Finally! I'm back in the land of blog.
Finally! I'm officially and legally able to work for regular paychecks in Deutschland. I spent a few hours waiting at the ausländerbehörde and procured my work permit. It was our umpteenth trip to that place (Brad, though he didn't need anything from the immigration office, went with me, and Thank Goodness! They don't speak any English there). I imagine that the immigration office in any city is a nightmare, but it was my first experience with the dreary waiting rooms and severe German officials, and to say I'm glad it's over is something of an understatement.
Finally! We figured out what we're going to do for our holiday. I believe I told you previously that we were planning a trip to Sweden and Denmark, but after a lot of deliberating, we decided it would be too dark, and too expensive. We then decided to go to Munich, but somehow, we simply couldn't get excited about that. I think both of us are eager to go to a different country. So, after much hemming and hawing, we decided to go to Poland; it's inexpensive, it's close, and I've always wanted to go there. I'm quite excited! We'll visit Poznan, Warsaw, Krakow and Wroclaw, pronounced, apparently, Vrots-waff. I'll be really leaning on my phrasebook there, but hopefully our combined knowledge of German and Russian will help us navigate. Anyone want anything from Poland?
Finally! I have pictures to share, and they are quite lovely, if I do say so myself. We went this weekend to Dresden, and though I'd heard it was a beautiful city, it was even more beautiful than I'd imagined. The Deutsche Bahn offers a special fare to Dresden around the holidays, as Dresden has what is supposedly the most wonderful Weihnachts Markt in Germany (Christmas Market, that is). I thought to myself before we left that I would take advantage of the fare to get a cheap trip to Dresden and not spend too much time at the market, but once we got there, the outdoor stands offering wooden toys, delicious snacks, candles and sweets were nearly hypnotizing. Behold:
There were many of those wooden carousels spread throughout the city, as the market filled every square and wide-open space (and even some cramped spaces!). This one was the most magnificent, probably twenty-five feet tall, if you can't tell by the picture. The city was full of holiday cheer, and though it was about 25 degrees outside, the Glühwein kept everyone warm. Glühwein, for those who don't know, is a warm, spicy wine, sometimes with a shot of rum in it. It's delicious, but I generally forego alcohol, so I made do with hot cocoa. The streets were overflowing, sometimes nearly impossible to walk through, but it was so lovely that I didn't mind toddling along, surrounded by people much taller than me. The background of amazing architecture didn't hurt, either.
Looking down that slim lane of Christmas, you can see the Frauenkirche at the end. It was bombed during the war and collapsed, so it's been arduous to rebuild, but they've done a wonderful job. Nearly the whole city was destroyed during WWII, but these days it's hard to tell, what with the forests of Soviet buildings and the gothic, looming stone buildings that survived. When we got away from the old town's Weihnachts Markt and across the bridge to the newer section of town, the landscape of the city was almost unbelievable.
As we crossed the bridge back to these buildings, there were hundreds of birds circling the belltower. It was dusk, and people were stopped all along the bridge, standing in the freezing wind and staring at the lights. I felt so lucky. Brad took a picture of me earlier in the day, looking very much like I felt lucky. I tried to smile at the camera, and for a couple of moments, I think I did, but my eyes kept veering off in other directions, unable to separate themselves from the amazing landscape. I was awestruck the whole day.
I highly recommend Dresden to visitors. There is some talk of Dresden being a city of a high concentration of, ahem, white supremacists, but that aspect of it was shrouded when I was there, covered up by warm crepes, warm drinks, various smells of roasted pork and the constant presence of Christmas music, both in English and in German. The night before, we had spent a few hours battling the crowds in Berlin's Christmas markets, but nothing could've prepared me for the pure, unadulterated celebration we found in Dresden. All in all, it was a wonderful weekend.
I'll leave you with a final image, one which I think shows both the baroque beauty of Dresden and the very contemporary machinations of a modern-day festival. Happy holidays indeed.