Bielefeld

My itinerary last month looked something like this: Chicago --> Frankfurt --> Berlin --> Hamburg --> Berlin --> Dresden --> Bielefeld --> Dresden --> Leipzig --> Frankfurt --> Chicago. I have put these photos up under "Germany West," because as with my previous trip, my research took place primarily in old East Germany. I did however make a one-day junket over to the western part of the country, to the University of Bielefeld, in order to hear a paper and to have one of my dissertation chapters discussed. (A research group there also studies the German Hygiene Museum.) In order not to eat into my time at the archives, however, I planned to do all my traveling on the same day, which meant an early morning, a late night, and more time "on the rails" than I actually spent in Bielefeld. For you lovers of all things trains, planes, and automobiles, this is "the train post." (Not all of the photos are from that specific trip.)

S-Bahn in Berlin Hauptbahnhof

Inside a Regional Express traveling through Berlin

My InterCity Express (ICE) train arrives in Berlin!

Berlin Hauptbahnhof
S-Bahn in Hamburg (with person running to catch it)
Christmas decorations in Hamburg Hbf.

"Antique" Strassenbahn cars in Dresden; these run on the E3 line.
Train set in the Dresden Hauptbahnhof. For 1 Euro you can run the trains. I just watched.