Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems. ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Jewel Box on the Elbe," eating in" and a trip to Meissen

We arrived in Dresden after a day of driving over one hundred twenty miles from Berlin, stopping in Leipzig (see Wordless Wednesday post and watching the weather turn into a wind driven snowstorm.
This is the view out of the huge front window of the bus. The windshield wipers were on the bottom and they were working overtime.
I caught a picture of two tired but agreeable ("Smile for the camera!") California girls in the seat behind us.
Our traveling companions always had a smile for us.
We picked up our key cards in the lobby of the Maritim Hotel Dresden and went to our room.
This was the view from our hotel window.
Yes, the snow was blowing sideways. There were no screens on the windows so I had a clear view of the street below.
The beds looked so inviting. The down comforters were calling our names, but we cleaned up and went down for dinner before messing up all this loveliness. The pillows did not have candy on them, as many hotels have. Those are cough drops. Kind of tells you something about the practical nature of the Germans. You have to buy the wonderful chocolate in this country but they give you free cough drops on your pillow.They were actually very good... kind of like gummy bears... so I guess it was suppose to be cough drop/candy.
We both dived into the beds after dinner and slept like dead people all night.

In the morning we were bused to the old city center of Dresden which is on the Elbe River and is the capital city of the free state of Saxony.
There has been a lot of upheaval in this city's history but the largest, most controversial, horror was the bombing of Dresden in February of 1945. In the final months of  World War II, the allied forces bombed the city center and destroyed 15 square miles of it. To this day there is still discussion about the lack of moral discernment for this bombing by English and American forces and whether it was justified.
Is this ever "justified"?
In this postcard that I bought, the statue looks like she is asking "Why?" It is still a question that is being asked. If you are interested, here is a site that talks about the bombing and some of the history. When you read this link or this one, you will have some idea what the meaning is of the expression "War is Hell!" and why Winston Churchill distanced himself from the horror and the reality of this part of the war.
Some of the most historic building were not reconstructed until 2007.
The 18th century Frauenkirche, the Dresden Lutheran church, was destroyed in the bombing.

This is how it looks today with Martin Luther standing, again, in front of this beautiful church and its magnificent dome.
During reconstruction the Germans used as much of the original building as they could. You can see the darker pieces of brick that were burnt and blackened from the firestorm in 1945. They cleaned and used as much of the old rubble as possible when reconstructing these buildings.
Quite a few of the statues and buildings in the area have burnt pieces mixed with the reconstructed sections .
The city center fire created temperatures over 1500 °C (2700 °F). 25,000 people were killed in the firestorm.

This is the Swinger palace.
August the Strong, elector of Saxony, had returned from a tour of  France and Italy in 1687–89, He was so impressed by the rococo beauty of the great buildings he saw that, on his return to Dresden,  he decided to build something similarly spectacular for himself. This is an amazing series of buildings that now hold many different museums.
We had a tour group photo taken in the center of these ornate.buildings.
 It was wet and very cold, with a slushy snow falling, now and then, but we all smiled for the camera.  It was a good group of people. The tour gave us each a copy of this picture. That's me, on the right, with the red hat on... looking cold, as usual. In my defense, the couple from New Zealand looked cold too. I was using the scarf that should have been around my neck to cover my camera. Priorities, priorities...
The guy that is squatting in the middle of the photo is Carl, with a "C", our intrepid tour director. He was always smiling... and never looked cold.  But, he lives in Austria. He probably thought that this weather was balmy.
From the palace, we walked to the Semperoper ( the opera house) and then down the Stallhof (Stables Courtyard) of Dresden Castle.
(Please excuse the snow flake on the lens. This was a common problem throughout the trip.)
The F├╝rstenzug (English: Procession of Princes) is a large mural of a mounted procession of the rulers of Saxony. It was originally painted between 1871 and 1876 to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Wettin Dynasty, Saxony's ruling family. In order to make the work weatherproof, it was replaced with about 23,000 Meissen porcelain  tiles between 1904 and 1907. With a length of 102 metres (335 ft), it is the largest porcelain artwork in the world. The mural displays the ancestral portraits of the 35 margraves, electors, dukes and kings of the House of Wettin between 1127 and 1904.
The F├╝rstenzug is located on the outer wall of the Stallhof (Stables Courtyard) of Dresden Castle.
There was so much to see and we saw so little of it. The weather and the amount of time given to us before we had to be back on the bus made it very difficult to see this beautiful town and the amazing buildings and museums.
They did give us options. We could stay there and walk back to the hotel... in the icy rain... later on...down some long and empty streets along the river. Or get a taxi (did that in Berlin). I decided to go back on the bus. Sis stayed with the other ladies.
I ate "in" that night. I ordered a salad. They brought it up to me under a silver dome. Never did that before.
 I ordered a Chicken Ceasar salad that was really good. I won't even tell you what it cost me to order food up to my room but it was worth every bite. Sometimes you just have to treat yourself to the finer things in life. Maybe I was starting to feel a bit under the weather, but I felt comforted by this one splurge. I sat and watched the BBC news. It was the only thing on TV that was in English. Then, I got into my jammies and read until Sis came home. She took a taxi back to the hotel. Smart girl.  She said that some of the others decided to walk back.
 She looked at my empty food tray, looked over at me and smiled. Then she went strait to bed.

Dresden is a town of survival. A beautiful place first settled in the Neolithic era by the Linear Pottery culture tribes ca. 7500 BC. and its mining in the Ore mountains, and much later as a city for technology and art. Mostly, it is know for its destruction in WWII. The bombing raid on Dresden destroyed almost all of the ancient center of the city, but since the reunification of Germany, Dresden has undergone significant reconstruction.
There is a sadness that seems palpable in this town and it wasn't just the weather. It's there in each of the blackened stones that were used to rebuild the city center. It is a city of perseverance and suffering. One that payed a high price for a war that was lost.

The next day we took a optional excursion to Meissen.
Meissen is a town of approximately 30,000 people about 16 miles northwest of Dresden on both banks of the Elbe river in the Free State of Saxony, in eastern Germany. Meissen is the home of Meissen porcelain and  the Albrechtsburg castle, which looms over the little town like a huge sleeping giant.
Meissen is famous for the manufacture of porcelain , because of local deposits of kaolin and something called  potter's clay (potter's earth). Meissen porcelain was the first high quality porcelain to be produced outside of the Orient.
The drive was not too far and the scenery was beautiful.
We went on a tour of the Meissen porcelain factory. We saw how the porcelain is made and decorated... and, of course, there was a store that you could buy anything you wanted. A small trinket, like an ornament, was hundreds of dollars. It is very expensive china that is ornate and hand painted, but not something that I would want to buy. My sister felt the same, so we chose to go to the cafe and drink tea out of beautiful porcelain cups and have a quick bowl of soup.  Sis went for the hot bean soup with toast and I went strait for the ice cream. Let me tell you about this dessert that we shared.
 This was the best dessert that we ate on the whole trip. It had peaches on the bottom with three scoops of vanilla ice cream on top, some whipped creme (the real stuff) and a "local" berry sauce (I forget what kind.) that tasted like heaven. It was all topped with delicious gingerbread wafers. Oh yes, this was a one really fine dessert.
 Some of our California ladies joined us and waited for some tea. These two were the most fashionable dressed on our bus. They were sisters. I have to say that we "California girls" were very well dressed. We did our state proud. One of the sisters, on the right, actually lives in Oregon but we didn't hold that against her.  Oregon is our neighboring state to the north, so she was part of the "West Coast" contingency. Besides, anyone who wears a hat as charming as that has got to be a cool, California type girl.
We didn't share our dessert with them. Not very nice of us but, oh well, sometimes you just can't share, no matter what you've been  told as a child. It was that good.

This was a beautiful town, small and old, with some charming houses.
And one balcony I would love to add to my house. I don't have a second or third story but I would just love to have a balcony like this... maybe as a free standing tree house... or I could add a second and third story on top of my house???
Oh this is so beautiful. Look at the third level. I would bet that's a sleeping porch for warm summer nights. Oh, yes. A charming sleeping porch... This is one of those "bucket" list things.

One more stop before we drive back to Dresden.

After lunch we went to the Meissen Christmas Market.
 With its advent calender building where each window was a day of December on blue shutters.
Where building design has a different look, simpler with lovely colors.
And strange roof top windows that look like eyes watching us below. They were a bit unnerving... this one especially.
We didn't walk far. It had been a long day.
We saw a beautiful church that looked very medieval and old.
This market was small and charming.
We bought a few gifts, walked around until we got cold and then returned to the bus.There were others already on the bus. It had been a long day for many of us.
We headed back to Dresden and another good nights sleep. The next day we left for Nuremberg.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Three and a half hours until the New Year

Having a small child with you for a few days is like... life before you retired. There is no excuse for not getting up early and you better have your clothes on and be ready for anything. It's all about the unexpected. It's about having the right answer for the questions and making sure that there are apples, carrots and chocolate milk on hand.
And then, when you think that you are doing it all wrong...
You get this... flowers picked "Just for you, Noni."
Kind of makes "Hi Noni!" at 5:30 in the morning a little more palatable.

Friday, since we got up SO early, we drove over to WalMart by 7:30 a.m. This is a really good time to shop. There was no one there. (I must remember this.)
Little Bean needed another pair of shoes or boots to hike in. We found a pair that he liked a lot.
Pretty cool don't you think? He fell in love with them. The only problem was that they weren't waterproof and I didn't have any waterproofing spray to put on them, so they got kind of wet on the hike. At least he had his own shoes to put on later while these dried. We also bought watermelon toothpaste and some Trident sugarless gum that didn't "sting" like Noni's spearmint gum did.
Little Bean has the most amazing toothbrush. It it a battery operated brush that lights up with flashing lights.  Red for a minute, then green ( or yellow) for another minute and you are suppose to keep brushing  until it changes color again. This way you brush long enough and don't have to count the seconds and minutes. I can't remember the brand but it's really a great idea for kids.

The Bean helped Papa with some chores.
He got a refresher course on what Poison Oak looks like in Winter.

 Without leaves, poison oak looks different than in the Summer so we showed him the bunches of bare branches and where it grows. Well, it grows all over the place. It's so prolific, but by the end of our walk he was pointed it out and staying away from it.
He wanted to know why the deer didn't get poison oak if they were always walking through it. I said I wasn't sure but they were probably immune to it.
"What's "immune" mean, Noni?"
"The deer are around it all the time so they build up a resistance to it."
"You mean that they don't get it if they touch it?"
"Right, they just don't seem to react to it."
"But I do?"
"Yes. Noni does too."
Oh good. I must have said the right thing. Immune... resistance... react. Words that could have gotten me into trouble. But he was OK with my assessment of the situation. 

Then we went on a hike to the top of the mountain. It was beautiful and cold. We walked up and over into an area that has a seasonal creek and had a mining operation years ago.
Bean walked with his grandpa down to the creek and jumped on a log that was in the water... and then over to the other side.
He was really good at balancing on one foot and then the other. He never complained about anything and did what Papa told him.
I love this sweat shirt. It kind of fit the day.
We lifted an old wheelbarrow to see what was underneath. We would NEVER do this in the summer. Might be a Rattletail under it. But there wasn't anything except a worm or two.
Can you see how dark and shiny the Bean's boot was? It was soaked through. We should have bought rain boots.
We walked back across the creek and up to the top of the hill. Then we continued on up the road to an old cabin that we have watched slowly collapsing for 16 years.
It was a one room cabin that someone actually lived in. I found Irises in the area, years ago, and transplanted them to our garden. There were bed springs and a sink inside, and an old water tank on its side. Pretty soon the earth will take back the wood and the rusty springs will disappear too.
The Bean was rather quiet standing there with Papa. It's kind of sad to see a house, that someone has lived in, just go to pieces. It's like the lives of someone, who bothered to build a little house and try their luck at finding gold, was at its end. The dream had died. I hope that they found something and that living in this beautiful place was worth more than gold to them. It had been for us.
We turned back and walked along the ridge.
For the first time he ran ahead of us. We found a tree with clumps of Mistletoe in it, but too high to pick.
Little Bean finally said that his feet were cold, so we started back down to the house.
 "Come on Papa.We need to hurry"

When we got back to the house we had to soak Little Bean's feet in bath water to warm them up and change clothes. After lunch Papa took a nap and we went outside to do a little dancing.
This is called the "Running up the dirt hill" dance.
 Look at that form!

This one is called "Skateboarding on a dirt hill." His dad use to do this on a BMX bike.. at warp speed. Use to scare me to death watching his father do tricks on his bike.
 I was glad there was no skateboard or bike underneath the Bean.
He nailed the landing and them...
The Bean did a graceful " half turn in the air". I think the special tongue movement has something to do with this amazing skill. I think it's inherited. The Prospector's grandmother always did this when she was concentrating on something.
And then.... the landing.

 "Yes, it was."
"I'm cool."

Then the Bean made a "Play yard" out of salvaged wood.
This was done with pieces of wood that were in a pile near the old goat house. Don't tell me this generation doesn't have any imagination... that they can only play video games. He made a balance beam, a teeter totter, and two rocker boards to rock back and forth on. He would survive if the world lost its power grid... as long as his feet weren't wet.
Then we cleaned up, went in the house and had some "quiet time" before dinner. (This was for Noni.)

After dinner we had a fire in the chimenea stove outside.
 I LOVE sitting next to a fire, on a really cold night, outside. The fragrance was like camping in the mountains.
We don't build a fire outside very often. It's usually too rainy in the winter and not even allowed in the summer. But this was the perfect night.
Little Bean was excited about being outdoors and watching Papa building a fire.
Little Bean was outside, on a cold winter's night. He was lovin' life.
 The Chimenea was hot and happy.
I caught this photo with my new Nikon D5100 camera. Those were sparks and the camera followed the pattern of the sparks as they disappeared into the air.
Little Bean walked around with a flashlight trying to find animal eyes below the fence.
He said that he saw something move in the area below a pile of tree branches.. 
That's when he came back and sat with me again.
He wanted to know if wild animals could get though the two fences.
I told him "No. They are afraid of people, the Christmas lights, the dogs and PAPA."
Then he disappeared , leaving the flashlight on the chair. 
Guess where he was?
I guess he decided that being with Papa and Cutter was a better idea. They were all sitting on the couch INSIDE the warm house.
I sat out there for a few more minutes while the fire burned itself down. Then I returned to the house. It was nice and warm. I could see the fire from the living room. It was almost gone.
What a great way to end the day.

Little Bean left Saturday afternoon. 
His Dad and his brother came up and got him. 
It's kind of quiet around here.
Noni and Papa slept until 7:30 on Sunday. 
  Carl and Cutter keep looking for Little Bean.
We have lots of chocolate milk left... and lots of good memories.
See you soon Little Bean. 
We love you!

Three more hours to go...
 Happy New Year Everyone! 
I hope that it's a good year and that it brings good health and many blessings to all of you.