today’s nerdy thoughts: the mixed blessing of flexibility

I just got back from my last meeting (or, as it could accurately be called, my fourth meeting) with my main research advisor for the year. I went into the meeting with a bit of resentment, as she did not respond a month ago when I sent her my full rough draft, and a bit of anxiety, as I always dread getting feedback about my writing. But I came out of our conversation with a renewed sense of optimism and opportunity! Here’s why.

For my whole academic career, I’ve always been a bit jealous of the future engineers, businesspeople, etc. who had a very clear path: XYZ classes during college, a summer internship with ABC company, and hopefully a job offer for after graduation. A discrete check-list to fulfill and check off, and a quantifiable plan to follow.

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As a future social scientist/writer/consultant person in a nebulous field, I never had that (especially before but even after I had a clear area of interest). My summer internships and jobs have all been somewhat random and, if a full-time offer ever came from them (which never happened), it wouldn’t result in a job I’d be qualified for or even want to have. But I have been slowly accumulating skills along the way, skills which will hopefully be helpful to me once I am launched on the right path. And I have had, and hope to have in the future, a lot more control over molding these opportunities to fit my interests, lifestyle, and goals.

The way I’ve thought about this year’s research opportunity has been much the same. It would have been much clearer and easier to work in a professor’s lab, do the daily tasks, and write a research report at the end of each week or month. But instead, I had the very nebulous task of creating my own research project, finding sources, conducting interviews, and creating some kind of meaning or result out of it all. While working under the advisement of professors whose focus area isn’t even close to what I’ve been studying. And with the vague idea that my topic (flood management in Dresden) isn’t exactly what I want to do in the long run, anyway.

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So, sometimes it was stressful. But today, after talking with my professor, I was able to see some of the wonderful fruits that will eventually come from creating my own opportunities and taking the road less traveled to my someday career. While this year’s research topic may not be the subject of my life’s work, I chose something important, current, and applicable that almost no one has researched yet. My paper tackles themes that relate to almost any question of environmental or natural research management, whether or not it is related to flooding or Germany at all.

In the more immediate scope of things, it’s possible that I can work with someone at Wisconsin to rework parts of my paper for publication. My professor also threw out the possibility of continuing to work on the topic together! In particular, one thing that my study has always been missing, which I simply couldn’t fit into a 10-month time frame, is raw data from some sort of census or poll of Dresden residents about their flood experiences.

She suggested the idea that she and some of her colleagues could conduct some such poll, and then use that data to expound upon the work I’ve already done. Which is actually really exciting! I had never actually considered that the dinky, self-guided research I’ve been doing could be my “way in” to real academic circles!

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We also discussed the “bigger picture” themes that are included in my research: top-down versus bottom-up decision making in communities, resilience to natural disasters, citizen participation, and hard versus soft implements in natural resource management, all of which are applicable beyond just flood management and in other geographic areas than Germany. So my experience this year has broadened my mind and got me thinking about themes that will be important no matter what I decide to do in the future.

But something my professor also pointed out is that my main interests and experience in my past research tend to skew towards regional comparison, which could lead to some exciting opportunities in the future: learning lessons from researching one area or scenario, and being the person to apply that knowledge to another situation in a practical way. That’s exciting to me.

Thinking about all these things actually got me thinking about a potential writing project I could start in the future! Even though writing has always been my one talent, I have never really been all that inspired to write for anything besides school, or this silly blog I suppose. So it’s weird to say that this is an oddly new prospect.

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I would never be able to consider something as daunting and nebulous as “writing” if I had ever been on a really clear professional track, so in the end, I am very grateful that I have been able to seek out my own opportunities and define my own path, even though it gets messy and frustrating sometimes.

Anyway. Just a sort of wrap-up update about the intellectual side of my experience. Accompanied by some photos from a walk along the Elbe, my main intellectual pursuit during this year!

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deutschland sind weltmeister!

The team celebrates after the final whistle

The team celebrates after the final whistle

Well, that was an experience I could never have expected or planned for my year in Germany! World Cup Champions! How exciting.

