Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Montmartre

Today my hostel-mates and I had a day out.  The Washintonians went to the Champs-Elysees and the Seine for the morning.  The Australian, the Canadian, and I went to the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Montmartre.  The eternal resting places of Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrisson, Edith Piaf, Camille Pissaro, Marcel Proust, Frederic Chopin, and many other famous individuals are located there.


 Then we went to meet the Washintonians in the Pigalle in front of the Moulin Rouge.  We wandered through Montmartre, a super-old working-class neighborhood.  It's home to the gorgeous Sacre Coeur and the best views of Paris.  Sacre Coeur is built on the highest point in Paris.  We all sat on the Cathedral steps and listened to musicians and watched street performers.  It was a fantastic and cozy.  We took pictures and laughed and enjoyed the day and the company.




 Later, we went out for Italian and wandered through the Red Light District after dark.  It was surprisingly calm and the bright lights were eerily cheerful.



Best.  Day.  Ever.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Les Invalides, Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysees, and me, Eloise

If I were a childrens' storybook character (random, right?) I would be Eloise from the Hilary Knight books.  Like Eloise, I am imaginative, impulsive, and love to find hidden cubbies and adventures.  One of my favorite Eloise books was the one where she goes to Paris.  I like to think that I am keeping her spirit alive in my alternative sightseeing.  (Just not asking rude questions of passers-by or squealing.  The second one is a little hard sometimes).

Today I went off (sans map) in search of the Eiffel Tower (or really any of the landmarks in that vicinity).  The first I stumble across was Hotel Invalides.  This old military hospital still houses and cares for just over a dozen soldiers.  I saw some of them headed into church at the chapel in the courtyard.  Since admission to most museums, churches, and monuments runs anywhere from 8 euros to 15 euros, I decided to skip the military history museum.  After hearing that it has one of the most impressive collections of World Wars I and II weapons and etc., I might have to go back.  Plus, it's Napoleon's final resting place.  Who doesn't want to see his tomb?

The golden dome is recognizable anywhere, and the courtyard was MASSIVE and lined with cannons.  Very cool.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Jardin des Plantes and Hammam

This is my first solo vacation.  It took me a bit to realize that when you are on vacation by yourself, you get to do whatever you want.  There is no time that I'm required to be up.  No groups activities to wander through.  Nothing but me, my map, and my sturdiest shoes.  Today I woke up early with the intention of being at the Grande Gallerie de Evolution at opening time (9:30 AM) to beat the crazy crowds of Parisian families.  Well, I got a little lost and checked out the churches of St. Sulpice and St. Genevieve first.  They were almost completely empty, and so still, holy, and peaceful.




Monday, February 20, 2012

Dresden at Night

There's something nice about cities at night.  Especially old cities.  The muted light camouflages all the new -the gum ground into the cobblestones, the graffiti, the post boxes and cars.  There are fewer people out, and almost no tourists, so it's peaceful.  The streetlights have a way of bringing out the best in everything too.  The stone buildings glow a little more, the golden angels, chariots, princes, and crosses that crown the buildings shine.  Even people look better -the darkness softens features and makes people seem less angular and strange.

My nighttime run went something like this (with bad iPhone pictures, aren't you lucky!):



Saturday, February 18, 2012

Winding Down

Sadly my time in Dresden is coming to an end :(  Less than a week from today I will be on my way out of my cosy apartment and headed off to Paris for a week.  Sad, right?  Not looking forward to 10+ hours of travel and living out of a suitcase again, but Paris will be pretty cool.  Never been there before, and who knows when I'll have the chance to go again?

But I'll miss Dresden.  Like first kisses and first cars, first cities are unforgettable.  And unlike first kisses you don't WANT to forget them.

So I spent today roaming about the Neustadt and put together an (extensive) list of things to do before I go.  I'm going to miss it here...


Friday, February 17, 2012

Commenting Woes

Hi Everyone!  I love getting all of your comments, but I've gotten some emails saying that they weren't getting through!  I'm sorry that's been an issue -I'm not sure why!  I hope it all goes better in the future, because I love hearing from everyone <3

Monday, February 13, 2012

Hurry Home


67 years ago today a massive bombing raid by the allied forces flattened the city of Dresden.  It was one of the last untouched major cities in Germany, and the seat of a good deal of Nazi power.  An unknown (but certainly great) number of civilians were killed.  Palaces, museums, churches, stores, and homes were destroyed.  The number of people who were there are dwindling with time, but Dresdners continue to remember.

Every year on the 13th of February, Dresden's Altstadt plays host to a Nazi protest and a white-rose counter-protest.  It's ugly.  My Caribbean classmate's German husband left work and drove an hour to pick her up so she wouldn't have to go out to get to the train.  The three middle-eastern students in my class stayed home.  People are being stopped on the Strassenbahn and the streets to show identification and proof of residence.  In short, not a day to be outside.

My house is right between a bank of government offices and a major military landmark.  Not exactly the place to be on a day like today.  I'll be out in the Neustadt, away from the action, having an afternoon-long coffee. 

