The outdoor train platform in Falkenberg featured an abandoned-looking food stand. This seemed worse than having nothing. "Nothing" could say, "This is a small, quiet town," while "abandoned something" could say, "This is a small, quiet town...where murders happen. And feeding people who were about to die felt unsettling, so we put an end to that. The feeding, not the murders."
But not long after I pondered this highly improbably situation, life appeared. And the life was friendly. And came bearing cameras.
A group of football fans approached Kåre (boyfriend), Diana (longtime friend), and me (me), asking if we could help them take their photo. They had stopped in Falkenberg on the way to their respective homes from a game between Energie Cottbus, their club of choice, and Hansa Rostock. ...A game we later found out Cottbus had lost, but we couldn't tell from the group's smiles and cheers.
- Paul and his didn't-cost-a-buttload ticket. [Photograph: beatsinthebox]
After we got settled on the train to Berlin, we recognized one of the fans as he walked into our car. Rather than wave and keep on walking—which is probably what I would've done because I'm unreasonably afraid of most humans—Paul was too friendly to ignore us, and he sat across the aisle for a good chat. A chat that included being told about the metric buttload of euros we would've saved if we had bought unlimited train tickets instead of single use tickets. Oops.
Our lives would be pretty much the same if we hadn't become friends with Paul, but I can't help laying out the trail of "ifs" that helped make it happen. (I'm speaking as someone who almost never makes friends with random people I meet in real life. Because I am made of the aforementioned fear.) If we had decided to go to Dresden on another day, we wouldn't have met him. If we didn't leave Dresden when we did, we wouldn't have met him. If Paul's friend hadn't wanted to take a different route after the game, Paul wouldn't have ended up in Falkenberg. If more people had been on the train platform, we may not have ended up taking the group photo. If we had been sitting in a different car, Paul may not have passed us. And so on and so on and so on.
So while Falkenberg isn't where anyone would want to be at 10 p.m. on a Tuesday night, I'm glad our four-hour train ride from Dresden to Berlin brought us through there.
Come along and let me show you the sights of Moritzburg!
...Ok, I'm done. [dusts off hands]
Well. There's more than that, but that's the most famous thing in this picturesque village of 8,300 people. And a baroque palace on a man-made island surrounded by a lake is quite a thing—hence why, at Diana's suggestion, we took a 30 minute bus ride from Dresden to get there.
I'd regale you with interesting historical bits about the palace, but I couldn't dig up much about its history. If you're really curious, you can read about it yo'-fine-self and allow me to be lazy. The super-duper short history of the palace is that it started off as a hunting lodge in the mid-1500s and continued to be a favorite hunting spot for hundreds of years, as evidenced by its most striking feature...
- Photos aren't allowed in most of the palace, but Diana snuck in a sweet photo.
...Its collection of red deer antlers, described as the largest collection of red deer antlers in the world, although I can't find an exact number (how large is the world's second-largest collection of red deer antlers?). If I had to estimate, I'd say a few hundred. Deer heads are propped up all over the palace, whether thoughtfully arranged such as in the photo above, or just stuck wherever one seemed to fit because they just have too damn many of 'em. I'm somewhat sure I saw a few heads simply laid on the ground.
If you find the vacant stares of fake deer heads unsettling, get ready for nightmare-fuel. Otherwise, it's pretty awe-inspiring. I doubt I'll ever be faced with such imposing walls of deer heads again.
Another impressive display of "stuff made of animals" is the Feather Room featuring intricate wall hangings and bed curtains made of woven feathers from all kinds of birds.
I must admit that the palace's opulence partially suffocated my awe. I know opulence comes with the whole "royal palace" package, but instead of appreciating the craftsmanship and artistry that goes into, say, gilded deer heads and floor-to-ceiling murals and gold flourishes all over the place, my brain chose to schloop into a state of "Bluuurrgghghfffsffzz." (That room isn't representative of the whole palace—it's just one that stuck out in my mind.) It's times like this that my lack of refinement really shines through.
Schloss Moritzburg's other claim to fame, aside from being awash with deer heads, is being the backdrop of the 1973 Czech-German movie Tři oříšky pro Popelku (Three Gifts/Nuts for Cinderella). It's a holiday classic in many parts of Europe where the movie is played every year around Christmas, like in Norway where I first watched it last Christmas. For Kåre, it's a holiday classic the way that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is for me. If you have 75 minutes to spare, you can watch an English-narrated version on YouTube (split into 10 parts).
