Sunday, January 31, 2010

Radeberger brewery tour - Jan 30

Radeberger is one of the most popular beers in Dresden and one of my favorites, it is brewed in the small town of Radeberg which is located just north east of Dresden (about 30 minute train ride). I don't think a lot of foreigners take the tour, not on the top 10 lists for Dresden i guess and the tour was in German. They were very nice and one of the tour guides would follow up with us on a few key points. David helped to translate for Melissa and I, as his German is getting really good.
Doors outside the brewery - waiting for our umpa lumpa song.

Melissa checking out the yeast, looking for the microtubules:

My impression of Pawtucket Pat:
Radeberger beer looking really cold and tasty, ready to ship:
We, of course, got to sample the beer. They brought out the Radeberger Pilsner then they brought out a special unfiltered version of Radeberger Pilsner for us to try. I really liked it as it had richer flavor then the filtered. This special unfiltered version is only served at the brewery, during tours, and a couple of nearby places including Bruhl's Terrace (which is about a block from our apartment). I am waiting for my brother in law Mike to arrive in Dresden because i know he will be easily conviced to try an unfiltered Radeberger with me.
The cloudiness of this Radeberger beer is not because the glass is foggy, it is the unfiltered version.

Semperoper - barber of seville, Jan 26

We decided to take up a performance of the Barber of Seville (Il barbiere di Siviglia) at the Semperoper. We went during a weekday and purchased our tickets right before the show to get reduced prices and better seats for the kids. I had priced this out a few times and if we bought the tickets in advance (without student discount) they would have cost ~175 Euro (over $250) and by waiting until the day of; we got them for 78 Euro (~$115) on the Parquet, which is a lot more reasonable. I was able to talk to someone at the ticket office and they tipped me on to the fact that i could get better seats (with reduced prices for the kids) if i waited until right before the performance. This did however take me a few stops at the ticket office to fully understand, my German is not so good and finally was able to ask the right questions.

The Opera house had an aura of distinction, sophistication, and privilege as we entered the building. We rented opera glasses for Noah and all to share. During intermission we had pretzels and champagne; all in all we had a real special night as we were treated to the orchestra, opera singers, and the beautify setting/costumes/performance. Noah was a little restless at parts as the performance went for 2 hours (he is only 12 years old), with a short intermission.

In the Semper Oper, all ready to go.
Another shot, the inside lobby areas are really beautiful:

Shot of the seating area, you can see Melissa, David, and Noah at the bottom right:

Cool clock above the curtain, it only shows 5 minute intervals and for the hour it uses roman letters. In Europe and Germany they really have special clocks:
They don't allow pictures during the performances although on the Semper Oper web site they have a really good video of the Opera (Rosina, the lead woman role, was a different singer in our performance then the one shown in this video) that will give you a good flavor of the performance:

The nice thing about watching an Italian Opera in Germany is they provide translations above the stage, however the translations are in German so it was a bit difficult to follow.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day trip to Leipzig – January 23

Finally! We made it to Leipzig (Leipzig is a city about 60 miles from Dresden). Leipzig location in proximity to Dresden has made it someplace that we knew we wanted to go and as we looked up the main things to see our top places were the Stasi exhibition at the “Runde Ecke” museum, St. Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas Church), Battle of the Nations monument, and the new city hall.

Due to our short stay (had a late start, had a sit down lunch in Leipzig, the weather was very cold (not the best for outside sightseeing), and we had to be back to pick up Noah from his ski trip) so we didn’t get to see everything.

We didn’t get to see the new city hall and we couldn’t see the Battle of the Nations monument, one of the sites I really wanted to see, as this was the first loss for Napolean and the furthest west he went during his conquest (after this loss Napoleon’s troops were moved back and this battle was the beginning of the end, so Leipzig is the point at which he was stopped); the monument is Europe’s largest monument (a controversial claim according to David and Melissa); next time.

For more on Leipzig see:

Stasi - short for the Ministry of State Security - the secret service of the DDR (GDR)

Stasi exhibition at the “Runde Ecke” museum was our first stop after a cold brisk walk. The stasi museum housed the Leipzig STASI (secret police) headquarters until 1989. It was one of the focal points during the Monday Demonstrations which lead the way to the peaceful revolution and the German reunification. This was a very scary place and the Stasi, secret police, were the unchecked secret service and enforcers of the people during the DDR years. For more on the Stasi see the following link:

Growing up as a kid I always thought about what it would be like living in the DDR; seemed too close to Orwell’s 1984. I remember thinking it was sad that there were places where I couldn’t visit and thinking how confined/limited the people of the must have been. Visiting the Stasi museum really brought this home and how hard and unlikely it was for them to actually succeed in ousting the DDR, and in a peaceful manner. I remember seeing the wall fall, with the people on it knocking it down, thinking what a miracle this was and never imaging that this could happen without some sort of war. I think most Americans, like me, felt proud of the East Germans in 1989. It was really special being in the place where this took place; the start of the fall of the DDR, imagining the risks that these people were taking.

