Thursday, 16 February 2012

Die wunderbaren Erinnerungen an Dresden


After a long week of work and no sightseeing, we decided to explore some parts of Dresden.  We mainly focussed on the old part of the city (Altstadt), but also wanted to see if we could explore more..
We started our journey by meeting two friends (Melanie and Christian) at the Hauptbahnhof main train station on Saturday. They travelled from Leipzig so that they could explore Dresden with us.  They only arrived at 11:30, so there wasn’t a lot of time for the planned tour…
When you are walking in the streets of Dresden, you can still feel the atmosphere that can be associated with World War II (WWII). I’m not referring to the people living here, but the historic buildings situated in Dresden itself. Most of the tours are in German, so we decided to go on our own with Christian translating for us…The first place we visited was the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady). 

The construction of this church started in 1726 was finally completed in 1743 and was designed by the city architect; George Bähr. The church was completely destroyed on February 1945 during WWII by allied bombing. The reconstruction of this church started in 1993. It cost over €180 million to reconstruct this masterpiece, but restoration was finally completed in 2006, just in time for Dresden’s 800th anniversary.

When looking at the photo displaying the outside of the church, one can see the original stones from the church (black dots on the church) that was used for reconstruction. Below is a photo of an original piece from the dome that was put there in memory of the restoration process that took place and also a photo showing the inside of the dome after reconstruction. 
From the church we walked through the city, passing the Albertinum and quickly went into the Zwinger to see the plane…  I will definitely come back to these places and explore them.

From the Zwinger we walked down Prager Straβe which is full of shops and cosy coffee shops. The famous Goldener Reiter (Saxon elector and Polish king: Augustus the Strong) is found in this street. It is a gold plated statue which one’s eyes cannot resist! By this time our cheeks were red and toes were numb, so we stopped to get some glüweihn before we carried on…
After our hands, toes and cheeks were warm from the glühwein, we started to explore some of the shops.
After we were tired of all the shops we decided that it is time to change scenery… we took the tram 11 to the Brokhaus straβe stop where I saw the first castle.

The Schloss Albrechtsberg Castle is situated in the Loschwitz district which is at the north-eastern part of Dresden, next to the Elbe River. The Castle was erected in 1854 by landscape architect, Adolf Lohse. This castle is a piece of art. The effect of the photos shown here cannot be compared to being there in person. Unfortunately the castle was closed for the day, so I must definitely reschedule for another time… It was time again for another drink to warm us up… We stopped at the Waldschlösschen Brauhaus, which is the oldest pub in Dresden. The pub was established on 26th of March 1838. We drank beer liqueur and I must say... definitely something I'm going to try when I'm back in South Africa. After the rejuvenating drink, we headed back to the streets.
It was late afternoon when we realized we haven’t eaten anything, so we went to a really nice pub called “The red Rooster”. I decided on a dish called Fuhre Mist (meaning: load of crap) which consists of kartoffeln (grilled potato bits), schinken (grilled ham) and a fried egg on top of it all. And what is a meal without a really good Bruno home brew beer? After dinner we started to experiment with some of the whiskeys…. tasted a couple like Johnny Walker black, Black Bush, Glen Farcas 105, Lagavulin, and my favourite liqueuer: Drambuie.

After a good day of sightseeing and getting to know two new friends, it was time to say goodbye. Christian and Melanie left Dresden from the Hauptbahnhof Nord station. It was a long, cold, 2km walk before I arrived at home approx. 23:00hr that night. But at least it wasn’t cold… only -10C….

It was a good day, but I knew I had to get enough sleep… because on Sunday we visited the Volkswagen Gläserne Manufaktur, situated in Dresden city center.  
This tour for me was like taking a kid to the biggest toy factory in the world!! The walls of the factory are made from glass. One can observe from the streets how workers are creating a masterpiece. Another nice feature of this building is the idea for preventing birds from flying into the glass panels… Outside the building is an outdoor speaker system that is set on a frequency to indicate to birds that the territory is already taken. The enormous round tower shown in the photograph is a storage place where they store each masterpiece, waiting for its owner to come and collect. The tower is 40m high and has a car-lift inside that collects the car from a specific spot inside the tower.

The masterpiece I’m referring to is the only reason why the Volkswagen Gläserne Manufaktur was built… it is called the Phaeton. The value of this car ranges from R550 000 to R1.5 million. You may think it is a lot of money… yes it is… but when you see the car in real life, sitting inside of it… it may might then be worth it for the upper class people. A new byer can specify almost anything in this car. The shake bought a Paethon a couple of years ago… when he ordered his car; he had with him a red dress that was his wife’s favourite. The factory searched across the globe to find the correct colour fabric… 
The factory will always try to meet your needs. When you paid the deposit on an “upper-class” model, the factory will then fly you to Dresden where you can personally specify the details of your car. After some time the factory will then inform you when your car is almost done, so that you can come and install the steering wheel personally. You also get a free “in depth” tour through the factory (walking on the floor where the workers are assembling the cars). On the day when you get your car, you and your family is invited to the factory where the key will be handed to you so that you can drive your car out of the factory. The music that is played during this event is also the buyer’s choice.  

