Dresden Pt 2

Trip Start Mar 26, 2010
Trip End Apr 04, 2010

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Flag of Germany  , Saxony,
Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Facebook status upon returning to the ship: Dresden is way cooler than I thought. We went to the Green Vault this morning but not to the downstairs area and our tour guide spent a lot of time talking about only 5 things. Way too hard to see everything...
Facebook status two minutes later: Also, it's really cold. I need to buy gloves.

Ms Jones and I parted for lunch. I was planning on going back into Dresden for the afternoon, whereas she had planned to go in the city for a little bit and then head back to the ship. One thing I really enjoyed about our lunches was the soup. There was a different soup every day and since we were usually coming in from a day of touring in cold temperatures, hot soup was glorious. I think there was only one soup that I didn't like, but I don't remember what it was.

Since Ms Jones wasn't with me I got my food and sat at a table with three women, two of whom were sisters from England and the other woman was from Colorado. Well, if you know me, you know I adore British tv. In fact, when Martin said there were British people on board my first thought was 'Now I can talk British tv to people who know more about it than I do!' So we talked British tv for awhile, I asked them questions and they laughed at my bluntness, which wasn't really what I would call blunt. More like if I don't ask now, I'll forget and I won't remember until I'm in the shower or asleep and you'll think I was rude for not asking when I had the chance. It was a lovely lunch, but after a hour and a half later we headed to our rooms to get ready for the afternoon walk.

Two of the girls who worked on the ship (Mercedes and Elena) took us to what they called a short cut to the city. They walked us under a bridge and up to the steps of the Frauenkirche. Su, the woman from Cockeysville, asked if I went on the bus or the walking tour of Dresden and I said 'pfft the walking tour of course!' She explained that I must be one of those people who get high off of walking. The rest of the 3 minute walk I talked to Mr Hank and Mr Johnny (Hank from Texas, Johnny [married to Su] from Cockeysville) about the weather, mostly the blizzard the UK was experiencing. Outside the Frauenkirche Mercedes explained where some shops were and how to get back to the ship, and after listening closely to her directions to some shops, I parted ways with the group and set off on my own.

Our guide from the morning had told us about a few shops that had some locally made stuff (wood carvings), so I set out to find the shop 'with a red roof just beyond that church over there'. So off I went!

I had had a low battery in the morning and took pictures as sparingly as possible, hoping to save my battery until I could get back to the ship at lunch time. Parting from the group I realized I had no clear idea what I was doing. Having been accused that I walk because I get high off the
exercise, I decided that perhaps I'd be most happy just walking. Now that I had a full battery, I walked back to everything that we had seen during the morning.

First, the Green Vault. I didn't particularly want to go back into the Vault itself, but I did want to go to the giftshop. Even though our guide was very thorough with the five things she pointed out, there were too many things to look at than what she was pointing out and describing. It was hard to pay close attention to everything she said with 30 people crowding around the one exhibit while in a room of 50 other amazing treasures of the Saxon kings. My attention often snapped back to what she was saying at the most interesting parts but I would never hear the first part of what she said. And I wanted big, beautiful, glossy pictures of the Green Vault exhibits to show everyone back home.

I wasn't sure I was allowed back in without buying another ticket. We had been given our tickets for our morning tour, but I didn't know how fickle the museum would be in letting me back in again. I walked thru the doors, nonchalantly past the lobby desk and into the courtyard, where all the signs were written in German. Ohh dear, I thought. I like looking like I know where I'm going, so I slowed my step and looked as closely as possible at the signs without looking like I was trying to decipher the writing. There were doors leading off to other exhibits all throughout the courtyard walls, with signs next to each door. Martin had said that German is very close to English and that you can figure out German if you try hard enough. I tried and found English to be written in small letters under the German! Whooo! Finding the sign for the giftshop, I crossed the yard and walked in.

As far as giftshops go, it was a very large shop full of uninteresting, ugly knick-knacks in the first room, and books in the second and third rooms. The ugly knick-knacks were overpriced, and the books were mostly in German. I looked throughout the second room for a book, ANY book on the Green Vault in English, but alas, I found none. They were in German, of all things. Looking through other books, I did find several books in English, including one on Children's costumes
throughout all periods of history. Why they had that particular book in English is beyond me, along with paperdoll books of the costumes of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and Jackie Kennedy, but the pictures were colourful and interesting.

Finding no book of the Green Vault in English, I decided that I would have to settle on postcards. My reasoning being 'well, at least the cards will have the names of the exhibits on the back so I could look them up on wikipedia'. They had postcards of all the exhibits that I had wanted pictures of in the first place: the ivory frigate, the creepy pearl people, a kings palace, and a huge piece of diamond jewellery. (While I gleefully figured out the money for a few minutes at the
cashier, I realised that the trip into this giftshop was the first time I had experienced people talking to me in German first, English second.)

