Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dresden: oddly tranquil counterculture mecca

I was by far Dresden's least-tattooed resident last weekend. There was an international tattoo convention in Prague on Sunday, but alas, Julian and I missed it. He arrived late Saturday evening, and so I have been busy showing him the Czech sights (hence my delayed thoughts on Germany.) Dresden really is a lovely city. There is an immense park in the middle, and everyone seems to ride a bicycle--sometimes multiple people ride the same bicycle at the same time, even--and  I ate almost exclusively vegan food for less than $5 a meal. Everyone seemed extremely nice, though few people spoke English (or Italian, French, or Spanish, unfortunately for me.) Somewhat unsurprisingly, the fact that I barely speak a word of German ended up being a truly significant cultural disadvantage (more so than in Prague, I feel.)

An enormous free street music festival began on Friday night, and so I wandered around that for several hours. I find it really interesting that sometimes I feel the most lonely traveling by myself when things remind me the most of home, but are profoundly different in some significant way. Here, the fact that Dresden reminded me so eerily of parts of (an amalgamation of my favorite blocks in) Brooklyn, but that I could not easily communicate with anyone, was highly disconcerting. It might have just been coincidence, but I don't think that I heard English spoken casually once during my four-day visit. I wanted to connect with the locals, and I did have a couple of interesting conversations, but I just wish so immensely that I spoke all of the languages. All of them.

This is in Dresden. This photo exemplifies why I am a vegetarian. Look at what good friends they are! Look at the expression of sheer glee on that fish! They might even be singing!

I like this statue.

Throughout the weekend trip, I did a lot of reading (a reread of Slaughterhouse 5, specifically) and exploring. On Friday, I went to the German Hygiene Museum, which is a fascinating place. Each section of the museum describes a different element of the body/life cycle, and the exhibits as a whole have undergone a series of really interesting thematic shifts since its founding in the early 20th century (namely, transitions toward and away from eugenics.) Definitely worth a visit if you ever have the opportunity. There is a section displaying contemporary postmortem photographs... quite strange. I enjoyed it. I think it is truly remarkable that the brain can so easily pinpoint the muscular differences between someone who is sleeping, and someone who is dead. The two states should, in theory, look similar in an image where the context is ambiguous--but they do not. Something about the slack, and the eyes, and it's just very peculiar! And appropriate (that we know.)

Since my return to the Czech Republic, things have been moving at a rapid pace. Julian and I have knocked out an impressive percentage of the recommendations of my Czech (and/or well-traveled) friends, and plan to do more between now and Thursday, when we will catch a train to Vienna. Expect a combination of ghost stories, bone churches, and girly cocktail suggestions soon.

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