Sleeping On

Trip Start Jan 31, 2010
Trip End Jul 21, 2010

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Flag of Germany  , Saxony,
Thursday, May 20, 2010

I wake and look out the window, having absolutely no idea where I am. There is a river to one side of us, and it looks like we've been following it for some time. Looking at my clock it feels later than it should be, but I have no idea what time we’re expected to arrive. Looking outside I see we’re leaving a station called Bad Schandow, which doesn’t sound familiar in any of the books. Walking up and down the train I finally come across a timetable book. Oh dear. It appears Dresden was an hour ago, I’m currently on my way to Prague.

Grout wakes up eventually, asking if I speak English. He is traveling to Prague to see his daughter, and begins to open his bags to collect shaving equipment. He looks like he had a good sleep, he hasn’t found himself an hour over the line. I’m so upset I eat the chocolate bar I was saving for dinner. Shit.

Half the contents of the train is emptied at Dehl, the first Czech city station you come across when crossing the border. There is no English here whatsoever. Shit. Pointing to Dresden and the clock I get a ticket back again, and have an hour or so to kill before I need to board again. To the city!

As it’s the morning everything is closed, but the buildings themselves are worth a photo, so I walk in a few circles catching the crazy archetraves hitting the light just so and the vibrant colour palette, contrasting walls and trims. There is no Red/White/Black combination to be seen. There is a fresh fruit market slowly setting up, the watermelon looking better and better every time I see it.

The train that picks us up from the station is a single car diesel beast that sounds like it’s going to explode when it breaks. It’s as hot as hell inside so I’ve opened a window, much to the disgust of the woman in front.

The ride back is beautiful. Now I’m not packing dacks about where I am I can take in the view. We follow the river back to Bad Schandau, where we see the city pull away to smaller houses to eventual bike and walking tracks, complete with school groups and tents on the banks. Dresden had some nights in the weekend fully booked; the kangaroo lady had suggested I get myself a tent instead. As I’ve only experienced European winter it had never occurred to me, and when Alex said he made it all the way up to Sweden with only a bike and a tent I simply thought he was insane.

We transfer on a bigger sleeper car to Dresden and we pass houses jutting out of near vertical hills, cutting through the trees and surely with a fantastic view of the river. Now I can’t wait to keep traveling south.

Thankfully I find the hostel with no trouble, the signage larger than life the moment I’m down the steps of the station. The girl behind the counter is really nice and helpful, suggesting a number of places she believes I would like. Apparently I’m readable like a book. Dumping my bags I head out to the New Town, which if you’ve read any tourist guide book will humourously tell you is actually older than old town, it just doesn’t look it. During WWII the old town was flattened by Nazi Bombers, who tried to play down the issues saying it was a strategically ploy then an American bomber. True to the German spirit and sense of history the city demanded to be rebuilt in the old style, using traditional methods (perhaps not, they didn’t have jackhammers and the cranes we do today) and materials.

Walking the streets of the new town I use the map I’m given (for once) and make my way up to the top with the park, passing notable spots for a food fight (it’s in the map, but not until August. Fail), wicked spots for street art (not noted in map but they’re not hard to find) and fruit store where I get WATERMELON! I pray it’s good, and it’s closer than it’s been in Europe. Crossing the park I head for the spire I can see behind the trees, the only Church not found in the Old Town, chomping on the gloriousness all the while.

Back towards town and in need of some napkins I head towards the recommended place on the map. Called the Kunsthofpassage, the space is found in an inner courtyard amongst some rather boutiquey in a cool way shops. You enter to the sound of running water and look up. On all four walls is something amazing. Crazy sculptures of steel, stone and colour greet you from metres up – one falling geometric shapes and one rainwater pipes looking like horns. The piestaresistance is the wall you enter through. Against the painted green is the bas-relief of a mother freaking giraffe! More than two stories high and reaching higher, many tourists are around taking photos, myself now included. The sound of running water comes from the feature in the middle of the courtyard, a wicked fountain piece from stones that hide animals and other shapes amongst it all. The lady at the front desk was right. This is amazing. Further down the street I stop in shops, on the hunt for good music, new shoes and a book I can read, finding neither of the latter two but a little of the first I cannot afford. I learn of a hardcore band playing on Friday night that according to the guy in the CD store may be worth checking out. His eyes don’t leave my facial hair when he talks, I have to check in a reflective surface I haven’t got a bird trapped in there or anything.

Back at the hostel I collect blankets and bits and check in properly. Many of the beds in the dorm are taken, but only another and myself are in the room. Her name is Stephanie as she’s up from Switzerland for a wedding. Apparently there has already been one in Canada, but those who could not fly to Canada could train to Dresden, which is the perfect excuse to have a wicked castle and churches Dresden style wedding. Stephanie was meant to come with a friend, but booked her flight a day early by mistake. Oh well, plenty of time to be a tourist then.

I unpack and get a chance to skype with lovely, consider sleeping before heading back out again instead. I’ll sleep eventually I’m sure, hopefully not on a train.

Into the Old Town this time, before crossing the bridge I find the contemporary art gallery in the gallery quarter (funny about that). The temporary exhibition is on communication, in particular the existence and dependability on the mobile phone – how it has entered our lives as a luxury and become a lifeline to the rest of the world. There is a number of different mediums. One work has you down in the basement of the building with a miner’s helmet and lamp on, coming face to face with the workers of the Coltan mine – Coltan being a material used in mobile phones and computers. Another asks for submissions to the text message poetry competition, which I gladly add some rambling to. Several artists also create collages from mobile phone parts (into silhouettes of machine guns) and large-scale wall patterns from phone advertising.

I’m getting tired when I do finally cross the bridge. In the middle of the bridge there is a flat sculpture, an appropriation of Katsushika Hokusai’s The Wave into layers of metal. I’m told it is in fact a memorial for the flood a few years ago, which flooded out the opera house and destroyed some of the buildings, adding t the need for construction and renovation today. After a few laps of the town I realise I’m not taking anything in, slowly beginning to fall asleep standing up. Time to go. I catch a tram I hope will take me back somewhere near the hostel. It heads in the other direction. Three attempts have me across the bridge, and by now I’ve woken up a little again and am ready to go.

So I walk to find a venue playing music, the hardcore band not until to tomorrow. I hear lots come from different pubs, but many of these turn out to be live records of bands played through the sound system. Talk about cheating. Before long I’m quite far out of the city, without ma- and more and more unsure of where I am.

The suburbs are a different beast altogether from both new and old towns. Part of them could be anywhere – the families playing in the front yard, the smell of dinner, the couples walking in the street holding hands. Then you see the roof and think to yourself "That roof is so steep to keep the snow from falling. That person must get snow. That person cannot possibly live in Australia." I end up walking aimlessly through the streets for two hours, getting back when it’s dark with aching feet and ears demanding good music. Instead I spend some time in the kitchen area finding people. Won from Korea is out on his scooter up from Barcelona and having a bit of trouble with it. He loves to talk and keeps rambling as I smile, nod and feel my legs going and my eyes continue to droop. I try to blog for a little as an American called Kevin tells of his dislike of the place, how many people seem to treat it as a truck stop between Berlin and Prague, and may leave in the morning. I will spend the night in the truckstop instead.
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