06 October, 2009

Dresden and Stuttgart Volksfest




On Friday and Saturday this past week I went to Dresden with Erin Dillon. We left right after class on Thursday and made it to Dresden after ~7 hours on various trains. I'm not sure if I mentioned this in an earlier post, but I got into reading the Dune chronicles by Frank Herbert. I just about finished the second book on the train ride to Dresden. The hostel we stayed at wasn't too far away from the train station in the "Old City" neighborhood. Old City was completely destroyed by bombing in 1945 but many of the old buildings have been rebuilt to their original condition.

On Friday morning we wandered around the city awed by all of the amazing architecture. One of the most prominent features is the Frauenkirche which was just rebuilt in 2005. It has a 600ft tall stone rotunda. One of the goals of the reconstruction project was to use as many of the original stones as possible - about 30% of the structure remained after the bombing. So, most of the facade is made of new stonework, but there's old blackened stones scattered throughout. At first I thought it was kind of ugly, but then I realized that the old stones stand as a reminder of the destruction humanity is capable of bringing upon itself. The inside of the rotunda is decorated in the Baroque style with lots of pastel colors. We weren't supposed to take pictures inside. We went up to the observation deck. I basically go up to observation decks whenever I can, if you haven't noticed already.

We wanted to go to the Opera, but unfortunately it was the premier night of La Traviatta and it was all sold out. And there was nothing else going on musically that evening probably because nobody can compete with a premier at the Semper Opera. We spent most of the day looking around the exhibits in the Zwinger Museum. There was an old masters painting gallery, a ceramics gallery, an armory gallery and a sculpture gallery. And the building itself of course. I took lots of pictures.

On Saturday we went to the VW Gläserne Manufaktur. It's a factory VW built specifically for the final production of their luxury class Pheaton. Most of the walls in the building are glass so you can see the entire production line. The whole thing is basically a customer service gimic. They have a really fancy lounge where you can go to talk with a sales representative and pick out the colors and stuff you want your car to be. Then 3 months after you order the car you can go back to the factory and watch them put it together. The production floor is the cleanest I have ever seen. Granted I haven't seen a ton of factories, but I've seen enough to know a clean one when I see it. The floors were all hard wood and there were only three robots in the entire line. Normally each cycle in assembly line like this is 30seconds to one minute. That means that if the workers task is to mount the main wiring harness, he/she has 30 seconds to do it before the car moves on to the next station. In this plant the cycles are 16 minutes long! I'm not sure if they just do more things per station or they just really take their time, but at that rate they can only put out 33 cars per day. And they only run one shift. Sounds like a recipe for failure to me. But then again VW is supposed to be "The People's Car" and it is more personal to have everything done by hand rather than with a whole bunch of robots. I don't really know why they spent so much money on a factory that only produces 33 cars per day, but it sure looked cool.

After the tour of the VW factory we went to the Frauenkirche for the Midday prayer service. The organ sounded beautiful and I understood most of the message. After the service some guy gave a short history of the church and explained the symbolism in all of the artwork in the sanctuary. I thought it was really neat. Then we hopped on a train and arrived in Reutlingen about 8 hours later.

On Sunday I went to the Baptist church again. We didn't sing any songs I recognized, but I was able to understand most of it anyways. After the service there was a congregational lunch I'm not sure exactly why, but someone made these really tasty stuffed bell peppers in tomato sauce. And I got to practice speaking German again. I think a lot of the people at my table could speak English, but for the benefit of everyone else who couldn't, we all just spoke German. It was a little tedious at times, of course, but I'm getting a lot more comfortable with just speaking and making lots of mistakes. People are usually very patient and will even correct my mistakes.

Last night I went to the Stuttgart Cannstatter-Wasen. This is the annual Fall Festival in Stuttgart very similar to Oktoberfest in Munich. A bar in Reutlingen sponsored some table reservations in one of the beer tents and extremely reduced beer and food prices for all Reutlingen students. I think something like 800 students went. It was pretty much crazy. The beer was delicious and came in 1 liter mugs. Thanks to this sponsorship we got two mugs of beer and a half a chicken for only 5.50 Euro. I had a really good time (as you can imagine).

I just made Kaesespaetzle on my own tonight except I only had one onion instead of two. But it turned out okay anyways. Mel Dark came over and helped Ryan and me eat it. On Friday my Fall Break starts, so I won't have classes for two weeks. I'm heading to Dublin first for a couple of days, then Stockholm and then I'll probably just kick back in Reutlingen for a little while before classes start again.

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