Category Archives: SEGMENT II

Day 40: Farewell to Dresden



imageAs I wind down this segment of my travels, I feel very sad to leave Dresden. Particularly having bonded with my German class, it is hard to say goodbye. Everyone has their lives to live beyond this momentary blip in the universe. I’m so grateful for having had the support and encouragement from family and friends to do this, at this time of my life, because it IS the time of my life.

I felt wistful about leaving out some shots that didn’t ever seem to fit into the theme for the day. This is a potpourri of architectural photos, a one-off sign, and some cultural relics. I’ll be leaving Dresden, overnighting in Frankfurt, then starting Segment 3 of the Silk Road this weekend.

Photos above, from top:

1. The Blood Center

2. Clinical buildings in the medical center area of Dresden.

3. Another clinical building.

4. Sign indicating from the Pirate Party that there is room for another million residents in Sachsen, the state where Dresden resides. It also implies that mixing and matching population is good for Saxony. (tap up the scale to read text).

Party elections are coming up and Angela Merkel is scheduled to come to Dresden on Saturday. Unfortunately, I will be off before then, but I would have definitively gone to see her.

Photos below, from top:

1. The Molkerei, a dairy and classic cheese shop that has been around for generations. The ornate decoration makes this a popular tourist stop.

2. The interior of the Frauenkirche, where Helena and I attended a concert. Maria Baumer played the part of Bach’s wife in several readings between Bach pieces. The concert was sponsored by the Moritzburg Festival.

3. Another panorama shot of Dresden and surrounding area from the Konigstein fortress. Zoom up to appreciate the beauty of this area.


Day 39: Sustainability and Transportation


 Sustainability in Germany

Photos above, from top:

1. Older buildings utilized exterior louvers to provide sun shading for buildings to reduce heat gain. (Refer to lower bottom right of photo).

2. Customers return bottles at supermarkets and receive instant cash receipts. These can be used at the counter when paying for groceries.

3. Photo from an earlier post (at Hellerau) showing how drying clothes outdoors has never really gone out of style in Germany, even in up-scale neighborhoods.

The only thing I didn’t see to any degree were solar panels, at least not as visible as in the Bay Area. Given the direction Germany has taken historically to provide steep roof lines for snow load control, it may be facing an uphill battle. The widespread use of penetrations for gabled roofs and attic windows don’t help matters. And there seems to be a lot of cloudy days here. 

Considering how Germany attempts to lead the world in sustainability and zero carbon footprint, this might hamper their reputation in solar energy development. Perhaps China has already pulled the carpet out from under Germany’s lead on industrial production of solar energy by now.

There has been a lot written about Germany’s endeavors to be sustainable, but it seems to come more from the traditional conservation methods than by innovative technology. Perhaps it’s not yet that evident, and it occurs in newer buildings. But for now, at least in Dresden, it hasn’t quite taken taken hold. Its historical use of reducing waste is a far better bet for the future than what the US is able to do for the time being.


The Dresden transportation system is one of the delights in coming here. I have managed to get around the city and all the sights I have posted, with few exceptions. It’s safe, clean, and efficient. There’s respect and even affection for public transportation. Why can’t we get it together? 

Buses, cars and bikes are all in symbiotic relationship with each other here. You don’t do stupid things, wait for the lights to change, and minimize the impact on the environment. With taxes being out to good use, the Germans reap the benefits of their efforts.

Photos below, from top:

1. A bus shelter, that posts the full schedule for weekdays and weekends. It’s reliable, practical and clearly identified. Bikers often use the system and bike in between.

2. Interior of the tram system is kept clean and tidy to make it a pleasure to use and appreciate.

3. Window graphics indicate that areas near doorways are for wheelchairs and strollers.

4. The train system has been developed throughout Europe and thrives. Stations like this one up the street from where I live make it easy to get to virtually any point in Europe, or to regional spots. Safe, clean, and efficient.




