Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Since we didn't do anything fun last weekend...

Last weekend our beautiful summery weather took a turn for the worse, namely a rainy, cool turn. So we just sat around home and tried to decide what to do, and ended up doing nothing except a little cleaning. But so that nobody thinks that we're suddenly incredibly boring, here's something we did a couple weeks ago--a little trip to the Dresden Botanical Garden. It's tucked in a little corner between the Volkswagen factory and the Großer Garten, with its entrance on Stübelallee. And it's free of charge to go in! I never knew this, and that's why I never went there before-- I preferred to save my admission money for other things like the zoo or museums rather than just some plants...

These are some of the more colorful things that struck my fancy, but are not by far all of the most interesting things. They have a whole tropical house, where the turtles also live, just full of neat-o plants and fish, as well as a cactus house, which pretty much knocked my socks off. We saw many of the same kinds of cacti with which we stuffed an entire suitcase on our return trip from Barcelona, as well as a lot of the same plants that we also stole...or borrowed, or maybe liberated is better...from the Canary Islands. It seems I've become a bit of a plant enthusiast in the last years, so I wonder why I didn't go to the botanical garden before. Probably just because nobody said "We're going, do you want to come?"

And to answer what is probably your most burning question right now: no, I didn't steal anything from the Dresden Botanical Garden. But I know somebody who knows somebody who dressed up in a white lab jacket, went in there, opened a terrarium and got away with a special kind of cactus...but this was years ago, when Dresden was a little bit like the Wild West.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Another Marathon Tour

Last weekend, in honor of yet another holiday weekend in Germany, aka "Workers' Paradise", we biked/skated to Meißen. This constituted a round trip of approx. 50 kilometers once again. It was a lovely day and because of my allergy to sunscreen (I get red itchy welts, it's fantastic) I am actually getting a decent tan for the first time in my life. Enjoy the view even if you didn't work your muscles or get a sunburn on the way.

No, I didn't edit this picture to make it look more interesting, that patch of bright yellow is a rapeseed field, of which you can see many these days due to organic fuel production.

We don't need that silly World Cultural Heritage Site in Dresden, you have nearly the same view on the way to Meißen too! Build the bridge!

This sign was spotted along the way at a (not so famous) bridge construction site. Just in case you don't happen to notice the painfully obvious fact that the bridge is not even near completion, they put up this sign.

We arrived in Meißen, took a couple pictures, and turned around for the ride back...

It's balloon season again! On a different majestic spring day, we spotted a whole bunch of balloons getting ready for takeoff by the Elbe. This particular one tipped over a couple of times while the passengers were already in the basket. I think I would've disembarked at that point...

Here's another one the same day floating by the Frauenkirche.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

On the wrong side of the tracks in Senftenberg

Yesterday we planned a sporty day at the Lusatian lakes (Lausitzer Seenland), which are actually flooded strip mines. It's a string of many lakes with bike and skate paths more or less around all of them. We mistakenly planned to start at Senftenberg, leaving Dresden-Neustadt at 10:52 on the train and arriving in Senftenberg at a little after 12:00. Just running to catch the train was enough exercise for me. First I felt optimistic about seeing a new town, but slowly my optimism faded as we wandered through the town looking for the Senftenberg lake, seemingly going in circles. When we finally found the lake, the bike path, which is supposedly also a skate path, was actually not so good. It was no problem for me and Willy on the bike, but for the two skaters among us, the bumpy brick path was not ideal. Then it started to thunder and get dark. We consulted a restaurant on the path about where the good skate paths are (this area is advertised as a great skating area) and they had no idea. Luckily after nearly losing all hope, some other people on the path stopped us and said we were going the wrong way, because soon the path would turn to gravel. Fantastic. Thanks for the tip. So we got out of Senftenberg as quickly as we could, locating another bike path which would take us to the next village, Kleinkoschen or Grosskoschen or something like that. Here we could supposedly start on the great path around Geierswalder lake. Well, after someone on the street sent us in the wrong direction, we finally found the path, the start of which was a lovely slippery mud. After getting through that, all hope was nearly lost because there was no place to sit and have lunch, and then we saw a police boat on the lake seemingly searching for a corpse. So we pretty much just sat in the mud and threw back our sandwiches, and after consulting on whether to just turn around and go home or continue on and try our luck, we tried our luck. We were able to ride/skate for about 15 minutes on a really good path and started to feel better about our trip when we reached the street and what seemed like the end of our nerves and the path. We checked the map, and it looked like we could continue on (but the paths in Senftenberg were also marked as good skate paths on this map, so who knew?), so we continued on. And as luck would have it, we finally found the good paths! From here on we were able to bike/skate around 2 lakes, we also finally had sunny weather and better moods. Finally we were able to really just ride and ride for about three or four hours.

It's actually a very picturesque area when you finally get there. It's also good for amateurs because the landscape is very flat, thus making the ride easy.

This rock is in memory of the villages Sorno and Rosendorf, which were where that water is now. Apparently the people in those villages weren't too well informed about the plans for their towns, they just weren't allowed to make any major repairs on their houses starting in the 1960s and were told to move out in 1970 to make way for the coal mines. I guess that's just the way it is when you live in a communist dictatorship where everybody owns everything and nobody owns anything.

Here's a closeup of an informational sign on the path, you can see how they mined the area. These machines are like the ones we saw on display in Ferropolis.

We found this little gem in Sedlitz, a monument to the founders of the German Reich. These actually aren't as rare as you might think considering their historically loaded symbols, there are lots of them still existing in villages. It was erected in 1911 and says "In memory of the fallen, in recognition of the living and to the emulation of following generations." And Sedlitz was the end of our journey around 7 pm. We'd hoped to find a watering hole where the boys could drink a beer and I could get some ice cream, but we only found a closed restaurant and another shady little dive with a private party. After getting stared at by the townies, we called it a day and just waited around at the train station until our train came.
Remember White Rabbit!

This white rabbit was spotted in the Bahnbogengalerie by Bahnhof Mitte in Dresden. Not only is this outdoor gallery worth seeing because of the white rabbit, it's all around pretty interesting because it shows lots of Saxony's and Dresden's sights in a nice artistic presentation. This one is one of the less colorful pictures, others are more colorful and in different styles. It's a good use of otherwise boring old walls.