Day 75+5: Summary of Segment II: Dresden

August signaled a month of doing and learning German at the Goethe Institut in Dresden. I picked Dresden because this was my fourth year there attending one of the best music festivals in Europe. Being in the former East Germany, Dresden has some of the best musicians and the tickets are very reasonably priced. You even get a discount for a series of three events.

So there was no question where I wanted to spend time in Germany. Dresden’s beautifully restored buildings to its Baroque magnificence and the wealth of art treasures are not to be underestimated. Its gentle climate and beautiful geography made the decision easy. With a few beginner’s classes behind me in San Francisco, I felt ready to tackle a four-week intensive class, with 5 hours a day of immersion style, no English-spoken cold turkey training.

Within three minutes of the start of the class, we were asked to introduce ourselves and identify 1. Who we were, 2. What we did, an 3. How old we were. I rattled my brain trying to decide how I was going to finesse the last answer. If I could answer in French, I could say “plus que soixante ans”, but as pressure was building up, I couldn’t remember the simple equivalent for “more than” in German. As answers were winding around the circle towards me and ready replies spewed out “23”, “18” “oh, I’m one of the older ones, 32”, all eyes eventually focused squarely on me.

“I’m Victoria. I’m an architect. And I am 66”, in my spastic German. Everyone gasped.
After a pregnant silence, normal breathing resumed. Eventually, everyone got used to me, just being myself. We bonded and played tricks behind the teacher’s back, cheated on tests, and enjoyed the language games the teacher tossed us to keep the ennui to a minimum.

At the end, I passed the exam with “good” marks, only 1 point off “very good”. No grade inflation in Germany, and no “excellent” exists in the grading vocabulary. I was happy.

But I do sorely miss the comraderie from the class. You inevitably bond with each other, no matter what the generation, nationality, or the cultural difference. It was a fantastic reminder of humanity and how we are all in this place together, getting through life and its challenges, tragedies, and ecstasies. I guess I’m gonna like it here.

My favorite photos from August:

1. Guest house room, my home for a month in Heeresbackerei, the old bakery for the Russian army and military quarters
2. My favorite hotel in Dresden, the Aparthotel Neumarkt just around the corner from the Frauenkirche
3.  View of the “Florence on the Elbe” near Konigstein
4. The Goethe Institute, a great place to learn and do German for all
5. A delicious home made care package from German friends Hanni and Jens, who took good care of me. everything was home grown, and even the jam was home made!
6. Winking eyes on the rooftop in Loschwitz got me intrigued with rooflines in Germany, and how they deal with lighting deep attic spaces. My friend Pam asked if they winked at night when the shades were pulled. (See the post for “third Eye Blind”).
7. The train tracks behind my complex. I became very fond of the whooshing of the trains every evening and found the known sounds both frightening and calming at the same time.
8. The interior of the Frauenkirche, where Music Festival performances are held. This building was fully restored to its original splendor with the help of the City of Coventry, England, after it was bombed by the Germans in WWII.
9. My Swiss friend Helena, who came to Dresden while I was there.
10. Moritzburg, hunting lodge for the king with beautiful paths for walking
11. My signature German class, with friends from Mexico, Bulgaria, Algeria, Indonesia, Hungary, Japan, Thailand, India, Korea, and Portugal. I was the only American.


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