In this version of Cinderella, Cinderella get the attention of the prince with the help of a guardian owl and three magical wish-granting hazelnuts...and because she's an exceptional archer and equestrian...and because she's got 'tude...and because she's 500% more beautiful than everyone else in the village...and because every other woman bores the prince. She plays hard-to-get with the prince and then blah blah blah stuff happens and THEY LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER, WHO'DA THUNK IT. It's a sweet movie with the lovely backdrop of snow-covered Moritzburg—which is why in the winter, Schloss Moritzburg caters to the movie's fans with an exhibit about the movie and movie screenings. (The palace's Facebook page is decked out for the occasion.)
Since I wasn't allowed to take photos inside, I took a bunch outside. Here ya go.
- Back of the palace.
- Further behind the palace.
- Me and Kåre jumping behind the palace because...we can.
- Side view.
After about one and a half hours at the palace, we headed back to Dresden for a quick walk-through from Neustadt station to the central station. The city definitely demands more than a few hours of your time; it's too bad we didn't have more to spare. Admittedly, since I had done almost no research before visiting (Diana did most of the planning; thanks, Diana!), I didn't know what I was missing out on. ...And thus I'm now looking at dresden.de so I can see all the stuff I missed. If I had had more time, I would've loved to have visited the German Institute for Animated Film. Also, Pfunds Dairy, "the most beautiful dairy shop in the world."
And so, um, I don't have much advice to give about Dresden. But I can show you photos.
- The River Elbe.
- ...I'm not sure what this building is. Do tell me.
- Let's be tourists. It's ok.
- Katholische Hofkirche, built in the mid-1700s.
- Dresden Castle.
- The Fürstenzug (Procession of Princes), a 101-meter-long mural made of porcelain tiles featuring "35 margraves, princes and kings as well as 59 scientists, artisans, craftsmen and farmers."
- An entrance...
- ...And the dude who watches you as you enter.
- Oh good, he let us through.
- The Langer Gang (Long Arcade) in the Stallhof (stall courtyard).
- YOU CANNOT ESCAPE DEER HEAD.
- Back to the street.
- Dresden Frauenkirche, looking rather spic and span because, in a way, the 18-century church is only seven years old. The church, along with most of the area around the Neumarkt, was destroyed during the bombing of Dresden in WWII and have only been rebuilt/restored in the last ten years or so. Reconstruction for the Frauenkirche began in 1993 and was finished in 2005 to the tune of €180 million.
- Baby windows to momma windows on a new building in the Neumarkt.
Is it dinnertime yet? HOORAY!
For dinner, we took the easy way out and plopped ourselves down at Freiberger Schankhaus right in the Neumarkt, aka "heavy tourist territory," aka "where food has no obligation to be particularly good or wallet-friendly." But it wasn't bad at all, nor unreasonably priced. If you don't have the time or inclination to look for something better, you'd do fine at Freiberger Schankhaus. assuming you want German food.
And I did. Oh yes. Roasted pork knuckle, we meet again. This massive meat hunk is only a half-order, yours for a reasonable €9.70 (about $12.50; a full portion is €13.90).
The knuckle comes on a bed of sauerkraut in a pool of "Freiberger beer sauce," with Treber bread (spent grain bread) on the side.
The skin was fantastic: deeply golden, pustuled, powerfully crunchy. But the meat didn't fare as well.
If you're thinking, "Man, that looks kind of dry and stringy," then you, right. It wasn't all dry, but some of it was.
On the opposite end of the pork knuckle constitution spectrum, you've got fat chunko.
We followed dinner with bubble tea at German chain Bobo Q, the most "I'M TRYING TO BE HIP AND MODERN OR SOMETHING" bubble tea joint I've ever seen, largely due to one wall being occupied by a brightly colored display animated to pulsating dance music.
Admittedly, the hip-ness was sort of broken with this poster. Engrish, I will never get tired of you.
Boba Q was also distinct for being the most white people-filled bubble tea joint I've ever been to. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just new to me. Even though New York City has loads of bubble tea shops, they're mostly in areas with large Asian populations (Chinese, to be more specific), mostly staffed by Asians serving a mostly Asian clientele (and I'm guessing that's what it's like in most of the US). Boba Q didn't fit any of these categories. Bubble tea seems to have wider appeal in Germany, or is attempting to, if the poster above is any indication, ignoring that the poster isn't especially appealing.