A wall plaque in the stasi museum, the German long name for the Stasi can be seen on the shield:

The “Runde Ecke” (round corner) was the actual headquarters for the stasi during the DDR years, and I could stop thinking what happened in this building, and how in the DDR years I would have never been able to step into this building, let alone in the DDR. For non-stasi East Germans going to this building mean serious investigations and accusations and other implications of crimes by the Stasi.

The stasi tapped and recorded conversations of the East German citizens, here is some of the early equiptment they used and the tapes of those conversations. Most of the tapes were confiscated tapes sent into the DDR by families from the outside. The Stasi would record over the confiscated tapes; it was interesting seeing all the different pre-recorded titles that were overwritten:

The DDR flag from the Ministry:

Some of the listening devices used by the Stasi:

One really interesting themes was that the Stasi would destroy documents to cover their trails, so some of the most compelling evidence was from 1989, before they could destroy the documents, the current investigations in the works. One that particularly stood out was a collection of a young boys school essays. He was questioning some of the things about the DDR, the cars; overpriced and of low quality why couldn’t they buy better cars like in the west and other restrictions. They had each of the different papers and documentation from the Stasi that indicated that this boy was to be flagged and rejected from going to the college track high school because of his essays he wrote; questioning the government. As it happened this was in late 1989 and the government fell just before these actions took place.

An early machine used to steam open letters, all letters sent from outside the DDR were read by the Stasi, and a random sample of the internal letters:

The entrance way to the museum, including a banner from the demonstations:

Part of the wall and more of the attached buildings to the "Runde Ecke":

St Nicholas Church was the place where the Monday demonstrations started, against the DDR, and finally turned into large protests that became the center of the revolution of 1989. These events lead to the downfall of the DDR, the fall of the wall, and the reunification of Germany.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday trip with Noah - at the Jägerhof museum

Noah and I visited anther one of the state museums hosted in a historical building called the Jägerhof (hunting stable). This exibit is closing Feb 1 until next fall so i thought we should go cause it would be our only chance. The museum hosts a puppet collection, glockenspiel collection, and kids toys just to name a few things..

The Jägerhof:

Noah and the puppets:

More puppets:

Cool plaque on the spiral staircase, had to take a picture:

Noah and an ark collection, making sure the craftmanship is up to his standards:

Real cool glockenspiel:

On the way back, taken from Dresden Neustadt looking at Altstadt:

Another shot of Dresden Altstadt:

Saturday in Dresden - January 16

Noah is on the ski club for his school so every Saturday he goes skiing and this gives the rest of us some time to do different things that Noah may not like. The first Saturday of Noah’s ski club David and I took a walk around Dresden. We wanted to see the Mozart Memorial and go look at the Dresden football (soccer) stadium (and the fan shop).

The Mozart Memorial includes three female figures dancing around Mozart’s name; they symbolize serenity, earnestness and charm (no, i don't know which one is which). The memorial is close to our apartment so I will try to visit again when the snow is gone:

We stubbled upon what looked like a practice match featuring the Dresden Dynamo and some other team. Football (soccer) seems to be a year round thing, they have matches in the winter also (we are planning on going to see a game in the next month or so, but we will bring Noah); that is when it warms up a bit. You can see the stadium in the background, this is where the real matches are held:

Something I have come to understand here is where the tradition of putting mistletoe on the doorways came from. Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that grows in the trees and bushes and if it not removed will eventually kill the tree. In Europe you see it a lot in the trees, especially in winter when there are no leaves; round globes leaves. I always wondered where the pinning of the mistletoe on a door way came from; this seemed kind of bizarre and random. But seeing it in the trees in the winter I can understand this a bit better as i could see people finding themselves under a clump of Mistletoe. In the picture below and to the left you can see a tree in the early stage of infestation and on the right a more advaced case:

Noah's ski bus in front of his school:

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Semper Opern Ball - January 15

Make sure to watch the videos below they are pretty impressive.

Living in Altstadt, the historic part of Dresden, definitely has its advantages. Whenever they are having a party or celebration we can watch them set it up and we can easily get to the event when it starts, usually a five minute walk from our apartment, so there are no hassles or excuses.

Yesterday was no exception, as the last couple of days we saw them setting up for the Semper Opern Ball. Later in the night David and I decided to go and watch as we heard its a big event. Yes David and I went to a ball, like a real ball with all the tradition and pomp and circumstance. I was thinking this is what it must have been like back in the day for royalty to go to a ball. They had a lot of famous people including a walk way for the famous celebrities like what I have seen for the Oscars. They set up a nice outside ball area in the theaterplatz (and in front of the Semper Oper) for anyone to come and enjoy in the celebration for free. A ticket was required to go inside (with a very large entrance fee) and formal ball attire.