(Check the Wikipedia article on the Dresden Bombing for the original photo at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Dresden_in_World_War_II)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Without a Map





Today I grabbed a roll from the "free food" basket and ran out the door after class.  I turned right and didn't look back.  After 2.5 hours of walking and exploring, I managed to find my way back to my apartment.  Not without taking some bad iPhone photos, though.  I forgot my camera :(

Monday, February 6, 2012

Sunday in Berlin

Am Sonntag bin ich nach Berlin gefahren, um meine Freundin zu besuchen.  Heh.  Just kidding.  On Sunday I went to Berlin to visit a friend from school.  She's studying urban planning and the "two city" phenomenon -differences between east and west.  She's pretty cool.  She invited me to go to church with her, and since I could get a super cheap ticket for the 3-hour journey, I decided to go up for the day.  I got there around noon, ate a delicious belegtes broetchen (discovered a new bread-product I actually like!) and hit the Natural History Museum (Museum fuer Naturkunde) with what felt like every family in the greater-city area.  Oh well, it was super awesome.  You know I like sciency stuff.





This last picture is of a super-famous fossil.  It is only one of 10 known specimens and by far the best preserved.  The farmer who discovered it originally traded it for a cow.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Back to the Neustadt

After my little excursion to the Neustadt with the tour group, I decide to go back.  There was a cute little Christmas store and a Communist memorabilia store that I wanted to look about in.  Unfortunately, they were closed.  There were handwritten signs in the window stating that they were "taking a short vacation."  "Short vacation" could mean anything from a day to a week, depending on their nationality, so I'll just have to cross my fingers and try again.   Anywho.

I walked this time, instead of taking the Strassenbahn.  It was much less cold (do not confuse with "warmer."  That is a word I will not be using until it is actually true.  Like in May.) than it was yesterday.  It was still pretty frosty, but a nice kind of frosty where you're cheerfully cold and look around for a bakery to have tea in.  I tried one of Dresden's specialties -Eierscheke -which is a kind of cake with the typical fluffy bottom crust, a thin layer of sweet cheese and raisins, and then a fluffy eggy layer.  There's sugar on top.  Quite delicious.

Before I had my (admittedly early) tea, I wandered and took some photos of the plentiful graffiti in the Neustadt.





 
I also saw some gorgeous birdhouses -there were more in the shop behind the wall.  It was super fun and artsty -just my kind of place.  They had colorful masking tape, soap dispensers shaped like poodles, and magnetic paper clip holders, among lots of other awesome stuff.


Thought I wouldn't like the Neustadt, being a bit old-fashioned.  I was blessedly wrong.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Eating Good on 20 Euro a Week

Yes.  This is a two-post kind of day.  This one is mostly for Lauren, fellow student and study abroad-er who shares my love of good food, but likes bread more than I do.  Note that this post will not talk about bread, rather bread-substitutes for those of us not possessed by carb-love.


That is a scrambled-egg confection of bacon, swiss cheese, apples, and eggs atop a bed of arugula.  It was supposed to be an omelet, but the pans here are pretty old and the heat is pretty irregular, so it turned out more as scrambled eggs.  The point is not how good it looks (cause we can all agree it doesn't) rather how delicious it is.  Er, was.

In general, I'm not a big fan of bread (except my beloved Ezekiel bread, and then only toasted or for sandwiches) or of pasta or potatoes (unless microwaved to perfection and topped with butter and salt).  With no microwave (goodbye potatoes) and no toaster or Ezekiel bread (goodbye bread) it was time to branch out to other options.

Enter eggs.  Versatile, cheap, and pleasingly shaped, they're a winner in my book.  As I mentioned before, they're richer and tastier than the American variety and NOT as cheap.  The cheapest option here is 1.29 Euro for 10, while I've bought a dozen for 0.99 in the US.  But I like them.  And there are lots of mix-in options -like above.

Fresh veggies are more seasonal here.  One thing I noticed is that most of the out-of-season veggies available are the organic ones -so much for saving the earth.  Fruits are also available -especially apples.

As far as meat and cheese are concerned, the Germans love Gouda and Swiss, don't have Cheddar, and have more ham varieties than I could ever dream existed.  The closest thing to Greek yogurt is Quark, and I made the 5 euro mistake of confusing something in the yogurt section in a Greek-looking container with Greek yogurt.  I am now the proud owner of a huge plastic carton of Tzaziki.  I don't like cucumbers or garlic, so it will live in my fridge to remind me to read labels more carefully.    

To make the delicious scrambled eggs above, I chopped three small slices of cooked bacon, and half an apple into tiny chunks.  I scrambled them with three eggs and 1 thick slice of Swiss cheese.  Then I poured them on top of a huge handful of arugula.  Delicious.

Never Would Have Known

I'm a "do my own thing" kind of person.  Sometimes (ok more than sometimes) to the extreme.  It's not that I don't like to do stuff, I just like to do it MY WAY.  I skipped the Altstadt guided tour, but decided that I should at least try a guided tour of the Neustadt (if only to improve my German, since the tour is all in German).  All I'd heard was that it was full of pubs and was trendy and hippie.  Those two things were definitely true.  There was SO much other stuff, though and I was grateful I'd gone for the tour.  A quick look at what I never would have known: