In my last post, I went into detail about the trip that my mom took to Berlin to visit me. Today I will elaborate further on the weekend trip we took to Dresden with Sebastien and his family!
The idea for this trip began with Sebastien many months ago, before I came to Germany. We were discussing my plans to do this program and come to Berlin for about a year, and he mentioned that we could even go to Dresden to check out one of the world’s oldest Christmas Markets in December. When my mom had booked her flight to visit me, we decided that the three of us should go; and once Sebastien’s parents heard about the trip, it was decided that the five of us would go together. Sebastien’s parents booked a traditional bed and breakfast for the Saturday night so that we would have a two day trip, and we drove to Dresden first thing Saturday morning.
It took us about 2 and a half hours to drive to Dresden, and I basically knit the whole time. When we reached the city, it appeared that we had brought Berlin’s wind and snow along with us. However, we got right down to the sightseeing. We parked the car and walked a ways through the city, then crossed a long bridge over the Elbe River. It was absolutely freezing on the bridge thanks to the wind, but it was still a gorgeous first glimpse at the Old City.
Once we were within the Old City, we often stopped inside little shops to look around and escape from the cold. We soon came to our first Christmas Market, which was right beside the Frauenkirche. The Frauenkirche is a large protestant church; it had been destroyed during World War II along with countless other structures. Several dark blocks can be seen amongst the light ones in the church as it is now, and those dark ones are pieces of the original building whereas the light ones are new. Please don’t quote me on that, but I’m pretty sure that’s the case. We waited in line to be able to enter the church, but it was definitely worth it once we were able to enter and gaze up at the seemingly endless ceiling. Sebastien and I were both reminded of the interior of the Berliner Dom, which is interesting since they are both protestant churches.
In the photo I included of the alter, you can see on the left that there is a green line (that would be a Christmas wreath) with four candles on it. In Germany, on every Sunday in December leading up to Christmas, families light a new candle to represent Christmas’s approach. Today, for example, Sebastien and I lit the third candle in our own Advent wreath (Adventskranz) since there is only one more Sunday before we reach Christmas. Here’s a picture of an Advent wreath we saw in Dresden in a restaurant last week:
As you can see, the Advents wreaths can be found anywhere from in a church to in a restaurant, to many personal homes. Once we left the church, we noticed a Christmas Market on the other side of the church as well. We decided to take a walk through here, and purchase our first hot beverage of the trip. I tried hot chocolate with a shot of amaretto for the first time, and decided these two were destined to be together for all eternity. Unfortunately we picked a very poor time to go through this Market though, because it was absolutely packed and no one was able to move. It would have been impossible to physically stand aside and check out a stand somewhere, so we basically fought through the crowds to reach the other end of the Market. But once we arrived there, we were able to climb up a few stairs to a viewpoint, and appreciate how beautiful the Market looked away from the crowd.
After this, we paused for a meal, and I began to get some of the feeling back in my toes. We were lucky that the wind died down as the evening went on, and we hardly noticed the cold anymore. We spent a few hours looking around at the Christmas Markets, and got to enjoy all of the Christmas lights since it gets dark extremely early this time of year. In the end, Mum and I bought a few wooden ornaments, as well as pretty candle domes. As you can tell from the photos, a lot of the booths had elaborate decorations on their roofs – some of those were more impressive than the goods they were selling!
Once we had roamed the Christmas Market to our hearts’ content, we headed back to the car. It ended up taking a bit of a while though, because we discovered another Christmas Market along the way. It wasn’t quite as fancy as the previous ones had been, but we managed to find lots to look at.
After that, we returned to the car and found our Bed and Breakfast (the German word for that is “Pension” – I had been kinda hoping I would leave there with a pension all ready to go, but maybe I would have had to stay there longer for that). After a nice hot meal, I’m pretty sure all of us got an amazing sleep thanks to all the fresh air and walking around.
As you can tell, the Bed and Breakfast was in a fairly secluded spot. We enjoyed a terrific breakfast there the next morning, then headed back to the Old City for a tour of the Opera House. In a way, the story of the Opera House made me think of Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail: there is a King who had to try building a Castle four times in a swamp before one finally stayed up. The poor Opera House has been rebuilt at least three times: once when it burst into flame involving a gas pipe incident, once after World War II when there was massive ruin everywhere, and once more when it was hit by a major flood in 2002. At this point, major precautions have been taken against any more flood damage, so hopefully it can remain the way it is for many years to come. I didn’t take any photos while on the tour, but some of the things we learned were pretty amazing. While everything within the building looks very grandeur, and appears to be made of marble and things like that, a lot of it is fake. The original designer figured that the imaginary world of an Opera should be maintained throughout the entire Opera House, instead of only on stage. Despite the fact that a lot of the construction is an illusion, it is lovely to marvel at. Within the physical theatre room, we got to learn lots of trivia about how an opera works, and how many sets are too large to be kept in the actual Opera House. We also got to see the five minute clock above the stage, that was designed to keep men from constantly checking their pocket watches back in the day. I was extremely pleased that we took that tour!
After that, we checked out a Christian church nearby, which was reconstructed after the war but not completely finished.
Back in Berlin on Monday, Mum came to work with me so that we could head straight to the airport afterwards. The teacher was quite late for the class, so I had my first taste of spontaneously taking over a lesson. I taught the kids about Christmas traditions in Canada, and made them write stories about their own personal Christmasses. After that, Mum and I met up with Seb and headed to the airport. It was extremely sad to see Mum go back to Canada, but I am so happy that she took the time to come here and visit me. We each had a terrific time (I’m so grateful that she is so easy going and good with anything we had to do!) and made a lot of new memories. Hopefully it will not be long until I see her again!
Since that point, I have been up to lots of Christmassy things. I am completely done all of my Christmas shopping, and have seen a whole schwack of Christmas movies. On Wednesday, I got together with some friends at the Schloss Charlottenburg Christmas Market. It’s apparently known as being one of the nicest ones in Berlin, and there were certainly some unique and well-crafted goods available there. The last time I properly saw Schloss Charlottenburg was in grade 11 when I was on tour with my high school band, and it was extremely different to see it with Christmas booths and fancy lights. It was great getting to see it all, and catch up with my friends – the only problem was that I got quite lost afterwards, and it took me an entire hour (and four busses) to get to my Orchestra band practice!
On Thursday, I spent the time between work and my German class at Kilkenny Pub. It wasn’t as fun as it had been with Mum, but it was a nice place to sit down and have a good meal (and I’ll admit it: do a bit of knitting). That evening, I brought a new friend I met through my German class to surprise movie night. Since the Hobbit (part II) is newly released, there was an amazing display at Potsdamer Platz, with a Christmas fairy dancing around at one point.
The film for this week was “Disconnect” which I had never heard of before. I had no idea what to expect (obviously) but it turned out to be the most powerful film I have ever seen. The movie follows three different story lines concerning Internet issues, and the genius of the acting and directing along with the truth in each story touched everyone in the theatre. It was nice to see film being used as an art form instead of just a way to make money, and I recommend this movie to absolutely everyone.
And now, only one week remains until I am on Christmas break. It’s been a refreshing change this year to not have final exams to worry about, but I have slowly begun filling out applications for a Masters program beginning next Fall. I have quite the “stressful” week ahead: work on Monday and Tuesday, then a field trip on Thursday and my work Christmas Party Friday. No wonder I love this job so much!
Thank you all so much for reading! I hope you all are gearing up for an amazing Christmas!