Sunday, April 25, 2010

A little trip to Polenztal

Yesterday we visited Polenztal in the Saxon Switzerland, a place we seem to go every year in the spring. I visited this place one time with English Club, later on we discovered that there is tons of wild garlic and watercress there, so we started to come each year. We've never eaten the wild garlic, since its leaves look just like those of lilies of the valley, which are poisonous, so we are always a bit scared. And though some people are scared of getting tapeworms from watercress, we eat it and have never gotten any tapeworms (that we know of). One year we even took some watercress and planted it on our balcony. Yesterday we had hoped to take some watercress and some wild garlic, but were scared for two reasons: too many hikers, since taking plants is forbidden, and dying from accidentally eating lilies of the valley.

Instead of stealing plants, I entertained myself by taking pictures with my fun new camera. I have so much zoom that I can just stand anywhere and zoom into what I want to take a picture of! What a great contribution to my increasing laziness!

I also had fun testing out the panorama function on the camera. I particularly like this picture. The treetops are a bit overexposed, but I am quite happy with the results anyway.

Instead of eating wild garlic and watercress, we stopped for a snack at the Waltersdorf Mill. This is a funny old place that serves snacks in an open-air picnic atmosphere. The snacks are very reasonably priced, even if there isn't much of a selection. The boys had wieners, I had some cake and coffee, but it didn't look so photogenic.

New Camera!

Hooray! My new camera was in stock at the store yesterday, so I hopped on my bike, rode up to the store and bought it! I have not moved on to the hallowed ranks of SLR photography yet, so purchased myself yet another bridge camera. It has 12.1 megapixels and a whopping 26x zoom! It is a major move up from my 6-year-old Kodak with 4 megapixels and 10x zoom. Plus it has all the manual functions, so I can pretend to be a real, skilled photographer.
Anyway, I was playing with my new toy yesterday and reading the user's manual to figure out how everything works, and it seriously blew me away with all of its neat functions. I can zoom into the cobblestones of my street from my window and see the lip marks on the cigarette butts in the cracks between the stones!
This is a fun distraction after the stress of the last weeks. Did I mention how mean and evil the Kindergarten was? Wilhelm doesn't go there any more, and neither of my kids will ever go to a state-run Kindergarten ever again. Oh, yeah, and there's other stuff. But in the end, all of this stuff is not so bad. We are learning from it, and the way I see it, life is just a big game of Monopoly. I just landed on the wrong square and have to pay some money, but I'll pass Go and collect my 200 EUR soon enough. Later I will buy Park Place!

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Xenophobic Foreigner Office

Today I had to pay a visit to my local Foreigner Office or Immigration Office or whatever you want to call the Ausländerbehörde in English to clarify some things regarding my residency permit. When my number was called, a small Chinese woman rushed in before me, and the official called me in as well. The Chinese lady had a quick question, and when she walked out, the friendly official sighed and asked me to please close the door, because "The Chinese never close doors! They leave all the doors open! I have drafts in here all day! You'd think they don't have any doors in China!" Then when I explained my problem, the official was surprised, because German children living outside Germany do not receive Kindergeld, the money paid by the government to each child living in Germany. She looked at my kids and said, "Those are German children! Why don't they receive Kindergeld when they live outside Germany? We pay it to Turkish children! That is outrageous!" That was my most amusing visit to the Immigration Office ever! I was a little sad because I didn't get to see the Frau I usually see, but this one was ten times better.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hidden Places

All right, these places aren't hidden, they are right out there where you can see them, but they are tucked into places where you don't always notice them.

The first one is the sad one:

The stumbling block at Bautzner Str. 20. The first time I saw this I was on my way somewhere and just thought, "huh, why is there a golden block in the sidewalk?" Then I saw an article in the paper about these Stolpersteine planted throughout Dresden. So I went back for another look. This is a project by an artist and has been done in a number of cities throughout Germany. These small, shiny stones are engraved with the name or names of people who were deported and died in concentration camps during the Second World War. They are installed in the sidewalk in front of the address where these people lived. This little stone makes me sadder and sadder every time I walk over it. Each time the history of what went on where I live now as a foreigner in a cosmopolitan city comes more to life.

This is one of those neat tucked away surprises that I always forget about. It's the back side of the house on the corner of Böhmische Str. and Rothenburger Str. where Hebeda's is located. You can go through a passage here to the Nordbad pool or to the Neustädter Diechl to get some delicious German food. I don't know how long it has been painted like this, but I think it has been for a while. It's just one of those things that can brighten your day when you see it, because it's like a little secret that's just waiting for a pedestrian to come appreciate it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


There is a little girl at Wilhelm's kindergarten and her name is Lola. She is a very nice little girl, also has a little brother, and likes to help Wilhelm with his jacket and things like that. She was one of the first ones right at the beginning to always come and help him get his jacket off when he was new. Anyway, I only found out her name last week when Wilhelm was telling me something about her. And now, somehow or other, the song Lola has found its way into our constant playlist. Her mom even looks like someone who might know this song, but I can't imagine she knows what it says. Anyway, let's see what the Kinks have to say about Lola...

I met her in a club down in old Soho
where you drink champagne and it tastes just like Cherry Cola
C-O-L-A Cola.
She walked up to me and she asked me to dance.
I asked her her name and in a dark brown voice she said, "Lola"
L-O-L-A Lola, lo lo lo Lola
Well, I'm not the world's most physical guy,
but when she squeezed me tight she nearly broke my spine
Oh my Lola, lo lo lo Lola, lo lo lo Lola
Well, I'm not dumb but I can't understand
why she walks like a woman and talks like a man
Oh my Lola, lo lo lo Lola, lo lo lo Lola
Well, we drank champagne and danced all night,
under electric candlelight,
she picked me up and sat me on her knee,
She said, "Little boy won't you come home with me?"
Well, I'm not the world's most passionate guy,
but when I looked in her eyes,
I almost fell for my Lola,
Lo lo lo Lola, lo lo lo Lola
I pushed her away. I walked to the door.
I fell to the floor. I got down on my knees.
I looked at her, and she at me.
Well that's the way that I want it to stay.
I always want it to be that way for my Lola.
Lo lo lo Lola.
Girls will be boys, and boys will be girls.
It's a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world,
except for Lola. Lo lo lo Lola. Lo lo lo Lola.
Well I left home just a week ago,
and I never ever kissed a woman before,
Lola smiled and took me by the hand,
she said, "Little boy, gonna make you a man."
Well I'm not the world's most masculine man,
but I know what I am and that I'm a man,
so is Lola.
Lo lo lo Lola. Lo lo lo Lola.

Monday, April 05, 2010

...and these are NOT a few of my favorite things!

CATS! They are making me aggressive. Last week one tried to break into my house, it was hanging by its claws on my window when I ran out the door and chased it away with a bucket of water. Now our sandbox smells like a litter box and has similar contents too. They leer around my bunny habitat and stare in with hungry eyes when they are not slinking along in front of my windows trying to devise a way to get into the bunny house. I used to like cats, but have now just had enough.

Friday, April 02, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things...

We have some new little guys blooming in our garden. I wanted to put up a picture of our crocus, but they tipped over pretty fast. It seems like more are coming up, but they aren't in bloom yet.

While the sun was shining in the last couple weeks, I started work on my latest fun free time project: photographing Art Nouveau buildings that I happen by in town. We got started on Art Nouveau a few years ago when we bought a beautiful antique buffet for our living room that just happened to be from that period, this fall we started buying more of this style furniture. I'm writing at my Art Nouveau table as we speak. It's kind of a hit and miss thing, sometimes you find what seems to be a good deal on something online, buy it, then it's not quite as great as you thought...this way we've bought and sold a wardrobe and five chairs. The buffet was a serious stroke of luck...and kind of expensive. We have another chair waiting for us to fix it in the attic, and now we're taking a break on the antique furniture. But to satisfy my little thing for this style, I'm going to start taking pictures of it. It's a fun enough way to see some different parts of Dresden and not cost myself lots of money and nerves on stuff that's not quite what I thought it would be. The pictures are really full of surprises, because the closer and longer you look, the more neat details you find that you might not notice standing on the street staring at somebody else's house.

The photos above are from three houses on Katharinenstrasse in the Neustadt. These houses are pretty wild examples of Art Nouveau architecture from around 1905 by the architect Friedrich Wilhelm Hertzsch. They have the typical symmetry, line and decorative elements of Art Nouveau, but with some neat touches like the different faces, animals and flowers worked in. Have fun finding all the little extras in those facades!