Outside they had a large screen showing the events both inside and out along with a host, again kinda like the Oscars. Outside there were big ball shaped lights that were inflated and would change in size and intensity. They also had little grates spread around with fires in them to warm the area, and the usual local favorites including brats, champagne, Gluhwein, and Radeberger beer. There were a lot of people watching the event.

For the first waltz they had lit up the Semper Opera House with both colors and fireworks, it was really beautiful. I kept thinking how much my daughter Kate would have really loved this. It was especially touching when all the people outside started waltzing to the music as they watched the people inside waltzing in their formal attire. A woman even came up to me and made me set my beer down and start waltzing with me. The Germans really have some nice outdoor events. This ball went until 5:00 am, however David and I did not stay that long.

Here is a video I took of the first waltz:

Here is more video of the first waltz along with some fireworks:

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Years Eve in Dresden - Silvester

So we got back in Dresden from our short visit back home. After we arrived at the airport we took a train ride back to the Dresden Hauptbahnhof, which is about a mile+ walk to our apartment. Before the doors even opened to let us out of the train station we heard a large bang (like an m80s or larger firework, m80s are very loud and dangerous) and echoed through the train station. At first we were a bit shocked but then after many more large explosions we remembered that it was New Years eve and the tradition is that everyone blows off fireworks.

The walk from the train station to our apartment was equally interesting as people seem to like to throw fireworks anywhere and even seem to like them to go off at others feet. I didn’t mind the small ones but have to admit that a lot of them seemed to be m80’s or larger so we stayed ahead of the larger crowds where this seemed to happen. They also like to launch the fireworks that go up and explode, not bottle rockets but big fireworks and they were constantly exploding over the crowds. This seemed a bit unsafe and took a bit of time to get accustomed to this. We finally made it back to our apartment however the combination of large ground explosions and aerial explosions continued till after 3:00 am.

At a little after 11:00pm I decided I should check out the celebration as I was curious about the fireworks at midnight, I had heard they have an impressive show, and thought it would be my only chance to see a big New Year’s celebration (with a big count down and all) and it was a ½ mile from our apartment. So I went out by myself to observe.

New Years in Germany is Crazy! People toting packages of large rockets and large fireworks and lighting them off in crowds was very common. I assured myself that the odds of being hurt are low as I walked through the explosions above and below. I am sure there are some injuries and noticed some medic stations near the crowds but I wasn’t going to let this deter me.

The big celebration was at the theater platz in front of the Semperoper and it cost 4 euros to get in. At first I stood outside the pay area and thought that would be a good place to watch, along with a lot of other people. But after about 10 minutes of being in the crossfire of the fireworks and seeing a aerial launch hit the hofkirche and shoot down in the crowd before exploding and a large m80 going off in a crowd of people as the people yelled in the explosion, I quickly noticed that in the pay area there seemed to be no fireworks launched by people (as I later learned it was not permitted in the pay area). I quickly paid the 4 Euros and took refuge in the party.

Video from just outside the party, you see i am not making this up: (when he pans to the left this is the hofkirche area that i am talking about, you can see the outline of the hofkirche)

The party was great with a stage that had live music, a countdown clock and lots of celebrators. It was a lot of fun watching and I wished Melissa came with. At new years they had an impressive fireworks show with balloons and spotlights. After some singing and a few new years kisses (just kidding) i decided head home. On the way back going by the Hofkirche I had to hurry again through the demilitarized zone where again fireworks we all over and a few small fires were started. Just before I got to my door I saw David and Melissa were just returning from their own adventure as the fireworks at midnight had awaken them and they decided to look around but only for a little bit as they felt a bit overwhelmed.

The demilitarized zone near the Hofkirche - notice the fireworks above and the crowds below:

The party from outside, notice no fireworks, i decided to pay:
The main statue in front of the Semperoper:

Countdown right before midnight:


Fireworks about to start:

Fireworks show!!!

Balloons launching:


The DMZ on the way back, check out all the spent fireworks:

Last christmas pictures

We are traveling home over the Christmas break so here are the last of the Christmas pictures in Germany:

Christmas blimp, just appeared out our window one day:
Another shot from our window:
One of the many food booths in one of the many Christmas markets.

Our favorite Gluhwein place (the glockenspiel):

Inside the gluhwein booth:

Melissa with a Gluhwein and Noah with a Kinderpunch:
The Weihnachtsmarkt an der Frauenkirche:

The Frauenkirche from the chirstmas market:
Lots of street musicans:

Our last Gluhwein from the Glockenspiel: