i'm on a boat! also, dresden

Never thought I'd be
On a boat... and all that. But
I did. These guys rock.

This was the first weekend since Berlin that I've headed out on the train on my own. I guess that, in short, it was a touring fail and a socializing win.

The ride to Dresden provided me with the company of two fellows: Jens and Martin. (Damn, I am meeting a lot of Martins/Martyns here for some reason.) Martin was a computer game artist, and Jens was a pump salesman. We spent 4 hours chattering about the ever-changing state of world politics (also apathy), the strange summer that's settled in here in Germany, and when advertisers will start paying people to have their jingles as ringtones. It was a better way to spend my time than catching up on my newsmagazines... although I still desperately need to do that.

Upon arrival in Dresden, I managed to find, despite my terrible memory and new hairstyle, the proper Jens and another friend, Jupp. These were two of the guys that I had originally met for/during the Cluster Challenge at SC08. We had to spend a week around each other, sleep-deprived, in Austin, so we, you know, became friends. I probably laughingly told them at some point during that week that if I were ever to come to Germany, I'd surely visit them. Anyway, the rest is history.

Social wins: we went out to a club with Norman, one of Jupp's friends, and, even though the music was terrible, it was kinda fun. We hung out outside for a long while (an hour or so after the sun started rising at... 4:00 am), chatting, and it was güt.

Robin, Jupp, and Jens showed me around their campus the next morning. Some of their lecture halls are awesome. One used to be a prison, and you can actually still see the bases of bars on the windows where they were cut out. Their CS building also amused me a lot; there were some huge sculptures in the middle of the main hall that totally looked like those little green aliens from Zelda GameBoy games (I can't think what they're called..).

Tourism fails: the next day we went to the city centre to explore all the (...can you guess?) old buildings. On the tram ride there, I got caught without a ticket and had to pay €40. :( That's quite a step up from the €1.80 that the ticket was going to be... but it's not so unlikely that I have, um, "borrowed" approximately that amount in train rides, anyway, so I didn't feel too bad about it. We strolled down the bank of the Elbe, past the University of Fine Arts (which was really gorgeous) and the Hofkirche and the Frauenkirche... we tried to get into a couple of the churches in the area, but they were both closed. Argh.

Some of the buildings in downtown Dresden are really interesting; they were mostly destroyed in the war, but they were also rebuilt, and they used a lot of the original stones for this new construction. This gives a neat effect, though. There are a lot of black stones that are really old mixed in with a lot of white stones that are really new. Dresden: the dalmatian city.

Some of the buildings are interesting for other reasons. Various kings and other royalty have made Dresden their home over the centuries, and they've left behind some amusing structures. One that I found particularly amusing and overly-lavish was the Zwinger palace. I was told that it was built as a harem for one king's women. Bahahaa... these guys knew how to live. :D

Social win: That night we (at this point, "we" was Jens, Jupp, Robin, Mandy (Robin's girlfriend), and I) went out to a bar that was known for serving beers from various countries around the world. I tried Chinese, Taiwanese, Cuban, African--which was crazy... it was called "Juju Beer," and it was intended to be served by a young African virgin girl?--, and some other kinds of beers. Delicious! I learned like two more words of German, too. (vocabulary++!)

Social win: Later that night, "we" became Jens, Jupp, Norman (Jupp's friend), Stefan (Norman/Jupp's friend), and Bine (I hope I spelled that right... also Norman/Jupp/Stefan's friend), and we went to a club called Downtown. It was totally ridiculous. I was informed previously that Germany was still "musically in the 80s," but I didn't quite believe it until I was given the choice opportunity to dance to MC Hammer's "Can't Touch This" in a club. A lot of the music played was in English, actually, which led to a couple of amusing conversations. For instance:

Pussycat Dolls: Don't cha wish your girlfriend was raw like me... (aside: this can be fairly indistinguishable, even to a native speaker)
Jupp: So these lyrics are kind of weird, right?
Me: Um, yes.


My dad, a metallurgical engineer, is a big fan, and some of it rubbed off on me. Much to the astonishment of my German friends, not only could I sing along to terrible English music, but also to really angry/hard/odd German music. It was awesome.

The next morning, I believe I instigated the next epoch of Germany. I guess that not all aspects of American culture have pervaded everywhere yet, so I did the only decent thing and introduced Jupp to I'm on a Boat and Jizz in my Pants (probably these links are NSFW).

Then, we went on a boat! It was a tour of the Elbe. The Elbe river valley in Dresden was a UNESCO World Heritage site until, um, two days before I got there. The city of Dresden decided that they need to build a huge, ugly bridge in the middle of the most gorgeous and pristine part, and I guess that the critical ugliness (or something) was reached just then, so I missed out.

There was one really neat bridge to be seen along the way, though: it's known locally as the Blue Wonder. It was built before people knew really how to build suspension bridges, so they basically threw it up and crossed their fingers. 150 years later, it still stands!

Tourism fail: At the end of the ride stood another castle. Shocking, I know. But we weren't allowed to get near it. I guess, through fantastically unfortunate planning, I had managed to pick to visit on the one weekend when there was going to be a huge festival and a) everybody and his brother was overloading the tiny town and b) there was an entrance charge to get close to the castle.

Whatever, there're other things to do. Jupp and I decided to wander up the hill at the back of the town to see what we could see, and we found our way to the top of a vineyard--really unusual at Dresden's high latitude. Then it was pretty much time to go, but there was time to stumble across a mini Renaissance faire and do some archery.

Social win (maybe?): Back on the train to head home, I met an intriguing fellow from Belaruse who now lives in San Francisco. He spent 6 hours telling me about ridiculous court cases in San Francisco and how the government isn't run correctly, as well as giving me tips on my upcoming visit to Poland. It was an amusing ride, to say the least.


Anonymous said...

Well, the last picture actually looks like there could have been a hint of sunlight :)

Valkyrie Savage said...

Definitely a trick. This is Germany.

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