Day 37: Military History Museum

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The Military History Museum is one of the most interesting museums in the world, not only for its collection and the building design, but for the message it brings. It tries to tackle the prickly issue of war and its consequences and uses displays to teach how everyone loses in wars.

Daniel Liebeskind designed and finished this building in 2011. The exterior of the neo-classical building is truncated by a metal shard that points to the spot where Dresden was targeted. While both sides of the building are devoted to traditional armaments, the new building tries to confronts visitors with the human impacts of war.

Photos above, from top to bottom:

1. Exterior of the building, located in a former military area.
2. Overview of Building interior on the top floor.
3. Exterior terrace inside the metal point. From here you can see a view of Dresden Old City. The open metal walkway can be a harrowing experience but is appropriate with the entire building and what it conveys.
4. Beautiful stairs and custom designed lighting built into the handrails.
5. Custom designed horizontal panel for the elevator controls.

Photos below, from top to bottom:

1. Wall to the left shows a regiment of 10,000 troops in formation heading to war at a miniature scale.
2. A scale model warship, with a view of the formation in the background
3. A full scale display of animals
4. Typical text explaining the consequences of war. (Tap to scale up)
5. Another text display.(Tap to scale up)


For more information, see

Day 38: My German Class


After three and a half weeks together in an intensive advanced beginner course, its not surprising that we feel bonded and sad to leave each other. Human nature, no matter what age, links you inevitably to each other. Age was certainly less an issue than culture, openness and confidence. We supported each other’s endeavors and shared each others’ stumblings.

Its much easier to introduce the students from the class at the end than at the beginning, as you can see from the comraderie in the picture:

Front row: Marco,(Mexico); Valadimir (Bulgaria).
Middle row: Luis (Mexico); Paolo (Portugal).
Top row, standing: Saikat (India); Keyson (Thailand); Masami(Japan); Meilina
(Indonesia); me; Yongin (Korea); Hamid (Algeria).

It was a great program, great class, and I passed my exam! Now I can proceed to the next level (intermediate). I guess I wanted to prove that I could still think and learn like a student, but in the end, even though I did, it didn’t really matter. I highly recommend this to others of any age to connect with people in whatever way you can who are NOT the same age you are. I really learned a lot from this group of energetic world beaters. We are going to be in good hands with people like the ones in my class. That’s my message and purpose for this segment of the trip, I guess, and I’ll be ready to move on to my next quest: the Silk Road.

Day 36: Mme Mallory & der Duft von Curry


On Sunday afternoon I almost felt like a local going to the neighborhood movie theater (a famous one apparently, the Schauburg, in my neighborhood off Bischofsweg) to see a film that caught my eye: Mme Mallory & Der Duft von Curry. I’m sure you can figure out the gist of the movie as well as I can so I won’t elaborate. I thought it would make a good afternoon for improving my German, so I invited my friends Hanne and Jens to go along with me.

The story line starts with a family moving from India after their restaurant was burned down from civil strife. They manage to move from an initial try in London to France. As they are all packed into a car headed into the countryside, it breaks down in a small town. They decide to put their stakes down in a run down house that happens to be directly across from a Michelin-star quality restaurant.

The son of the restauranteur always had a talent for cooking, and he wanted to pursue his passion. It was natural when the father needed a means of livelihood that the son would lead his family in creating a quality Indian restaurant for the area.

Through a series of twists and turns, the family encounters battles with the puffy Mme. Mallory, who owns the restaurant across from them. This light comedy has great music that manages to pull at the emotions. It also succeeds at getting a few subtle messages across. One is how difficult it is for immigrants to arrive and survive in a new country. Combined with the stuffiness of French society, it can be overwhelming if not tragic.

Without conveying the outcome, this is a movie that is well worth seeing. It can certainly be included in the few and far between movies about food. It shows the ups and downs in the food business and the passion it takes to stay in it.

Overall, the dialog in German was easy enough to follow, thanks to gorgeous visual and audio support. It is unlikely to be a native German film, especially with credits to Spielberg and Winfrey. I guess globalization makes Hollywood inescapable, even for a Sunday afternoon walk in the cinema.

