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Welcome to Fernweh, a blog concerning the (mis)adventures of one Fulbrighter during a year spent in Europe teaching English.
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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Farewell to Frankfurt and Drifting through Dresden

I never thought I'd be here again. At least, not this soon. And to my amazement, it looks and feels exactly the same as last day I was here: laden down with everything I owned, not wanting to leave, wondering if I'd ever seen the tall metal arches of the Frankfurt train station again, or even in the next few years. As far as I could tell, I was heading towards an indefinite time back in the States to finish my degree and then...what? I didn't know. I didn't even have an idea. And that probably contributed to the melancholy that I had been feeling.

I can hardly believe, then, that I'm here again so soon. The platform announcement echoes in the vaulted space, reducing the already foreign words into meaningless reverberations. Outside, the rain is coming down in sheets out of a dull grey sky, but that's fine, because soon we'll be flying across the countryside in a train, and the cool air is a pleasant change from yesterday's suffocating heat.

Okay, forget what I said about the rain being "a pleasant change" this morning (which was just the previous paragraph for you). Through some frustration, lots of bag-hauling, and a hefty dose of patience, we made it to Jena and met up with a kind lady named Bianca, who I had been put in contact with through my mentoring teacher and would be storing my extra baggage for the rest of the summer. While we waited for our train to go on towards Dresden, we took a look around Jena, which seems to be a fairly pleasant sort of town. Then, most of the way through our late lunch, it started to rain, and kept raining, a miserable kind of persistent drizzle. Eventually, we could no longer shelter in the restaurant and we made our way back through the rain to the train station, whereupon the rain promptly stopped. Of course.

Dresden, in contrast, is lovely. There are all kinds of beautiful buildings--churches, a cathedral, museums--that, while I'm sure they're useful as well, seem to have the primary function of being wonderfully beautiful. After we'd arrived and checked in at our hostel, we set off on a walk to see the city at night. We ended up at an outdoor wine festival, where the tree-lined pedestrian Hauptstraße had been partially taken over by little huts offering every sort of wine imaginable. Cloth-draped picnic tables were stuffed in between them, lit by tea lights and packed full of happily chatting people cradling glasses of wine. Enchanted, we bought a glass and wandered around, sharing it between the three of us. We then bought some bratwurst to satisfy our hunger and cleanse our palates, then we got a second glass of wine and sat down to admire the view.

Wine huts and having a good time.
The wine festival really was a wonderful experience. We just chose a hut and wandered up, and upon asking to try a certain wine, were poured a sample--no fuss, no ID-checking. The atmosphere was free and open, just people sitting together talking and having a good time. The tragedy is that this kind of cameraderie and fun would be impossible in the U.S. First of all, you can't drink in public, but even if you could, the tough--some could make a good case for neurotic--drinking laws mean that the whole thing would have to be fenced off so stern-looking enforcers could check each customer's ID. Which would kind of ruin the whole come-and-go-as-you-please, drop-in-if-you-like kind of festival atmosphere. It's really too bad, because the festival was very enjoyable.

Even better, despite the openness of the alcohol and the number of people drinking, the whole thing was dignified, refined, and civilized. There were no beer-guzzling idiots or wine-besoffen morons. The crowds huddling around the candles were there to enjoy themselves and taste the wine, not get drunk and cause trouble. That I find lovely and very comforting.

We only walked far enough to get a look at the gorgeous structures in the Altstadt on the other side of the river and then turned around, all three of us getting sleepy after just two glasses of wine split three ways. We plan on getting up, looking around Dresden in the daylight for a while, then heading off toward Prague in the afternoon. Finally, everything is on track.

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