I had secretly been hoping that this would happen since the Cup started. Of course I was rooting for the USA, but if they had pulled off a miracle and advanced further or won, I would have been a bit disappointed to not be home for that. Watching Germany during the last month has been so much fun!

A truly terrible photo of Daniela and myself. Once the flash is necessary, you know things will end badly. (But see the Frauenkirche in the background there?)

A truly terrible photo of Daniela and myself. Once the flash is necessary, you know things will end badly. (But see the Frauenkirche in the background there?)

Germany is basically the total opposite of America when it comes to patriotism or national spirit, but things are different during the World Cup. Actually, the tides of “German patriotism” changed ever so slightly when the World Cup was hosted here in 2006, and now it is slightly acceptable to catch a glimpse of a German flag from time to time.

But to be in a crowd of hundreds of Germans singing the national anthem before the game? It was a wonderful and rare experience.

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(I didn’t sing along, because I’m not German of course, and also because the words I know the best are to the “old version” and that would not have been well received.)

The game itself was suspenseful. At least it was clear that the teams were well matched! But I did get the feeling, especially towards the end when poor Schweinsteiger was getting tossed around so violently (but kind of for the whole game) that Argentina was getting calls that Germany just wasn’t. It was less pleasant still when a 6’5″ chain smoker decided to come stand squarely in front of me at halftime and stay there for the rest of the game, through both periods of extra time.

My feet and ankles were getting so tired from standing on my tip-toes that, when Götze finally scored, I had resigned myself to not being able to see the screen anymore… luckily, I did indeed see the fateful goal! And the place erupted. It was unreal.

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The uproar subsided shortly while Messi took his penalty kick, but then once the final whistle blew… Wahnsinn.

(This video didn’t capture the post-victory jubilation as well as I had hoped, but… here you go.)

We celebrated as we watched the players and teams receive their awards (Neuer hugging Angela Merkel was probably the funniest thing of the evening) and finally the Cup was awarded!! Then we set out on an epic hour-long journey to get home amid totally packed tram cars and people driving crazily down the street, honking their horns and waving flags out their windows! I was exhausted when I finally got home (and I hadn’t eaten in almost 10 hours thanks to some craziness in getting to the game) but still exhilarated.

Germany! World Cup Champs!!

I’m pulling for America in 2018, though 🙂

cherry picking and other adventures

On Friday, Felicitas and I had one simple goal: make it to an orchard to pick cherries. We knew about one orchard outside of Meissen, so we took the S-Bahn to the nearby town. We brought along our bikes because the orchard itself wasn’t walking distance from the train station, as it turned out.

A view of Meissen as we crossed the Elbe

A view of Meissen as we crossed the Elbe

After getting a bit turned around because each of us had assumed that the other one knew how to get to the orchard from Meissen, we ended up on a long, un-bike-friendly, extremely hilly road… and just when we were about to give up…

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Cherry trees! Along the road. We hadn’t actually made it to the orchard, but we spotted a guy picking the cherries from these trees. We confirmed with him that the trees were on public land (and thus, we were entitled to pick cherries from them as long as we didn’t plan on selling them for profit), and that they were edible. And so, amazed at our good fortune, we got to work!

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It was the best happenstance occurrence, because we brought in a huge haul of cherries–which are normally so expensive! And they were all free, as opposed to the almost 4 Euros/kilo we’d have paid at the orchard. Plus, we got the thrill of picking them ourselves!

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Probably about a third of our harvest

After we were satisfied with the fruits of our labors, we coasted down the now-mostly-downhill road back into town. We had planned to hop on the S-Bahn back to Dresden, but before we knew it, we were on the bike trail that would lead us back home, and there were only 26 kilometers left to go! So we decided to continue the adventure and bike along the river.

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We spotted some goats about 10 km from Dresden, and later we caught a glimpse of a windmill! It was a beautiful ride and the weather was wonderful–a massive improvement from the cold and rainy morning we’d had.

