As we drove around the streets of Dresden we noticed many vacant buildings, graffiti, and overgrown vacant lots. All that mixed in with newly renovated buildings, a modern tram system, and a spiffed up old town bustling with good restaurants, nice hotels, and bus loads of tourists. We also walked through a large modern mall with many top end retailers, also packed with shoppers. I believe we have witnessed the last phases of the recovery of this city from the damage done during WWII. Dresden was heavily bombed by the allies at the end of the war, and the East German government didn’t make fixing the place up a priority. After reunification in 1990, they started the long hard work to fix some of the historic buildings that were still in ruins from the bombing, and clean up others that had not been maintained for the 40 years of the cold war.
We had a relaxed time checking out Dresden. We cruised for a couple of hours on the Elbe where there are many new and old villas overlooking the river. The kids really enjoyed their time wandering through the Armory Museum, which is a big collection of suits of armor, swords, daggers, crossbows, lances, shields, cannon, muskets, etc… from the mid 1400’s to the early 1600’s. Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures in the armory – but we bought a book about the collection and the kids are using the book to work on an informative essay assignment from the “Sherry World Academy”. We also walked through the porcelain exhibit. I have to admit this was not the highlight of the tour. I did find it a little interesting that a Dutch company monopolized the porcelain trade between Europe and China/Japan for 75 years, porcelain was the height of conspicuous purchases for the well-heeled during the 1600’s, and that one of the Duke’s of this area traded a couple hundred Dragoons (mounted troops) for a few porcelain vases. We had to check our bags before entering the exhibit – probably to avoid an accidental swing of the backpack that would create a three stooges situation. Proximity alarms are installed around the exhibit, so when I leaned in to take a closer look a loud alarm sounded and a severe looking woman came over and scolded me in very stern German. I didn’t understand the words, but I got the message. The kids did well – but were bored out of their minds in about 3 minutes.
Now that we have been on the road for over a week, we are starting to face the need to transition from vacation to travel mode. The first transition point was the need to successfully find and utilize a laundromat. First thing we realized, even though we are not tied to the work week much now, everyone else is. So, we found the laundromat, but it was closed on Sunday. So back we went on Monday. This place is pretty high-tech compared to what I remember of laundromats in the US. I have to admit that I have not used one in about 10 years – so maybe laundromats are high-tech back home now as well. [editors note from Suzanne: Les has not operated a washing machine since I have known him. So I’m thinking it is closer to 15 years since he has seen the inside of a laundromat.] Anyway, we walked in and thought it was our lucky day, there was only one person in the place (I’ll call him Laundry Dude). Unfortunately every machine was full because Laundry Dude had apparently come in with a couple of months of laundry. Seriously, he had 3 large garbage bags full of laundry and had filled up every available machine. We had about 35 minutes before a machine would open up for us to start. While we waited Alex & I worked on math problems (finding the area of a triangle) and on the outline for her persuasive essay. Laundry dude was very friendly, and helpful. With patient instruction in passable English my new friend instructed me in the ways of the German laundromat (water temperature, soap, water level, cycle times, payment, etc). He also told me I needed to move my car since it was parked in a handicapped zone. He went on to advise me that, when parked elsewhere on the street, it is necessary to place a note on the dash indicating the time of day. Apparently one is only allowed to park in a single spot for an hour. He advised that I should return to my car every hour to put a new note on the dash with the current time – a little trick from the locals.