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A Birthday

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

Elegance Refined

Dresden, Germany, is classy and elegant. A center for the arts, the unity of the Baroque buildings and the thoughtful care executed in the many fine details of the Christmas atmosphere shows that the city has refined its well-honed culture. The city is impressive and we were impressed! Harmony, harmony, harmony in the beauty.

Dresden train station
At Christmas

It started as soon as we stepped off the train from Nuremberg. The main station was aglow with garland and lights over the giant archways of the main entry. The enormous Christmas tree was a focal point. As the cab wound its way to our hotel on the Elbe River, I noticed that the massive train bridges had modern paintings where most other train ways have had graffiti in other cities we have visited. Classic buildings were evident.

Kathy and I received a room upgrade to a wondrous suite for our five day stay. Yeah! Unfortunately, because Randy has never admitted he forgot my coke light, Melisa has to suffer along with him in a standard, but quite nice, room. (This is somewhat an inside joke that has carried on now for days.) As we walked to the old town (Altstadt) we saw beautiful Christmas displays. Randy and Melisa were astounded by the historic city that few have visited. The massive baroque towers and steeples, buildings with winged angels and statuary, the castles and palaces and then–the German Belle, the mighty Frauenkirche! As if the exterior was not impressive enough, when we walked inside, both Randy and Melisa were flabbergasted by the light and airy beauty of the baroque design. (Melisa opined, “I could stay here a day just to soak in the beauty.”) Blue and pink with white and gold angels and saints all looking upon Jesus while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane as God the Father looks down from heaven. The altar (180 feet tall) is topped with the pipes of an acclaimed pipe organ creation by Silberman. J.S. Bach played on the organ. A Lutheran church, the Frauenkirche is crowned with a massive dome painted with saints in baroque style. The church is somewhat circular with tiers of balconies reaching skyward. We were blessed with a short Advent service, the pastor in black robe with a broad white bifken.

The altar in the
beautiful Frauenkirche

We ate at one of Kathy and my favorites. Filled with antique furniture and tiffany lamps, each table is different than the next. We ate a filling German meal. Then, to some of the many markets in the city. We were amazed with the medieval market in the palace courtyard. The buildings were aglow with specialized projections of snow and torches. The market stalls were all medieval in character staffed with people in medieval costume. Live medieval Christmas music filled the air. Randy was impressed with the blacksmith shop and the owner invited him back midweek to work along side him, heating and shaping metal into objects. Of course, Randy is ready to go! The blacksmith told him to ditch the puffy coat and wear only natural fibers. We will make sure Randy ditches the lighted Christmas hat he has been sporting around as well.

Kathy and I have loved Dresden for a long time and have stayed here for prolonged periods. It is such a pleasure to see our friends fall in love with it also. WEG