The menu is in Chinese in addition to English, in case any Chinese-speaking people do wander in here.
Even though they offer a wide variety of "toppings" (bottomings, more like)—boba, popping boba, and jelly in different flavors—I went the boring route with a no-topping, perfectly fine taro latte (€3.30).
Oh god, what is Helly Kitty wearing?...oh, nevermind, copyright infringement.
I added more photos to my crosswalk signal collection. Achievement unlocked.
After walking through a grand shopping/hotel area that lacked all the charm of the old city, we reached central station, bought some overpriced train tickets, and made our way back to Berlin.
On the ride back, I popped open a bag of Knusper Flocken I had bought that morning. I was curious about it since it was a popular East German candy—check out a photo of the no-frills, barely branded GDR packaging at nosztalgia.net—that disappeared after the fall of the GDR but came back into production in 1995. Knusperflocken, which Google translates to "crisps" or "cereal chips," are little star-shaped nubs of milk chocolate mixed with finely ground knäckebrot, or crispbread. Crispy chocolate—sounds promising!
But no. One chew later I discovered it's not crispy chocolate. It's gritty chocolate lacking any evidence of smoothness or creaminess. That's a fail, although I guess it tastes like what you'd expect from the GDR. I think it's one of those things you have to grow up with to appreciate, as this German blogger illustrates.
Moritzburg and Dresden (and our beloved Falkenberg) is a lot to cover in one day, but with our week-long vacation that was all we could afford. Hopefully you get more vacation time. If you don't live in the U.S., you probably do. Ha ha ha! ha ha. (I'm quite aware how privileged I am just to have a job I like; I'm not sure I deserve more vacation. OR IS THAT JUST WHAT THE U.S. WANTS ME TO THINK?)
Lastly, I will leave you with this barely related thing that surely deserves more attention. While looking up info about Dresden, I came across the most peculiar review of Dresden Hofoper (opera house) on Google+. It's easily the best review of anything I've ever read on Google+, which isn't saying much since I rarely read Google+ reviews. ...But anyway. I hope you agree:
So, I hatched what I figured was a fool proof plan. I don't have a lot of money, and I had a lot less a number of years ago. In fact, at the time I visited Semper Opera, I had more children than dollars. And I had one child. So, you know, do the math. Okay, I will do the math for you. I had less than one dollars. Which, comes out to around no dollars, roughly, and really a lot less when you consider my looming student loan debts, which only increase with time. So, me and my baby and no money go to the opera. Or, not so much the opera itself but this alley behind it. Anyway, I drop my kid into an open window and run. I figured, you know, that the opera people, whoever they are, would feel pity and take the baby under their wings, though obviously they don't have wings, a fact which has become much clearer to me over the years. I write letters now to the opera, but I haven't gotten a reply from my daughter yet. I've received a number of brochures and event schedules, all of which look fantastic, though after going over them in detail I can assure you that none of the performers is actually my daughter. So, the take-away here is, if you go to Semper Opera, and you happen to find a baby, just you know, give me a buzz. Or, at least, give it a job.
Schloßallee, 01468 Moritzburg, Germany (map)
035207 8730; schloss-moritzburg.de
Getting there from Dresden-Neustadt station takes about half an hour by bus. The ticket is €3.80 each way and you can pay on the bus (#326; timetable at vvo-online.de). It plops you close to the palace, but the bus stop to go back to Dresden is sort of hidden behind a parking lot, at least when we were there. We went to the nearby tourist office to find out where the stop was. ;_;
Berlin, Day 1: Dessert for Lunch, Sandwich for Snack, Schnitzel for Dinner
Berlin, Day 2: Three-Hour Guided Tour, Ice Cream at Fräulein Frost, and Dinner at Hasir
Berlin, Day 3: Computer Game Museum, Ostpaket, Humboldt Box, Berlin's Oldest Restaurant, DDR Museum
Berlin, Day 4, Part I: Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
Berlin, Day 4, Part II: German Tapas, Schnitzel, and Chipped Pancakes at Schnitzelei
Berlin, Day 5: Curry 36, Pergamon Museum, and Swabian Food Overload at Die Feinbäckerei