The photo displayed above and on the right is the reception of the factory (unfortunately no photography was allowed inside the factory itself). There is a pianist that plays music and a really nice café that sells really good hot chocolate… The big ball in the middle is a cinema where they show a couple of films (History of the factory, and the history of some of the cars). The top right corner of the photograph on the right is where the factory is situated. I will definitely recommend to anybody to visit the factory.

So that was the tour for the weekend… This weekend my supervisor is going back to South Africa, leaving me to proceed with the research here. So now I definitely need to work on my language… On Sunday I am invited to go to a carnival somewhere near Dresden… until then…

Bis später

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Joy in der weißen "Staub"

It all started with the ICFPAM conference that was held at the University of Pretoria in 2010… This conference was held between 22nd of May until the 27th of May 2010. It was at this conference where one of my dreams came true…

I was offered to work on my Master’s degree at the Leibniz-Institut für Polymerforschung Dresden e. V. in Germany for six months. 

Since a little kid I always wanted to experience Europe. Experience their lifestyle, and especially the snow… The enormous cloud of “smoke” coming from one’s mouth while speaking… the thrill of riding on something in the snow… etc...

I arrived in Frankfurt on the 4th of February 2012 after a ten hour flight from Johannesburg, South Africa. I used Google Earth just to get an idea of how big the airport is… but to my surprise….  it is indescribable. It is the biggest airport I’ve ever been. I bought a nice cup of coffee at a place called ‘Around the World Restaurant’ and tried to explore the whole airport… but to no prevail… it is too big… I only had about 2 hours before I had to catch my connection flight to Dresden airport, where my supervisor and his wife were waiting for me. I used the internal flight service, Lufthansa, and had a really good experience with them.

I arrived in Dresden just after 10:00 am (Approx. 1 hr. flight from Frankfurt) and to my surprise, it was snowing!! For the first time in my life I experienced real snow! The fragile structure of a snow flake amazed me. A chunk of snow is as light as a feather and I noted that when it is too cold, one cannot make snowballs. The temperature was -17oC, but the apparent temperature was actually -26oC. The snow felt like dust in my hand, it felt soft, but was flowing like  sand through an hourglass. And when one is walking on it, it made an unique sound. Fortunately the temperatures inside the buildings and houses are approx.  18oC (thanks to nuclear energy available in Germany) which makes it nice to visit the  shops and to take a break from the cold weather. I took a train (BAHN) and Tram to Alexander-Puschkin-Platz where I finally met the family who I’m staying with for the next 6 months. 

On Sunday, 5th of February, I travelled with my supervisor and friends to a town called Seiffen which is known for their wood carvings. The craftsmanship of the people living there is extraordinary. Some of the known goods they make are the famous nutcracker doll, incense dolls that puff and also pyramids which turns when a candle is placed underneath. Seiffen is definitely a town one should visit when one is in East GermanyThe main purpose for the visit was to go snow sledding. It was quite an experience.

The hill is about 300m long with an angle between 25 degrees and 30 degrees. The speed that is achieved is between 30km/h and 40km/h… which is fast if it is your first time! After about 3 hours of sledding and trying to push my limit to the ultimate, I realized I wanted more!! That is when I saw in the distance people doing cross country skiing. Unfortunately we were to many people to go skiing, so we extended the idea for another weekend....

Most of the people are asking me whether it is difficult to find one’s way in Germany without speaking…My answer is "YES!". The people in East Germany are friendly. And when you try to speak German, those who understand, will help you to improve… I find it not so difficult to learn German… It is not an impossible task, but it is a really good challenge!! Off course it will take time to learn all their grammar, etc, but it took me two days to be able to have a conversation   with the cashier when I go out to buy some groceries.

We will meet again after the next adventure….

Bis später

Picture info:
1st picture  => Shutter Speed: 1/60 sec
                         Apperture:         f/4
                         ISO:                    640
2nd picture => Shutter Speed: 1/1500 sec
                          Apperture:         f/4.8
                          ISO:                    320
3rd picture  => Shutter Speed: 1/1200 sec
                          Apperture:         f/8
                          ISO:                    200
4th picture  => Shutter Speed: 1/125 sec
                          Apperture:         f/5.6
                          ISO:                    250