Friday, July 22, 2011

Dresden: Green Vault to the Zwinger

A short word on Dresden. For anyone who was born after 1960, you may not know that Dresden was firebombed at the very end of WWII. Reading Slaughterhouse Five is a wild ride, but it certainly does give you a picture of the complete devastation. Vonnegut describes it as a moonscape, devoid of life. In the last sixty-plus years, Dresden has rebuilt the old part of town (altstadt) which has picked up a lot of speed since the reunification.

In 2006 I dragged Rob here on a day trip and he was amazed at the progress since his last visit. Ever since that trip, he's been tracking it all on live webcams and it is an eerie experience to walk around with someone who has such a complete mental map of a place. I can point to nearly any building and he will tell me not only what it is, but also the controversy and difficulties they found when they tried to rebuild/redesign/replace it.

Our day began at 6:00am when our kids woke each other up and then came to get us. If you were keeping track, that was six hours of sleep for the Jossmonster or about half what he should have had. Not a good beginning. Rob took the younger two to breakfast and out on a walk. I led by example and got Will and Maddie to go back to sleep for another two hours. Once we'd all enjoyed the hostel's breakfast buffet, we made our way here to the Residence Palace.
The most famous inhabitant was Augustus the Strong and we were taking a tour of the Green Vault where he kept his jewels. It should be noted that no pictures were allowed and so these three are pilfered, but you've just got to get an idea of what it was like.
Incredibly opulent. For me, this ranked up there with the Schatzkammer in Vienna and the Crown Jewels in London. They were amazing treasures in a breathtaking setting.
The high point was a room called the Jewel Room (and none of the above are it -- they were just the preludes) where they laid out Augustus' garnitures. It was a new word for me -- it's a set of matching jewels and contained dozens in each one for the buttons and cufflinks and rings and brooches and so on and so forth. He had a whole set in rubies, another of emeralds, sapphires, and two of diamonds. It was unbelievable.
After the Green Vault, Maddie ran off with students and we took the boys here for lunch. The food was good, we had the floor to ourselves, but service was slow and so Rob had to run off to teach the next part of his course.
He took the students all up the tower of the Residence Palace to see the view of the Elbe river and the altstadt.
Maddie went with them. Here she is looking back at the Frauenkirche and the Neumarkt.
Rob went crazy with all of the rebuilt Renaissance elements and was in heaven.
He walked and talked the students into the ground. I mentioned this tendency of his, didn't I?
Here's another picture of the Frauenkirche on the Neumarkt (the Lady Church on the New Market). It has an amazing story of rebuilding which you can read here.
Then Rob took the students to the Alte Meister Gallerie (Old Masters Gallery) which is a small but magnificent collection of paintings. The best known work is Raphael's Sistine Madonna with those two little angels at the lower edge.
They also had an exhibit of Cranach the Elder and Cranach the Younger. This was one of my favorites and it looks much more magnificent and much less yellow in person.
This was another favorite from my jaunt through: a portrait by Hans Holbein. That bare hand looked like it could reach out and shake you.
While Rob had been walking the students and Maddie into the ground, I had taken the boys back to the hostel for some down time. Joss didn't even make it home before he was zonked out in the stroller and I was able to move him to a cool bed in a blacked out room where he slept for two or three hours (and he needed it!). The boys watched Avatar episodes on the iPad.

Then when Rob was done, I brought the boys into town and sprinted over to the museum to see those works. I moved pretty surgically to the paintings I wanted to see, but it was difficult not to get sucked into everything that they had.
Rob took the kids to the Euro store and let them play in this fountain in the Alte Markt (Old Market. You're getting the hang of this now, aren't you!).
It was a pretty warm day and I'm certain that passersby were more than a little envious of a kid who could strip down in the water.
I would have been!

Rob dried the kids off and met up with the students for dinner.
We ate in the basement of the Coselpalais. This belonged to Augustus' mistress who was later supplanted and eventually exiled. Bummer to be a mistress back then, methinks.
We were in a restaurant called the Pulverturm or powder tower. It was an actual medieval tower and they found the remains when they were remodeling above.
The adults all had rouladen (stuffed beef rolls) and potatoes and red cabbage and our kids all got goulasch and noodles.
Then some musicians came by and began playing and singing. You wouldn't think that a trumpet and a lute would sound good together, but it was just right for the acoustics. They were at the entrance as we were leaving and they let Joss bang on the drum while they sang, then broke out with six verses of "If You're Happy And You Know It". It was the highlight of Joss' day.
We went across the river with some of the students to have ice cream for dessert.
It was marvelous weather. We watched three hot air balloons take off and marveled that during the DDR it was a punishable offense to use one.
Then we walked back over to the Zwinger, a baroque complex of museums and curliques. I love this picture because it is so representative of the day and of the summer: tired, hanging, smiling kids and Joss wearing headphones and not even looking up from the iPad. "Whatever it takes" I keep telling myself.
The flowers and gardens have been lovely throughout Germany, but I don't have access to Picasa so I'm showing a lot fewer pictures. I thought I'd throw this one in.
The boys ran around the inner courtyard of the Zwinger.
Me and my beautiful girl.
The blue-eyed team.

The lights started to come on in the Zwinger.
We stayed until the Meissen clock struck nine, then headed for home.
And once there we had to wash off the day's grime. At home this one is strictly a tub kind of a guy, but I adjusted the shower head down to his height and he really liked being in control. He would have stayed in for 45 minutes, but it was time for bed!

1 comment:

Nedra said...

What a marvelous post! I loved the memories of Dresden it brought back. The Frauenkirke and the Zwinger and especially the Green Vault. I'm glad you all got to see all of those. The picture of you and Maddie is wonderful--my two beautiful girls.
ps I'm reading this on Maddi's birthday. Happy Birthday again.