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playing hostess in dresden

Daniel was my first and probably only guest during my time here in Dresden. I was so happy to be able to share my new (is it new anymore?) life with someone, and I’m happy that someone was Daniel because we had such a blast during the 5 days he was here!

This is real life--a picture with my boyfriend on my actual street! haha.

This is real life–a picture with my boyfriend on my actual street! haha.

Sunday

The first thing we did on Sunday was attend evening Mass at the cathedral, kicking off the list of “I’m so glad I can show this to someone” places! I love going to the Dresden cathedral every week. I think it’s gorgeous. We actually ran into several friends of mine there (which made me look incredibly popular, when in reality that never happens!).

The gorgeous cathedral decked out for Pentecost

The gorgeous cathedral decked out for Pentecost

Afterwards, we headed up to Neustadt, the hipper part of town north of the river, to get Indian food. There was a great Indian place near town hall that I used to go to embarrassingly frequently before it unexpectedly closed in December, but they have another location up there that I hadn’t been to yet! It was also a great chance to see Neustadt at a glance.

Monday

Monday morning I kicked into “tiger tour guide” mode again as we did a full cycle of Dresden’s baroque center. I felt relatively well-prepared to give a good tour of “my city” by now, and we made it all the way through in about two hours: Kreuzkirche, Altmarkt, Frauenkirche, “Zitronenpress,” Brühlische Terrasse, Hofkirche, Fürstenzug, Zwinger, Semperoper… and if all of that is just nonsense to you, clearly that is a sign that you should have visited me and gotten a tour yourself! [There’s still time, folks! I’m here till July 31!]

It was really fun to show Daniel the beautiful city and also I loved having a reason to be a total tourist, taking photos and everything! We also had a beautiful day, and I don’t think many of my Dresden-Altstadt photos have had a blue sky so far, so that was great.

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With the Frauenkirche and my beloved Lemon Press in the background

Then we took the Straßenbahn a few stops to the Weisse Gasse, a kind of expensive but very… varied group of restaurants, and helped ourselves to Cuban tapas! And ice cream. I had a Spaghettieis in honor of German immersion, of course.

Later that evening, we had an International Mass at the KSG, so I brought Daniel along to meet a few more of my friends. It was great timing because a lot of the Mass was in English due to the special International event. So that was fun. I also had a great reason to skip the usual lecture afterwards because Daniel doesn’t speak German! 😉

During the day on Monday, my camera died, so I don’t have any pictures from the rest of the week! Daniel has them, and he is having problems uploading them for some reason… so I’ll just talk about what we did Tuesday-Friday with hopes of later posting the highlights of the photos.

Tuesday

On Tuesday, I took Daniel on a little tour around the university and then we had some coffee and cake at one of the cafés on campus before my class at 1.  After my class, we took the Straßenbahn about half an hour north to Bühlau, near where I lived with my host family, to see the castles along the Elbe and go hiking in the Dresden Heath. Neither of us had really been hiking since our Colorado trip, so it was fun to have a little urban wilderness excursion. We followed that up with beer and grilled meat at the Biergarten of one of the castles, of course, while enjoying one of the best views of Dresden.

The Frauenkirche, Dresden's famous domed church. (Obviously I am just dispersing photos and they don't really go with the text at this point)

The Frauenkirche, Dresden’s famous domed church. (Obviously I am just dispersing photos and they don’t really go with the text at this point)

On our way back, we met Felicitas for ice cream– but none of us ended up being hungry, so instead we went to the Großer Garten, Dresden’s biggest park, for a little walk (and a look at another castle in the middle of the park).

Wednesday

We actually started Wednesday off at the Großer Garten as well, with a lovely lunch picnic! It was a nice, leisurely change of pace compared to the previous two days! We watched the park train go by, had spinning contests, and successfully opened a beer bottle sans bottle opener.

This is not the Großer Garten, but rather the Zwinger Palace courtyard

This is not the Großer Garten, but rather the Zwinger Palace courtyard

We had picked the park as our chill-out picnic location because it is right next to the Volkswagen Gläserne Manufaktur (“transparent factory”), a state-of-the-art factory where VW’s only luxury car is manufactured. Every single VW Phaeton in the world (not sold in the US) is assembled there! My friend and tandem partner has an internship there so she gave me all the information about English tours, and it was actually really interesting! The idea of the factory is to involve customers in the manufacturing process, as everything about the Phaetons (and Bentleys) produced there is entirely customized. It is absolutely fascinating (and FANCY), even for two non-“car people” such as ourselves. This video explains it way better than I could on this little Cliffs Notes version of our week.

Thursday

Thursday, our last full day together, was probably one of the most fun! After my morning class, we rented bikes for the day and went riding along the river. The weather was gorgeous and I love being able to see the city from a new vantage point. On our way “out of town” along the bike path, we saw the famous Canaletto View of the town which was immortalized in many paintings in the 18th century. We rode about 5 kilometers east along the Elbe before stopping to take a little break, watch some people flying kites, and enjoy some brews at a Biergarten before heading back the other way.

Our westward destination was the Pfund Molkerei, the so-called “most beautiful dairy in the world.” Basically, it is a dairy shop that sells cheese and other milk products (and a lot of souvenirs because it’s become a tourist destination), but inside it is absolutely beautiful, decked out with painted tiles from floor to ceiling. No photos are allowed, but Daniel was able to get one… I’ll share it when possible! There is a restaurant upstairs, and we each had a milkshake and we shared a piece of quark cake (like cheesecake but made with quark, a dairy product that I’ve never seen in the States).

A view of the castle and cathedral from the Brühlische Terrasse

A view of the castle and cathedral from the Brühlische Terrasse

We passed the cathedral as we biked back through town to the bike rental, and I realized that Thursday adoration was going on! So we stopped by for about half an hour before returning our bikes. That evening, we had dinner at a German restaurant that I actually really liked, despite my German food fatigue. Thanks again, TripAdvisor! I was craving a salad, but Daniel really won with a heaping plate of pork smothered in onions and fried potatoes. And, because we were living large on our last night together… ice cream for dessert!

Friday

Daniel’s bus to Berlin left a little before noon, so we had time to have a nice breakfast together at one of my favorite cafés near campus. Of course I wish he could have stayed longer, but I had such a fabulous week with him and I’m so glad he was able to visit me in my German home. All things considered, this year has worked out wonderfully for us… better than I could have hoped!  We have made so many amazing memories together all throughout Europe.

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Behind us is the Fürstenzug, or “Procession of Princes,” a mosaic mural that shows every prince or elector who has ever ruled in Dresden

We did lots of really fun things while Daniel was in Dresden, but honestly a lot of the best moments were the uneventful ones: making pizza at my apartment and watching 30 Rock episodes while drinking cheap whiskey… or trying to teach him to pronounce German words! It was just the most fun week ever and I’m so glad to have those memories. Pictures of the rest of the week to come soon, I hope!

a very sächsisch easter

I already talked a little about my Holy Week. But the awesome thing is that the fun didn’t end there!

Holy Saturday was appropriately low-key. I cleaned my apartment, I ate the rest of my hot cross scone, I cooked in preparation for the next day’s barbecue, I got a little bit of work done (booooo!), and I tried to stay in the anticipatory mindset of the holiday. Then I put on my Easter-iest outfit that could still conceivably include tights and a sweater because it somehow got really cold last week, and went to meet Felicitas and Nathaniel for the Easter Vigil!

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I love the Easter Vigil but I hadn’t actually been for a few years. I had gotten a tip from a friend to get there 45 minutes early, at least, if we wanted a good seat. So we got there around 50 minutes early feeling super on top of it only to find an almost completely full church! We grabbed what seemed to be the last 3-person-sized spot available, in the second-to-last row. So we waited, we saw the light slowly dim outside, we scrutinized our liturgy program for the Vigil and compared the English and German translations of the psalms and responses.

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The Mass itself was beautiful. There’s just nothing better than the lights finally coming on and the bells ringing as you sing the Gloria. Pure joy. When I finally made it home around midnight, I couldn’t fall asleep because I was so hyped up and joyful.

However, it was important that I get to sleep somewhat on time because my Easter Sunday started bright and early! I was meeting my host parents near their house in Bühlau, 40 minutes away, at 8 the next morning, so I did plan on waking up early, but the lovely church on my block had other plans for me… when it decided to ring its bells for a good 20 minutes at 5 AM as opposed to its usual 7! Regardless, I was on my way bright and early. The Brauns picked me up from the bus stop and we headed north of Dresden to see the Osterreiter.

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The Osterreiter (Easter Riders) is an annual parade, of sorts, that happens every Easter in the Sorbian region north of Dresden. The Sorbs are an ethnic minority that live in the area around Bautzen, about an hour from Dresden; they speak a Slavic language, Sorbian, that to me sounds a lot like Polish but I’m sure it’s quite different. The Osterreiter are men from the area who don traditional dress every Easter morning and ride horses along stretches of the region, processing around churches in each town, all the while singing Easter hymns in German and Sorbian.

It was quite a sight to behold!

It was really cool to me to see how this ethnic minority passes its culture down to the younger generation… there were Reiter of all ages, and you could tell which of the younger boys were riding for the first time because they wore special green wreath pins.

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We ended up seeing the Reiter in three different towns… twice on purpose, and once because, as we tried to drive back to Dresden, the road was blocked because the parade was scheduled to come through any minute, so we figured we should go ahead and watch them again!

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It was also really cool being in the Sorbian region because it’s a heavily Catholic area. The Sorbs are Catholic, and nearly all of the houses in each town had yellow and white “Catholic” flags hanging about, or alcoves with statues of Jesus and Mary displayed, or crucifixes or statues of saints along the streets (like I used to see in very-Catholic Baden-Württemburg). It’s crazy the different culture and lifestyle that exists only about half an hour away!

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Besides seeing the Osterreiter, the Brauns and I had a very lovely day. We stopped for a little picnic between watching the parades–Frau Braun had baked an Easter loaf, which was delicious, and we ate fruit and drank juice and tea and it was perfectly lovely (though it would have been smart of me to eat breakfast before leaving).

Herr Braun’s daughter Gaby was with us for the day, too… I think she’s a year or so older than me and I enjoyed talking to her about agriculture (she’s an avid gardener and studies agricultural topics, which is a “fringe” academic interest of mine) and cultural exchange (she’s been an au pair in England and Italy).

We also stopped at the Neschwitz Castle nearby. As far as castles go, it wasn’t incredibly large — which was good for our short little quarter-of-the-day trip. A noble family used to live in the house, and it was undamaged during the war (if I remember correctly). DSC04976DSC04984

On our way back to the car, the “Easter Bunny” hid some chocolate for all of us — so we had a little hunt on the grounds. I came away with a nice stash of chocolate eggs for the week (or however long they last… we’ll see).

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I headed back to my apartment in just enough time to check my e-mail, grab the cole slaw [with bacon] I’d prepared the day before, and meet Flitzi and Nate, again, to head to our Easter barbecue! We were the only ones of our friends who didn’t go home for Easter, so we created our own party and invited a few other international folks Felicitas had met at a DAAD conference last weekend. It was a fun time! We ate a lot, talked a lot (in English, score after a full morning of German conversations) and had a wonderful time! I’m glad that grillen season is here, because the Germans love nothing more than grilling up some bratwurst while drinking beer and I am very much in favor of this pastime.

The only picture from said event... the result of using a plastic fork while grilling

The only picture from said event… the result of using a plastic fork while grilling

On Monday, still a holiday in Germany, the celebrations continued, if you can imagine! Still among our small group of “lonely English speakers,” we had a perfectly lovely Easter brunch. Omelets, English breakfast tea, leftover cake, and sparkling wine from Felicitas’ family’s winery in western Germany… perfection.

Easter is faaaar from over… it’s still the Easter Octave, so technically it’s still Easter Sunday until next week! (Yay Catholicism!) So my Easter will still include a trip to Rome for the double canonization this weekend, and a reunion with Daniel and my friend Wayne! You can bet I’ll be writing about that, too, so stick around! 🙂

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you know you’re a bad blogger when….

I’m sure I have many “bad blogger” characteristics, as evidenced by the lack of activity going on here lately. But it’s especially bad when WordPress forgets who I am and I have to manually log in….

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Goats/rams (?) in a Dresdner Heide nature preserve area

I’ve now been in Dresden longer than 4.5 months, which is how long I lived in Freiburg, and while I am 100% sure that 10.5 months is a more respectable and less hurried duration to spend abroad, the truth is that the blog-worthy material gets spaced out a lot more! So I’m going to go ahead and stretch the definition of “blog-worthy” and call it even.

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Just an adorable fuzzy baby deer

The semester is now over! The German semester system (at least for the university calendar) is totally off from the American one, which can get confusing sometimes. The Winter Semester, which spans from October to February, just finished up.  That means there aren’t any more lectures, but the testing period has only just began… if I’m not mistaken, it continues well into March. Luckily I only had one exam, and we took it last week, so my semester is finished. Classes will start back up in mid-April.

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Yesterday I visited the Asian markets underneath the train station for the first time!! That sounds incredibly sketchy, and indeed I felt sketchy taking the escalator down below the train station, but the markets were so delightful that I was happy for the rest of the day!!! They have a much more varied produce selection than I normally find at the traditional grocery stores in my neighborhood, I finally was able to get my hands on some crushed red pepper (I know it exists elsewhere but I had had no luck actually finding it), and they even have black beans! I’ll have to go back later on in the year and see if I can’t scrounge up the ingredients for some decent Mexican food.

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I discovered a few weeks ago that one of the cafés around the corner from campus (or, rather, the part of campus where all my classes are/were) has free WiFi! This is the best discovery ever, because it allows me to use my time incredibly well and also to consume a lot more pastries than I had been previously. 

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This Thursday is the anniversary of the bombing of Dresden during World War II, and apparently the traditional way to remember that occasion is to stage a peaceful protest. I’m told that the Neo-Nazi groups have their own protest, while the rest of the city, in response to both the Neo-Nazi protesters and the general idea of solidarity brought on by the memory of the bombing, gathers to form a human chain. I’m going to participate and have no idea what to expect (other than what I just told you) but it should be interesting!

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I have quite a few trips planned during the semester break! I’m very excited. I’ll be spending two weeks in Spain, a week in Greece, and a weekend each in Hamburg and Rome over the next 2 months! I know I’ve talked about this at least a few times, but rejoice, blog readers, because that means that at least 4 different times over the next few months, I will be able write legitimate posts about things I’ve done! So look forward to that.

exploring dresden (plus snow pictures!)

I’ve been up to a lot of cool stuff in the past few weeks that I haven’t gotten around to writing about! I’ve gotten to see a bunch of different aspects of what Dresden has to offer, and it has me energized to get out and see even more!

[I have been awful about taking pictures while doing these various things, so enjoy these pictures from our SNOW DAY today! (That might actually be misleading. It was a snow day because it snowed, but life went on as scheduled because it’s not like this is Texas.)]

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The view from my window

If you haven’t caught on yet, I really love Dresden. It is the happiest of accidents that I ended up here! I knew almost nothing about the city before I decided to come here, and the reason I ended up at the university here was correspondence with a professor with whom I’m not even working anymore! The university, the Technical University of Dresden, is one of 12 distinguished universities in Germany as of 2012 (and the only east German school on that list!), so even that was a happy surprise, but as far as cities go, I couldn’t be happier!

Dresden is big enough that there is lots to do, even after several months of being a (fairly) active tourist-slash-resident. But it’s small enough that it doesn’t take 3 hours to travel from one place to another, a la Houston. It’s old enough to have so much fascinating and inspiring history, yet new enough to have a great art, music, and cultural scene. It’s ideally located right between Berlin and Prague (2 hours from each). Basically, I love it here and I’m so glad this is “my” city.

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Our balcony view… the Russian Church is so pretty!

