Friday, June 26, 2015

Dresden Diary, Day 2: Something old, something new

The internet is not my friend today, so I’m writing the journal the old fashion way – via Word. Gasp!

My day of exploration didn’t start until late afternoon at the end of a busy day listening, talking, thinking and seemingly drinking in science.  It’s a good thing my curiosity always wins over brain strain. On the agenda was the Zwinger (pronounced Zvi-nger) museum, which is a convenient 5-8 minute walk from the congress site. The Zwinger is a palace that was turned into a 3-in-1 museum complex, housing the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Old Masters Picture Gallery), the Dresden Porcelain Collection (Porzellansammlung) and the Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon (Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments).  Hard as it was, I had to decide which among the 3 museums I was going to, given the time limitation; all 3 closed at 6 pm and it was already 4:30 pm.  I eventually decided on the math and physics collection. The force was strong on this one.
The salon boasted of clocks, lenses, globes, measurement instruments and other related instrumentations. The museum highlights innovative technologies in precise timekeeping and calculation during 1550-1900.Hey, German precision, right? The top 3 items that stood out to me were the:
  • 5-minute clock that tells time in 5 minute increments instead of by the minute,

5 minute clock

  • the world clock (1690) that tracks 24 hour time zones in 1 face, showing the time in all latitudes on 360 individual dials,
  • a celestial globe, perhaps the oldest exhibit on display, dating from the 13th century. I have actually never thought that stars and constellations can be represented spherically, but here’s that representation showing stars as they are located on the apparent sphere above us, showing constellation figures to teach celestial navigation. One word: Wow.

World Clock - at least they don't chime
Celestial Globe - picture doesn't do it justice;
Stellar positions have been calculated for the year 1700.

Bonus: who remember what this is
and what it's for?
Since I didn’t have enough time to check out the porcelain museum (boohoo!), I took a cab to Neustadt to search for its hidden gem: Kunsthofpassage Skipping public transportation was a good decision as I wouldn’t have found it on my own otherwise. When Tripadvisor says it's a hidden gem, you better listen. (Un)lucky me, the sun shone and the rain stopped altogether as soon as I reached the secret courtyards. Sure, everyone knows how much I love dreary weather, but "Kunst”, as locals call it, really comes alive when rain starts to fall. Kunst consists of 5 small courtyards completed in 2001, boasting of nouveau art collections. Hence the name: Kunsthofpassage, which means ‘alley artists’ or 'art district path'. Of the 5 courtyards, the “Courtyard of Element”s is the most popular with its bright blue painted wall with metal pipes and funnels. On rainy days, the drain and gutter system turns into musical instruments!  Across this wall is a yellow-painted wall with metal rods that reflected the sunlight.
Something blue
After buying some artsy souvenirs - little adorable serving boards featuring fruchtfliege(fruit flies)-  I headed out to look for a place to eat.  Beside clichéd biergartens (beer gardens), there was not much in terms of regional restaurants in Neustadt.  I was surprised to see mostly Turkish, Greek, American and Asian offerings after 1 hour of walking around.
I went back to Altstadt and sat at a restaurant patio by the Frauenkirche plaza. The bell tolled 9’o’clock but it was still light out.  There was a horn quartet in the plaza serenading the passersby with impressive classical music as I enjoyed Alpine cuisine. I could swear they put cheese and beer on all their dishes! Dinner left me almost catatonic, so I finished reading my book as I relished every sip of my Toblerone macchiato.

To help me digest, I went for a walk along Bruehl’s Terrace, nicknamed “The Balcony of Europe”, which was formerly a defensive part of the Dresden Fortress. The Terrace was totally destroyed in February 1945 along with most structures in Altstadt, but has been rebuilt to look very much the same as it did in the past.

I continued walking along Augustusbrucke, the bridge named after Augustus the strong, and the oldest bridge in Dresden. The bridge indulged me in the breathtaking view of the city at dusk. Dresden was once known as known as Florence on the Elbe for its detalied baroque architecture. I tried to imagine how it looked like 70 years ago, but I couldn’t get unstuck in time. I also couldn’t help but look up in the sky to check for any signs of aircrafts, but all I saw were birds, presumably flying to their nests for the night.


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