Thursday, June 08, 2017

A Relaxing Day in Dresden

Dresden is one of the three “mental health days” I built into this trip (the other two are our free day in Vienna and our day trip to Kazimierz Dolny).  From the beginning, I felt that it be important that the heavy and often depressing nature of the subject of the class not emotionally and psychologically overwhelm them.  I’ve met too many students who go on a two-week intense Holocaust class and come back shell shocked.  For some students, this is their visit to any of the countries on our tour; for others, this is their first trip to Europe.  I’d hate for them to come here and miss some of the beautiful aspects here.  That’s why I took them to the Pergamon Museum or the Reichstag or Dresden.  I also think that in a way it enhances the class, because these places were just as beautiful then, yet people did horrible things.  And even among these beautiful places today, people are still doing horrible things. 

I would have gotten a great night’s sleep last night, after the university finally paid my hotel in Prague, but for the fact I had to be up early today to leave for Dresden.  As it happens, I needn’t have gotten up early at all, as our train was delayed an hour.  As a result, I received a 25% refund when I turned in the necessary form this evening (I got there just in the nick of time too, just 5 minutes before they closed at 9 pm).

Once we finally got on, the train was very crowded.  Luckily, I had reserved seats, but it was a mess getting everyone in them as we had most, but not all of the seats in our section of the wagon.  

Making these uncomfortable were a Spanish couple with two giant suitcases, taking up all leg room.  He ultimately moved one to the overhead rack, but it became like a suitcase of Damocles, threating to fall on the head of the person below if the train went too roughly over the points.

Once we were underway, the journey went smoothly and we checked into our hotel in Dresden with no difficulties.  Only one of our rooms was done, but that meant we could store our luggage there without having to pay a storage fee.  I also submitted a form indicating this was an official school group, so it looks as if we will be exempted the 41 Euro city tax.  Woo hoo!

From there, we strolled down past a wild, communist-era mural at the culture center  to the Residenzeschloß, reconstructed since 1992.   I ran off to buy the tickets for our cruise and was pleasantly surprised to receive not only a student discount, but my ticket as professor was free.  It turns out that my ticket at the Residenzeschloß would also have been free if I had made prior arrangements, but now I know better for next time.

We started with the Grünes Gewölbe [the Green Vault], which is basically the tschoschke collection of the kings of Saxony.  There are two green vaults; we visited the new one, which basically selects out the best bits.  The students loved all the silver, gold, and precious gems, and were amazed by many of the items on display.   One student noticed the depiction of Africans and Turks and started photographing material to use in a later research project.

Among the most stunning of the items on display are the Birthday of the Moghul Emperor and a chinoiserie coffee set.  These items cost a literal fortune in the 18th century.

The green diamond is probably the most valuable in the entire collection.  One of the only, if not the only green diamond in the world, it is believed to be this color due to exposure to natural radiation.  I took a still shot of it, but it lost all its fire and color, so then I took a short video so one can see how spectacular it looks. 

Afterwards, we walked through the Zwinger Museum courtyard and from there down to the docks to board our boat.   

From the top deck we had wonderful views of the various mansions and villas built along the Elbe over a century ago. 
 Several of us also ordered some spectacular ice cream sundaes.

After a very relaxing 90 minutes floating on the water, we docked back in Dresden and made a quick visit to the rebuilt Frauenkirche and then back to the hotel.  We’ve all checked into our rooms and I’ve told the students to expect a much nicer breakfast buffet in the morning.  We leave on the 9:08 train to Prague and hopefully, everything will go smoothly.

Dresden has changed somewhat from the last times I’ve been here.  Berlin has always been very multicultural, but Dresden has typically been the opposite.  Resolutely, almost aggressively, German.  You could see it in the clothing, the people’s faces, and their behavior.  This year, I’ve been struck by how many immigrant or migrant faces I could see as I walked the streets.  I asked our guide yesterday about the differences for migrants between Berlin and Dresden.  He said that in Berlin, he’s only experienced warm welcomes, while his friend in Dresden says only about 90% of the people treat him that way.  Maybe once a week he experiences some hostility.

I’m curious whether I see any changes among the hotel guests tomorrow at breakfast.

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