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December 4 was Melisa’s birthday. We celebrated in Dresden, Germany. In the morning, Randy and Melisa went to Moritzburg on the outskirts of Dresden to visit the hunting lodge (palace) of the Prince Electors of Saxony. Filled with one of the world’s largest collections of stag antlers, some dating from the 1500s, the palace is set on an island surrounded by a lake that beautifully reflects the palace in the sun. The palace was in a refurbishment phase, so the deer skin wallpaper, much of it hand painted, was removed from the walls. Moritzburg is a beautiful iconic palace, especially for outdoor enthusiasts.
Having been to Moritzburg on previous trips, Kathy and I spent time in the markets, meeting up with Randy and Melisa in the afternoon at the medieval Christmas market in the Royal Palace courtyard to film Randy’s debut as blacksmith. The owner had invited Randy to work with him on a project that Randy was purchasing. It was marvelous fun. People from around the world were filming the fun. Randy was on center stage and making the most of it–oh those Texans! The project took about two hours, but Randy now has a steak branding iron made with his own hand. He heated the iron in a hot pit, hammered it, put it in forging clamps to make final shapes, turned it with a spiral handle and smoothed it. We have a video.
We took a late afternoon break back at the hotel and got ready for an early dinner and concert in the Kulturpalast-Dresden. Our meal was scrumptous! The concert, a blast! For fans of the vocal harmonies of the Pentatonix, the Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra called the Philharmonix was a wondrous harmony of instrumentation. I easily remember their instrumental adaptation of the Queen’s adaptation of the “Hungarian Rhapsody.” They combined “Waltzing Matilda” with the “Cannonball Express” and swing with Tschaikovsky, to name a few of their musical creations. It was anything but traditional and certainly great music. The acoustically pristine hall was filled with appreciative fans! We marveled at one member’s sound projection with his breath through his hands mimicking different instruments as he played along with the group. Many standing ovations kept the group playing, and no one left early. Melisa had a grand birthday party! We returned to the hotel quite late, but thrilled with the day!
Today was Dresden Christmas Market day. Unfortunately, the historic green vault, one of the world’s premiere art collections, was closed, because somehow someone was able to steal $1.1 billion of one display showcasing what was the most complete collection of royal jewels anywhere. They did not get all the jewels! This is a huge cultural loss. So we changed gears and headed for more time in the markets. The hut displays are absolutely, without a doubt, the best we have seen. Dresden is a cultural capital and its art and architecture reflect not only past glory but present reality. Attention to beauty and detail are the rule and there are few exceptions. The 180 huts in the Altesmarkt Square are fully decorated and together form a magnificent Christmas village. Each hut is crowned with a Christmas display, all lighted and some with animation. Some huts are entire wooden buildings built in old world Christmas beauty. It is all very elegant. By the way, the Altesmarkt Christmas Market is one of eight in Dresden, each with its own unique character. The one near our hotel in the Neustadt has white tents, all matching with their pointy tops, stretching for four long blocks. A huge ferris wheel in Christmas colors invites revelers to walk the market. Interspersed are large fire pits in steel barrels with Christmas cut outs–live fires burn through the night. People gather round and drink gluwein, a hot liquor and wine concoction. We thoroughly enjoyed our day! WEG
Rothenburg ob der Tauber (on the Tauber river) is a charming and romantic city that time forgot. Never destroyed by war, the beautiful buildings inside the fairy tale walls and towers exude German quaintness to the max. That it was beautifully decorated for the Christmas, all the better.
It was obvious the city markets were ready for the crowds. There was live outdoor music of various kinds with regularity. We meandered the outdoor streets and admired the wondrous creativity that captured the architecture of the city. Every street was picture perfect. We stopped to eat in a wonderful restaurant overlooking the St. Jacob Church. It was classy and the food excellent. I had veal in cream sauce and root vegetables.
Our long lunch concluded, we stopped into the St. Jacob Lutheran Church with its two grand towers which houses amongst its precious art, the famous Riemanschneider Altar, which contains a vile of blood, traditionally considered from Christ at the Crucifixion. Because of this, the church has always been one of the most important on the pilgrimage route. Once we entered, we noticed that the church was packed. An Advent service was in progress. We were allowed entrance and marveled at the adult choir, the children’s choir, the orchestra, the pipe organ and recorder choir. We were blessed!
Once outside it was cold and we were glad we had dressed warmly. We went to more Christmas Market and then to the flagship Kathe Wolfarte Christmas store. Housed in classic Rothenburg style, it was overwhelming. Christmas items, artfully displayed on end! Randy and Melisa tried valiantly to buy a hand crafted/carved wooden Christmas tree; unfortunately, in the end, it was unavailable until next year. Oh, did I forget to say, Randy was wearing a Christmas stocking hat that had lights!
As evening fell, so did the temperatures and we headed back to our apartment in Nuremberg. We had one hitch in that a train was delayed. Randy and Kathy had time for a break and went to the station food and facilities area. Randy, unfortunately, forgot to bring me the coke light he was supposed to buy. He acted like he didn’t remember as the Christmas lights on his head blinked. We are having a grand time. WEG