After so much traveling through Eastern Europe – though, yes, I absolutely LOVED every bit of travel – I was excited to get back to Germany. I could understand and speak the language, felt more comfortable, and knew it’d be a nice, relaxing spot on my travels.
I arrived in Dresden in the afternoon – not exactly late – in fact, I was worried I would be too early to check into my hostel, but it ended up working out alright. I checked into my hostel (all in German! The check-in worker was really nice about it and we had a really good conversation!). I threw my stuff in my hostel and immediately headed out to see the town.
The first thing I decided to see was the DDR Museum, which was around a minute away from my hostel – it’s a museum in the middle of a shopping center, dedicated to old artifacts from the DDR (East Germany).
The museum was definitely a test of my German skill – it was only in German, and the people working didn’t speak any English either. It worked out well, because I made it my goal to only speak German while I was in Germany, because I knew I would be gone soon.
The museum was really fascinating and REALLY cool. It was a collection of peoples’ personal belongings from East Germany, and it essentially recreated lots of aspects of East German life – from barbershops, to mail, to households, to automotive, to camping, to medicine, etc. It had vehicles, propaganda posters, medals, uniforms, newspapers, and so much more, and it was a really cool, really unique peek into the lives of people who lived during the time.
One of the coolest parts about the museum was the people that came to visit. Old or late 30s or 40s alike, former citizens of the DDR were pretty much the only people in the museum. One of the couples nearby was FREAKING OUT during the household section because of how accurate it was, and the girl pointed out that one of the toys that was displayed was one that her grandmother had given her when she was little.
I ended up buying two books, one from 1961 and one from 1981, which were about the Communist Party’s “Party Days,” and it was really interesting to read about the propaganda and I guess “intricacies” of Party life, such as the language used and whatnot.
After the museum, I went to check out the old town. The walk to the Old Town was about 20 minutes, but it was exactly what I needed – it was perfectly relaxing, and a phenomenal way to spend a summer night. I lounged on the beach by the Elbe, and listened to some live music for a little while, just hanging out in the sun.
I then walked across the river to check out some of the old buildings on the other side:
My favorite building in the city, however, was the Frauenkirche. It was destroyed in the firebombing of Dresden, and it stayed in rubble until the late 1990s, when it was rebuilt. The church used the rubble from the old church to rebuild it, so you can see the charred bricks pocking the facade of the building. The cross at the top was created by the son of one of the airmen who bombed it, as a sort of reconciliation for his father’s actions. Tens of thousands of people died in the firebombing of Dresden, and it would generally be considered a war crime because it targeted a civilian population (under the guise of industrial target). There are horrific stories of civilians getting stuck to the ground in melted shoes and burning alive, or rolling down the beach to get to the water before they burned up, but the US doesn’t recognize it as a crime even though it was one of the worst acts against a civilian population in the war.
I wish I’d gotten to go inside the Frauenkirche, but unfortunately, there was a concert going on and I was not allowed in. Apparently the old cross, which is twisted and blackened, still stands on the altar, aside a new one, which I thought would have been really interesting to see. But I hope to study in Germany, so I know I’ll be back!
After exploring Old Town for a while, I went to get dinner – just some bread, meat, and cheese, as per the usual, and wandered around more as it got dark.
After wandering for awhile, I headed back to my hostel and went to sleep, to hop on the train the next morning to go to Heidelberg.
In the morning, I hopped on the train to Heidelberg and arrived a few hours later. Unfortunately, in Heidelberg, the public transportation wasn’t working, so I was stuck walking around 4 miles in the heat, with a 70L travel bag on, to my hostel. At some points I felt like I was going to collapse, but alas, I made it! The hostel was really good, and the staff was incredibly friendly – I’d highly recommend “Lotte – The Backpackers” if you plan on going to Heidelberg! The worker who checked me in had a long conversation about studying abroad – she was right around my age and had just recently gotten back from studying abroad in New Zealand. It was pretty funny because we’d both had very similar experiences in foreign language classes – she had a hard time keeping up with classes in NZ because the accents were different than American English that she’d learned, and Austrian accents are different from the Plattdeutsch accent I’d learned. She introduced me to another group of American guys from Pittsburgh, but we didn’t hang out much.
I showered (because I was disgusting) and headed out to check out the castle outside of Heidelberg.
It was a little bit of a hike, but WOW it was so worth it. The castle offered a spectacular view of the valley and Heidelberg itself:
I LOVED Heidelberg (and Dresden!). Heidelberg was a sleepy little college town centered around a river, and it was so peaceful and quiet. I would absolutely LOVE to get back to both of those cities.
I spent quite some time up at the castle reflecting on it being my last day in Germany for the foreseeable future (or hopefully until next year). It occurred to me just how much I felt at home in Germany (and Austria as well). I don’t think I can feel at ease, or satisfied, unless I manage to work or live in, or at the very least travel to, Germany or Austria. I decided that I would apply to do DAAD – Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, or German Academic Exchange Service – whether in Heidelberg, Dresden, Berlin, or elsewhere. I can’t imagine NOT studying German out there – even just being able to spend time in Germany, speaking the language and exploring, was just SO fulfilling.
After my little reflection, I went back down to the Old Town, and I got dinner. I was worried about spending too much money on an actual dinner, but I figured as it was my last meal in Germany, I could do it. I bought a DELICIOUS schnitzel and a beer, and had a very nice conversation in German with the guy who ran it. I was the only customer inside, and he asked how the food was and I told him how fantastic it was, and that it was a perfect last meal in Germany. He asked where I was from, and I told him California – turns out he has family in Chicago, so he visits them every once in awhile. He thanked me for choosing his restaurant to eat at – which I wish I’d gotten the name of it, because it was phenomenal – and I thanked HIM for the meal.
(Side note: just looking at this, as I write this in Sacramento, is making me hungry. Probably one of the best meals I had during my month traveling. It was just incredible.)
After my schnitzel, I wandered more around the old town and towards the old bridge and the river. I took quite a few photos, but it started to rain and I didn’t want to get stuck out and soaked the night before traveling again (spoiler – still got soaked).
After that, I went to get Spaghettieis, which is ice cream that is put through a noodle machine thing, topped with cherry or strawberry sauce and white chocolate to make it look like spaghetti. I’d wanted to get one for the entire year in Salzburg but never got around to it, and I wasn’t about to leave Germany without getting one, because they’re not sold in the US.
As the storm got stronger, I decided to head back to the hostel. It was pouring, and there was lots of lightning and thunder, plus my original plan, as aforementioned, was not to get soaked, but that failed pretty miserably. Regardless, I made it back, and it was a great day to cap off my last trip in Germany for the year.
I know I already mentioned it in this post, but I truly feel at home in Germany. I cannot WAIT to even APPLY for DAAD, and whether or not I get in, I know I’ll be back to Germany in the future.
After uploading some pictures from my Germany travels, I decided to hit the hay and get ready for my next destination: the BeNeLux region, starting with Luxembourg!
Mit Liebe aus Dresden und Heidelberg,
“Nice to See You” by Vansire.