Dresden’s Delightful Neighbors
Field trips are amazing, especially when you are studying abroad. I talked about the local excursions to locations in Dresden last week, so now it’s time to share my bigger trips.
Leipzig is best known for being the home of Bach, who often worked and is buried in the cathedral on the left. However, our class traveled there to visit the Zeitgeschichtliches Forum, which is a museum that focuses on the history of East Germany and its relation to West Germany.
We learned about how East Germans would often catch the television and radio broadcasts from West Germany. Our tour guide told us the story of his uncle, who built a snowman in the shape of a cartoon character from across the border. His teacher called him out on it, and he responded by asking her how she could have known where the character came from. Needless to say, she could not do anything.
Talking with my BU coordinator later, I learned how there was a lot less color back then. Since reunification, East Germany has gotten brighter and more hopeful. The economy has improved, and while the east is still weaker than the west, the differences are harder to find.
Meißen (pronounced Meissen, with a long i) is a small town 20 km from Dresden down the Elbe. Like Delft, it was a cradle of European porcelain. Today, Meißen Porcelain is shipped around the world. The artistry of the porcelain is amazing. We took a factory tour and then went to the museum. I was in awe of how skillfully each artisan worked on each piece. Every detail was attended to, from the smallest rose petal to the touch of the proper chemical to create just the right color.
The Meißen Porcelain factory has since moved, but it used to be located in the Castle Albrechtsburg, which is the oldest castle in Germany. We also spent the morning touring through the castle. It is enormous, and a great place to get lost.
Freiberg, the sister city of Delft, is a small city near Dresden which is known for mining. After hearing about the great experience that the Boston University Liberal Arts Program students had, we decided to organize our own trip to the mines.
After class one day, we all went to the main train station to Dresden to go to Freiberg. We took a local Saxon train, which is now free to me as a student. Riding through the hills and along a river in the winter was gorgeous.
When we got to the mines, I felt like I was in a scene from October Sky. It was eerie taking a small lift down into the mine, which had been in service for hundreds of years. Walking through the corridors which are now brightly lit, I imagined the days when miners dug out these caves to find the silver that drove their economy in the middle ages.
Today, Freiberg is home to a technical university that focuses on mining. It’s great to see how the technology has come so far, yet how the region still sticks to its ancient roots.
In my next installment, I shall take you farther away from Dresden to the nearby capitals of Prague and Berlin.