Access to the trailer here:

You may have trouble recognizing this famous actress on the poster, but you will want to see this when you realize who she is.

Foot forward: I am two days past the halfway mark for my trip and will be starting Segment III at the end of this week. I will be traveling to Tashkent, Samarkand and Bokhara. If you are interested in this segment, be sure to look out for my posts next week. Access to the internet is unpredictable, so there may be some delays.

Day 35: Moritzburg Palace

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The Moritzburg Palace was King Augustus’ playground for hunting. Only a mere 20 minutes’ drive from town, he could feel that it was a great getaway place but still reduce the carbon footprint. The most impressive part of the palace were the mooseheads, of every shape and variety you could imagine. They really looked like branches from some sacred trees, each individually chiseled and honed.

The other distinguishing mark to this palace unlike others throughout Europe were the leather tapestries. They had a lot of animals in the Wald so they made use of the skins by sewing them together and adding embossing for depth and texture, as well as paint from gold and other colors. The formal gardens were clean if not a bit sterile, but the strolls throughout the forest and surrounding area were extensive and well worth a day’s visit.

Moritzburg was in the midst of celebrating its Music Festival. They highlight young musicians hosted by the Dresden Musikfestspiele’s own director, Jan Vogel. The performers were the ones I heard in Proschwitz Palace. This Palace and the church are used as venues for performances, and would be well worth planning as part of a weekend stay.

Photos, from top:
1. Overview of Backyard.
2. Horsemen taking stroll along the extensive paths throughout Moritzburg.
3. An intriguing enclosed garden surrounded by a wall of manicured trees
4. A typical horse cart taking a shortcut through the palace grounds
5. Evening view of Moritzburg.

Day 34(b): Fourth Eye Blind




Ever since I discovered the blinking rooftops of Dresden, I got fixated on roof planes and how the German designers reconciled them. They do seem to take an inordinate amount of effort, load and space. My only conclusion is that the the tradition to go high and mighty has resulted in some of these new design dilemmas. The Protestant church steeples in every community make you feel as if you are in a throwback to Middle America. The Germans had problems shaking the dramatic effect of Gothic cathedrals. I am having fun going on scavenger hunts for these curious design solutions for pitched roofs. With only a few days before I leave I may have to wait for the next trip to Germany. I am including a few more roofscapes that intrigued me in Hellerau. This is for Pam, who came up with the idea of the blinking eyes.

Photos, top to bottom:

1. Four eyes. Don’t know if there are more than that, I am still looking.

2. One Eye. Proportion to roof plane seems crazy, but they really wanted that window there. But let’s not overdo it, they thought.

3. One Eye. Better version of previous post, just counting.

(In case you missed the previous one, check the Day 24: Third Eye Blind”. It was my first discovery of the blinking eyes.)

Day 34 (a): Hellerau Garden City

image imageHellerau has always been a romantic notion to me, but I finally was able to see it with a small group of students sponsored by the GI. It was based on an English town planning concept developed around 1910 in this idyllic “Dorf” a mere 15 minute ride along my tram line 8 north of Dresden.

It felt a little bit like Marin or wooded Montclair, but of course, in the German tradition, extremely tidy. Everyone was entitled to a well designed unit, with plenty of open space, gardens for every unit, and community space. The buildings were well built and conceived, as evidenced by its condition today. There is the line connection to the city, but it looked like most people had cars to get back and forth.

The Werkstatt was intended to provide a community for Live-Work, obviously not a new concept. A furniture shop served as one of the mainstays for income. Today, it has been repurposed for artists and designers. Local temporary dance companies work in the community center and musical performances connected with the Dresden Music Festival are held here annually.

