Today’s blog post comes to us from University of Wisconsin-Whitewater student & API alumni Helen Johnson. She studied abroad with us this summer in Berlin, Germany. Want to study abroad in Berlin for spring 2020? Applications for our program are due October 1st!
Friday was just like any other day.
It started with Unterricht, and then I had a break for lunch. There was an optional excursion in the afternoon, but since I had to catch a train to Dresden, I couldn’t attend. At 2:30, I met up with Adam, Claudio, and Jesse at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof. I bought some snacks from the Rewe (grocery store) inside the gas station before getting on the train. I got myself a bag of paprika chips, which are potato chips that have a heavenly, vaguely BBQ-y, delicious flavor, and a German classic, Haribo Smurfs. The train we were on was quite nice. The car was air conditioned, and there was even wifi! I was thrilled. Despite having two hours with unlimited access to the internet, I read my book for the majority of the trip.
Upon arriving in Dresden, we walked about 10 minutes to our hotel, where we checked in and went to our rooms.
We had about 45 minutes until we had to meet for dinner, so I spent the time unpacking the small bag I had shoved all my things into. Around 6:30, we all met up and headed to the restaurant.
The hotel we were staying at was in Neustadt, a.k.a. the newer parts of Dresden, and the restaurant was located in Altstadt, a.k.a. the older parts of Dresden. To get there, we had to walk through the shopping area, through a tunnel, past many beautiful, old buildings (I learned more about them the following day), and across the river. The restaurant was a Vietnamese place, with delicious pho (that’s what I ordered). The place was decorated with DDR-themed posters and what not. The worst of part dinner was that we accidentally ordered water mit Gas (with bubbles) instead of ohne Gas (without bubbles).
After dinner we were free to do what we wanted.
A fun fact I had learned from a tour… the Elbe is only ever walled in on one side, meaning there is always, through all of Dresden, a grassy side of the river. So that’s where we went Friday evening.
We sat on the grass and listened to the music playing in the Biergarten nearby. The temperature had dropped to a level where one could be outside for more than 5 minutes without sweating, so it was quite a pleasant evening. After a while, we walked back to the hotel and turned in for the night.
On Saturday, we took a train to Meissen, which is about 30 minutes away.
This town is so quaint and still looks very much like a stereotypical old German town. The most famous thing in Meissen is the Porcelain Factory. Meissen was the first place in Germany (and likely western Europe) that produced procelain, which at the time was referred to as “white gold” because of the rarity of it. Unfortunately, we didn’t tour the Porcelain Factory, but we did get to tour Albrechtsburg, which is the castle in Meissen. The inside of the castle has been turned into a museum, which we got to walk through. We had little handheld speaker things that we would punch a number into and the corresponding information would be played for us in our language of choice (for me, naturally German).
After the tour in Meissen, we hopped on a train back to Dresden. Once back in Dresden, we had some free time for lunch before our walking tour at 2:30. Adam and I went to an Italian restaurant, which we originally thought was a local place, but it turns out it’s a chain. Either way, it was still the biggest pizza I’ve ever eaten and was quite delicious.
After lunch came the city tour, which was focused on the Aldtstadt.
I learned about the architecture, the influences from Italy and Asia, the Duke who built the buildings, and how he managed to secretly build a Catholic church in the middle of Protestant Dresden. The main thing I remember from the tour is that many of the buildings may look old, but due to the destruction from WWII, many of the buildings have just been rebuilt to look old, but are, in reality, less than 20 years old.