My shiny little online spot to help y'all keep track of me while I galavant around London.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


As I got back from Dresden today, lugging my bags down the road to my house, a pirate ship was sailing down the Thames. Cool. I mean, Arrgh! Avast!

Anyway, I went to Dresden for some decidedly non-pirate-related work stuff, namely the launch of a high performance computing (HPC) server thingy, and then the start of the International Supercomputing Conference.

As the crazy-ass PR people flew me in too early, I actually got to see a bit of Dresden. Superficially at least -- as I didn't see all that much -- it's a lot like Prague, which isn't really surprising, given they're rather close together.

I didn't know much about Dresden -- and I still don't, to be honest -- other than the bombings in WWII. And all I knew about that was that the British flattened the place, killing 35,000 people. Now obviously the Germans weren't exactly innocents in that war (something about a holocaust, picking a fight which killed a generation of young men, that sort of thing) but turning a city to rubble from the air is such a horrible thought that it's really rather captivating, especially given how proud the British are of surviving the Blitz. I'm not really sure what my point is -- I guess I just find the damage done to the other side rather intriguing after hearing about it from the victors so often. Then again, maybe it's just my Eastern European ancestry speaking up...

Anyway, much of the city has been rebuilt, altho weirdly only in the past few years. I guess the Soviets weren't really up for it?

The Frauenkirche, which I amused myself by calling the Frankenchurch, was almost completely wiped out in the bombings. Rather than reconstruct it postwar, the Soviets left the rubble either a) as a monument to war or b) because they were cheap. So the pile of rocks, bits of statuary and whatnot sat there. No one took anything. Some people started organizing and numbering it, apparently (according to wikipedia). It stayed that way until 1992, when they finally started to put it all back together (not my photo, obviously):

Anyway, I knew none of this when I walked past it. It looks pretty cool from the outside, and I happened past at 6pm, when the bells were ringing. People were streaming into the church, so I thought hey, what's going on and went inside. I'm a follower I guess, but not of the sort that were walking up the stairs. I realised upon entering that a service was starting and wanted to take a better look at the interior, so I plunked myself down into a pew and enjoyed the show.

It's a protestant church, and very different from the gothic cathedrals and anglican spires I've seen so much of. To start -- and maybe this is a function of when it was really built -- but the interior is marble... but it all looks fake. Like someone painted the pillars to look like marble. The decorative bit behind the altar is green and pink and shiny gold while the second and third floors of pews curve in soft colours. Basically, its all fluffy and soft -- is it supposed to make people think of heaven? I don't know. But it's pretty, in a slightly tacky way.

The organ was amazing though and the service started with some music. I've never heard an organ that large played before. The range and depth of the sound is amazing -- easy to see why it's so common in churches. The rest of the service was, obviously, in German -- which probably helped, actually.

I also spent a bit of time wandering the Zwinger Palace, which is home to their Old Masters Art Gallery (more on that in a separate post), and walking through the old town. I won't go into it; just check out the photos.

Of course, the thing with these cities is to try and see more than just the old parts, so I did wander to the north side of the river to look around a bit and walked around my hotel's neighbourhood (much further north).

Dresden, like much of the Eastern part of Germany, has high unemployment. It's obvious this isn't a healthy city from the boarded up, graffitied buildings. The places along the street between my hotel and the tram were half abandoned.

I was walking down the street at one point, and one building had boarded windows, the next was a clean, nice-looking, functioning office, and then the one after that had smashed in windows and spray-painted walls. I saw a rather well-dressed girl walk up to the building after that and open the door with a key -- it was her apartment. Can you imagine that in Calgary, with it's real estate boom? Apartments next to derelict buildings?

Cinder block: for when boards just won't do...

Aside from the perfectly efficient trams, many people seemed to use bicycles to get around. Despite the unemployment rates, a lot of bikes were not locked up and the ones that were had just flimsy cord locks, often not locked to anything but looped through the wheels. Can you imagine that in London, with it's theft rates? Leaving a bike just lying around?

Anyway, I woke up at 6am in a different country. I'm tired. I'm going to bed. Sorry if this post rambled. More pics are here.

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