No nerding out today… the conference was on pause and a trip was organized to Dresden. A good fraction of the attendees visited a free electron lasers in operation in Germany. I went with the ~1/4 of the group that opted to spend the whole day in Dresden instead. It was a 2-1/2 hour bus ride from Berlin during which I got a little bit of sleep.
Dresden is amazing. The old city center is just full of beautiful old buildings. I am pretty ignorant of the history, but at the beginning of the 18th century there were some Fredericks (the great, the strong, the very-smelly-but-quite-a-nice-guy-all-things-considered) ruled Poland from Dresden. They built much of the old city center and did things like bring the art of porcelain making to Europe and such.
The city was fire-bombed in World War II and something like three-quarters of the old buildings were damaged or destroyed. The Soviets rebuilt much of what was destroyed although of course much was lost. One building which was not rebuilt at the time was the Frauenkirche, the great church in city center whose dome collapsed during the bombing. The ruins were a sort of anti-war monument for decades, but enough donations were gathered to rebuild the cathedral. It is really amazing… they incorporated the standing corner of the church and used as many of the original stones as they could. The original cross that topped the church is now inside, black and twisted.
The Dresden Frauenkirche
The first thing I did when I got off the bus was the cross the river and head away from the historic part. I looked online and picked out a Turkish restaurant that was on the norhtern side of town that I wanted to try. It was very simple, an everyday lunch spot, but quite good. I had a mais doner, which was a little like a gyro, but the bread was a little, um, breadier, and it had a creamy sauce with corn. It was tasty. I also enjoyed walking through the part of town north of the river… there were some wonderful tree-lined streets and plenty of cramped-with-buildings streets. I liked both.
After lunch I made a circle (past a big building that looked a bit like a large mosque but turned out to be an old cigarette factory) and crossed the river to the old city center. I walked past the old opera house, several museums, and through the Taschenberg Palace, which was very nice with fountains and huge gates, even a moat. Well, a partial moat. I kept wandering back and forth and saw more and more nice places. I went inside the Kreuzkirche, another church which was also destroyed several times, including in WWII. The interior was all unfinished white plaster. It gave a very solemn an ancient feel to the sanctuary and I rested there for quite a while.
At 3:00, I met the rest of the FEL conference (including those who went on the more “scientific excursion”) at the Martin Luther statue next to the Frauenkirche. We went inside the church for an organ concert. It was really great, but I think I was too tired to enjoy it fully. I perked up a little by the finish, which was Schumann’s homage to B-A-C-H. Basically he wrote the piece using the four musical notes whose letter names spell out Bach’s name as a tribute to the composer. Really a stupid idea to write a song, but it came out exceptionally well!
After the bus ride back to Berlin, I went on what became an hour-long quest for toothpaste, and then back to Heike’s apartment where I am typing now. Time to give Sary a call and see how the day was in Holland. Germany was windy and a little rainy all day, but I had a jacket and an umbrella so it didn’t really slow me down…