Leaving the giftshop I walked around the back and saw a bookstore, and as I have a weakness for bookstores, in I went. There were many books on Dresden, but most were in foreign  languages that weren't English. I circled around and looked closely at all the books in the entire
store, hoping to find a book to take home. There were few in English (Twilight...) and none that that I wanted, so I eventually left.

What to do next...it was still rather early so I walked to the square, which probably has a name but I don't know what it is. The square had shops hidden under enclosed walkways with arches up and down the sidewalk. I spied another bookstore, so I went in! Gutag, said the attendant, and I just smiled and nodded my head and hurried away from the door before someone else had to speak to me. I looked at all the shelves and saw nothing in English, so I chanced going upstairs. Upstairs was the children's section, which was all still in German. Unbelievable. Don't these people know that English is the language of the world?! Losing faith in the German bookstore, I wandered over to the middle of the upstairs floor where shelves held books that were, to my great surprise, in English! I went through the entire bookcase and looked at every book, finding some Horrible Histories, Harry Potter, Twilight (gag) and some other books that I vaguely recognized but had never read. Here was my conundrum: should I buy a Harry Potter book? I'm missing books 1 and 3, and these were British editions which are significantly different from the American. As luck would have it, they didn't have either book so I didn't buy one, but in retrospect I should have. How awesome would that be to read a Harry Potter book in English from a bookstore in Dresden?!

Too awesome for me to comprehend at the time, apparently.

I drifted off to another group of bookshelves of English (!) books, all classic and mostly not very handsome copies of books that I either already owned or just didn't want. So another unsuccessful trip to a bookstore. Sigh...

Leaving the bookstore, I set off again with one thought: small shop with red roof next to that one church. Problem was, which church? There's more than one large church in the downtown Dresden area and most building's seem to have red roofs. Hmm. Crossing the square I saw the ladies I had lunched with and we waved. Turning a corner I passed by a couple from Texas, Mary and John, who were in our tour group but I had only chatted with a little bit the day before. Mrs Mary's hood was up and I was approaching them from the back, so I wasn't sure it was them and I thought it would be weird if I stopped them and it wasn't who I thought it was. So I said nothing and walked by.

Following the sidewalk, I walked along the street next to a long line of shops. Half the street was for cars, the other half for the trains. I must confess, trains scare me. The swift, silent machines that one minute aren't there, the next bearing down on you with frightful speed...truly terrifying. I got to the point where I thought following the sidewalk would take me somewhere that would get me lost, so I proceeded to cross the street when I saw 'the thing'.

'The thing' was something that I had seen pictures of on Wikipedia's entry for Dresden. It's a fire escape, but not just any fire escape. It is an excruciatingly modern, ugly and stupid looking fire escape. I don't know why anyone would feel compelled to express themselves by making a fire escape look like that, but someone did. And lo! I found it by pure accident. Right next to two
rather gorgeous buildings that look like someone actually felt compelled to make worth looking at with pleasure instead of raising their eyebrow and going 'whatever'. In case you're not picking up on it, I was very excited to see something I actually recognised! Albeit a silly piece of junk I remembered from Wikipedia.

I crossed the street and went behind the Landhause (fire escape building which I believe is an art museum, so maybe the strange fire escape isn't that surprising after all). Following the street I found myself a street across the Frauenkirche. If I hadn't been so in love with where I was I would have been slightly frustrated by now. All I had bought were some postcards and nothing really from Dresden. I was reminded of Betsy Ray (from the book Betsy and the Great World) and how she stayed for a month in Munich so she could really live in the city. I decided that with only a few hours left, I would stay in this area and become so familiar with it I would feel like I had 'lived' in it.

Which meant walking and seeing things that I had already seen. I found out that a rather unattractive building that I had passed before was actually a theater. Based on the posters, it wasn't a 'nice' theatre, BUT I saw a poster for 'Rain: A Beatles tribute' which I saw last year at
Baltimore's Hippodrome! Just another piece of Americana spreading around the world. Walked by more construction, the Semperoper, and back into the square where some children were playing and speaking English. Dresden's population is slightly smaller than Baltimore's, so it's a pretty quiet city. However, Baltimore still has cars going to and from, whereas Dresden doesn't. And walking by yourself in a city where there aren't many people may seem like a safe idea in your mind, but in reality it's a bit creepy.

I remembered one side of the square 'hid' a mall, so I went to the Altmarkt Galerie. How cool would it be to buy an outfit from Dresden! It was very American, but none of the shops seemed very large, no staple department stores like Macy's, and nothing I saw that I would want to waste money on. Another piece of travel education: my intense dislike of malls extends even to those outside of America. All malls are the same, except in store selection. I saw no American stores except Levi's and perhaps one other. After about a half hour of just walking around, I tried to leave the mall which turned out to be a bit tricky. I remembered that the door I came in from had a giant Easter egg in front of it. What I didn't know was that every entrance had a giant Easter egg in front of the door. I went to leave and I didn't recognise anything on the other side of the door so I panicked slightly and walked to the next door, which was the right one and I hurried out.