I’ve blogged already about exploring the historic city center, including the Frauenkirche, the Kathedrale, the Christmas markets (when they were there…), and the many museums. (I have yet to make it to the Zwinger Palace! This is my one big, gaping Dresden hole so far!)

Two weekends in a row, some of the “internationals” decided to explore Neustadt. Neustadt (“new city,” literally) is the part of town north of the river where most of the bars/party scene is. I had never really been there… I’m not much of a party gal, but it seems to be pretty much my speed, so I’ve been enjoying getting to know it a bit better.

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One night, Felicitas, Nathaniel, and I got dinner and drinks at one bar where we made fools of ourselves first thing by not knowing how to operate the front door, and then moved on to a magical place called the Schokoladenbar (chocolate bar) where they served wonderful drinks that might as well be dessert! During our wanderings through the Neustadt, we stumbled upon the Kunsthofpassage, where there is a bunch of cool street art and cute little shops. This building supposedly plays music when it rains (though based on this video, that may be an exaggeration… it wasn’t raining when I was there so I can’t confirm)!

The next weekend, a few of us went on an outing to the Erich Kästner Museum, also in Neustadt. The name sounded vaguely familiar to me, but it wasn’t until after we got to the museum that I was reminded that Kästner was the beloved German children’s author who wrote Emil und die Detektive, which I think I read in German 2 or 3 in high school! I definitely remember watching the movie at some point. It turns out that Kästner was born and raised in Dresden Neustadt, not far from the museum building!

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The Lukas Kirche, whose bells wake me up every morning… if you can see the inscription above the door, it says “Glory to God in the Highest” (Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe)

The museum itself was fascinating. It’s an “interactive micro-museum,” which sounds like a strange or hipster-y concept, but really it was the perfect medium for displaying the life and work of a children’s author. It was all housed within one room, which contained 12 “columns” — basically shelves which each had a bunch of color-coded drawers. The drawers contained various items from Kästner’s life… photos, quotes, documents and letters, books… it was a lot of reading and not much of it was translated, so I wouldn’t recommend this museum to people who can’t read German, but for those who can, this museum was amazing, definitely worth 4 Euros and an hour of your day!

One of my favorite artifacts was a letter from Kästner to a children’s theater group in Dresden who were putting on one of his plays and had invited him to their performance. He personally wrote to them to regretfully inform them that he wouldn’t be able to attend, but that he would send his father (the original Emil!) instead! I thought that was so sweet. There were also a few letters of correspondence between Kästner and Astrid Lindgren, who wrote the Pippi Longstocking books (among others).

The trees in front of this house looked like lace.

The trees in front of this house looked like lace.

While we were in the neighborhood, we also popped into a store called “Beyond the Pond” that imports American and British goods — food, beer, books, etc. I didn’t buy anything, it was all pretty expensive, but it was cool to go check out the American things I could easily access if I ever had an emergency Betty Crocker or ranch dressing craving.

As you can see from all these pictures, it snowed basically non-stop yesterday and today. None of that Polar Vortex craziness, just a light little flurry that’s left a blanket of probably 4 or 5 inches all over the place! It’s so pretty! I was such a Texan all day, carrying my camera everywhere to capture the magic before it disappears. I was a little self-conscious about openly taking pictures of things with so many people around… otherwise I would have a lot more.

This is the Schumann-Bau where I have 3 of my classes. I think it's really beautiful. It used to be a prison, which is a little creepy, but also kind of cool.

This is the Schumann-Bau where I have 3 of my classes. I think it’s really beautiful. It used to be a prison, which is a little creepy, but also kind of cool.

But because everything was looking so pretty and magical, I decided it would be fun to go to the Großer Garten before it all melts (hopefully it won’t for a while, but fresh snow is prettier than week-old snow). The Garten (Garden…yay cognates!) is really big and pretty under normal circumstances, but I thought with the snow it would be gorgeous. Unfortunately it was dark before I got there today, but even though the pictures didn’t turn out, it was so beautiful and peaceful to behold! I’ll have to go one day when it’s actually light outside.