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Photos, from top, down:

1. The new spin on what Germans coined for Kindergartens. They are, needless to say, well planned stages of life, with a lot of attention and loving care. These are still excellent models to emulate across the world.
2. Sustainability in action. This hasn’t changed from when the development was first built. Time for us to rethink our priorities.
3. The first row housing development on a small scale, taken from the British, with more color
4. The Art Nouveau influence at that time is evident from the graphic lettering used on the Workshop for Furniture.
5. Individuality was allowed on buildings. While most were stucco plaster, this one utilized a log cabin concept with tapered logs, but stacked in smaller lengths in metal channels. This could have been a very efficient way to construct the exterior, and it still looks durable and easy to maintain.

For more information on Hellerau, check out

Day 33: Radeberger Beer Factory

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The gold letters of the Radeberger Beer Factory gleamed against the Dresden frequently gray summer clouds and reminded us where we were. The GI has done a good job taking us to some pretty diverse spots in Dresden and schedules morning and afternoon tours. Unfortunately the interest has dwindled and we had only 12 students attending this tour. It surprised me, since there are so many young people in the program. Could there be a loss of interest in beer, even though our tour guide asserted that beer is healthy for you and won’t cause bier bauchs? (Contrary to common belief). I think she forgot to explain that you won’t get a beer belly if you don’t drink beer–it got lost in translation.

Anyway, the facility was, needless to say, spic and span. The scale and size of it was mind-boggling, not to mention the claim that a million liters are bottled here every day. About 80% is bottled and the rest is stored in kegs. The main ingredients of yeast, hops, malt and water from underground wells were shown to us, and then we were offered brot with a generous tasting of three glasses each of their Pilsner. We even got to keep the glasses at the end!

Photos, top to bottom:

1. Entrance to the Beer Factory.
2. The facility functions more like a high tech lab, with lots of technicians checking that everything is running smoothly.

3. There is almost an aesthetic to the amount of piping and mixing that goes on in the brewery.

4. Detail of the stainless steel piping–a beauty to behold

5. The production area that bottles the beer.

Day 32: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Ok, so my pieces have been pretty light and general, just to keep things flowing from both ends (my brains to those who are receptors of this material). But today I feel compelled to write about an encounter of the Third Kind.

Picture this: I’m standing at a tram station with one of my fellow students and starting up a conversation.

“Do you know how to get back to the Goethe Institute from the VW Factory?” I innocently ask.

“Oh yes, it’s the same way we came”.

Not being very good with directions, I squint my eyes at the sun breaking through the clouds and determine that we are facing west. Well, it seemed like we were going in the opposite direction. I scan the stop and see a few locals huddling nearby.

“Excuse me, but do you know how to get to Albertsplatz?” A few garbled answers, but generally confirming that we were headed in the right direction.

“Why didn’t you trust me?!?” retorted the student back to me, as soon as I returned.

“Oh, I’m sure you knew how to get back, I just wasn’t sure. Besides, I like trying to engage with Germans to practice speaking and listening.”


In an earlier conversation, this young man had told me that he was a week late getting to the course. At his parents’ insistence, he tried transferring to the GI in Munich. The thought was that it would spare this young individual’s fertile mind from any possibility of Communist East German influence. Who know, maybe there are vestiges of the Russian military still lurking around these parts. Our guesthouse was only just converted and maybe I could inhale the fumes from the bed sheets that naughty Russians slept on and catch the fever.

Anyway, he came back to Dresden after he realized what a deal he was getting in the city that had the cheapest courses in Germany. And so what, the Reds in E. Germany may not be so bad after all even if they are swarming in his own country. And yeah, the risk he took to transfer to Munich cost him a week, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. Those Munchkiners take learning German too seriously and made hppim feel stupid. So back to the sidelines.

Meanwhile, he did the usual number on me.

“Where are you from?”

“Oh, do you speak Chinese?”

“Oh, ABC!!!” (“I knew it! I knew it! I could hear him cackling in the back of his mind. His glee was hard to hide”.)

He turns to our fellow GI companion on the tour. He compliments her when he learns that she is a Double E from IIT. “Oh, you are smart”, says he, definitively.