Back to the square. Now, like I said, I loved Dresden but I wanted something to take home
from Dresden that wasn't made from China. Not to mention that my feet were starting to ache. All the streets and a few of the squares I kept walking over were made entirely of cobblestones. If you've never walked on cobblestones for large stretches of time, this will be a hard concept to understand, but they're rough on your feet. So my feet were aching and all I had this one afternoon to explore and find a good shop. Not good.

Mercedes had mentioned a shop in one of the 'row homes' (the pink one to be specific) next to the Frauenkirche, so I made my way over there. I walked through the door, and down a short hallway my mouth dropped. In here was another mall. That exterior was completely deceptive and I felt slightly cheated. A mall in America does not look like anything other than a mall, and it most certainly does not look like 4 beautiful and very different-looking row homes. Hmph. Wandering around I found a shop full of wood craft things that are made in Saxon-Germany. After an agonising decision, I bought a little nativity knick-knack that I don't really like, but I figured this was my last chance so I needed to buy something.

What I was really looking for was something for my mom. The store had lots of lace and table-wear but I've never bought anything like that in my life and I didn't know what would be good, what would go with what, used for what, length, price, and I was determined not to spend more than 20 euros on her because she gets persnickety after a certain amount has been spent on her. Leaving that store I spied what may or may not be considered a stroke of luck: a Meissen outlet store.

Outlet stores originated in America and have made there way over to Europe, but Meissen is very high-end porcelain made in Germany. Why they have an outlet store in a mall in Dresden beats me, but I was excited. How awesome would it be to have a piece of Meissen porcelain! Martin had told us that Meissen porcelain ranges from anywhere in the three digits to the four digits price range, so I was hoping for something less...er, pricey.

I looked, and looked, and looked. I didn't see much either mom or I would like. Mom loves blue and white china, but I wasn't impressed with what I saw. There were seven large tables full of porcelain group according to colors or patterns. Prices were high, but after some intense
searching, I found something. On a table full of unpainted china was a very small dish. Round, possibly a bowl but too small to hold anything, with a rose 'raised' on the bottom, and only 18 euros! Unsure of its I said who cares? It's famous porcelain! FINALLY, some sort of successful shopping. I carefully looked over the table to make sure I hadn't missed anything, and went over to the cashier. She took my little bowl, put it in a box, gift wrapped it, bagged it, and took my visa.

Leaving the mall I passed a shop that had cute little figurines in it, so I thought well maybe this is another mall. It was a hotel with some shops on the first floor, so I browsed in some of them but bought nothing. Time was growing short and I had no watch and wasn't sure when we had to
be back on the boat so I made my way back. I ended up going out of the city the way Mercedes had shown us but I went on top of what I thought might be a cool scenic route by the river. Turned out to be where our tour guide had taken us that morning, which was a slight put down. But I realized that I hadn't taken as many pictures as I had wanted to in the morning because of my low battery, so I used this as an excuse to be a total tourist and take a bagillion pictures. In the course of my many picture takings, a woman came up to me and said something German. I said something along the lines of 'I'm sorry?' and she spoke in perfect English 'Your purse is open.'

I would like to point out that that has NEVER happened to be before. It happening in Dresden just makes the city more memorable for me. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

I eventually made it back on to the boat. I stumbled into our room where Ms Jones was relieved, I think, that I hadn't gotten kidnapped by gypsies or met with some other catastrophe.

Facebook status: I just walked 6 miles in Dresden. I want to move here.
(Most comments that status received were mostly along the lines of 'but, who would we
borrow movies from?')

At 6:30 we made our way into the lounge for our 'Daily Briefing'. We were told that three musicians from the Semperoper were coming onboard after dinner and would give a concert. I knew there was no way I was staying up for that; I was fighting for control over my eyelids during the briefing which meant I would start to do that fun thing where I suddenly realise I'm asleep and I literally jerk my head forward. I'm sure it's very unbecoming and besides, I thought that might be disrespectful towards the musicians, so no classical music for me.

After dinner, Ms Jones and I parted ways again. She to the concert, I to our room, where I didn't fall asleep (I had learned my lesson about sleeping before 12am). Instead I made myself as at home as possible and watched a movie on my laptop and updated my facebook and my travel blog. Ms Jones returned a few hours later and reported that the musicians (two violins and one cello) had played Mozart until their encore, which was the Entertainer and the Maple Leaf Rag. She exclaimed over their wonderfulness and a small part of me regretted not seeing at least
the encore.

The end of a great day. My legs were sore, and I was sleepy. Next, Meissen!

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