A “zwing” around the Zwinger

Last night Hannah and I took a marvelous after dinner stroll. We were done with rehearsals early in the afternoon so we went home to shower, take a little nap (because it is so hard not to), shower, and eat dinner. Once we had accomplished all of that the evening was still quite young. In order to not sit in our apartment and be bored until it became a decent bedtime hour we decided to go explore Dresden. Destination: the Zwinger. It is a beautiful baroque building that sits directly next to the opera house. It is a shame I hadn’t spent time to look at it sooner. Its absolutely stunning.

In its day, it was primarily a party place for royals. Today it is open to the public, housing a museum in its corridors. Since we went after it closes for the day we could not walk through the museum (what a tragedy) but we spent a long time admiring the courtyard. The lawn was beautifully manicured. It look as though not a singe person has stepped or even touched it in years. There was also a wonderful reflecting pond. Sadly, we could not see our reflections. I really wanted a nice Mufasa moment from the Lion King to happen. It didn’t.

The buildings had mostly the same architecture all the way around. There were many statues of fauns holding up the building. I couldn’t help but find them incredibly amusing. Nor could I keep myself from mocking them. To add to the already picturesque surrounding the moon graced us with it’s presence rising right over the entrance to the Zwinger. How beautiful.

On a final note I must make an addition to one of my previous posts. I failed to give full credit to the lovely Anisa for introducing me to Karstadt (the miracle grocery store). Thank you Anisa!

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Double Market Day

What is there to do on a Sunday in Dresden? Not much. Not much at all. Most of the stores are closed all day long and ‘Dresdeners’ somehow remain hidden until the early hours of the afternoon. Where they are or what they are doing is far beyond me. Maybe they all need to sleep off their horrible hangovers from the barrel of beer each of them consumed the night before. I wouldn’t be surprised. (Beer is cheaper than water here. No joke.)

Thankfully as Hannah and I were the wandering around Neustadt (the part of Dresden north of the Elbe River) searching for a café, we came across an outdoor market. On our way home from the café we wandered in to see what goods it had to offer. It wasn’t a particularly large market, about 25 craft vendors and 5 or 6 food carts. It was rather peculiar though. The vendors were all selling essentially the same things: ceramic mugs, dishes, pots, and bowls. The only difference from stall to stall was the decoration and the style of the items.

I wonder if it was a special ceramic festival or something because that truly was all that was there. There were 2 stalls selling beads, but I bet those were ceramic too. Hey, maybe when Germans have had too much beer they turn ceramic making into a party game then just sell off their excess to pay for more beer. (Not a bad idea actually.)  As we were wandering around the ceramics we passed by a food cart selling bratwurst and I decided it was time. Time to have my first wurst. I negotiated the entire transaction in German too. “Eins bitte. Ja. Ja. Danke.” Success. The wurst came fresh off the grill and was nestled into a bun. After asking me for approval, the “chef” then laid a line of mustard along the wurst. The meat stuck out a good 3 inches from the bun on both sides. A perfect way to ensure that the eater will enjoy the bratwurst in is pure, delicious untouched form. That was one of the best sausages I have ever had. The soft and incredibly flavorful inside pleasantly exploded from the crunchy casing when you bit into it. Then add the plain fluffy bun around the outside for the last few bites. Pure bliss.

 

After I recovered from the wonderment of my first (but not only) bratwurst, we headed home for some hydration and a little rest. About an hour and a half later we headed back out to explore market number 2. This market was in Alstadt (the other side of the river) in the Altmarkt. We have seen them setting up for a few days so we made it a destination for our weekend. This market was quite different. Thank goodness. The biggest change was where people were selling their goods. They upgraded from tables under tents to mini buildings. I can’t think of a better way to describe it really.

They were constructed out of wood. Each had a roof, a counter in front where the vendors displayed what they were selling, a room behind where they could stand, doors to get in and out of the back, and shutters to close them up at night. It was quite an ordeal. The items being sold ranged from ornate wood villages and doilies to leather purses and wallets to candy, spices, and dried fruits. There were a few repeats of course but overall the variety of goods being sold was infinitely better than at market number 1. There were also many more food choices at market number 2. The end of each row of buildings had a mini restaurant. There were picnic tables set up all around the plaza where folks were drinking and dining. The food being sold was classic German fare, bratwurst of all sorts, mushroom dishes, french fries (??), beer, some type of German doughnut, crepes (??), and ice cream. Germans eat a lot of ice cream. There are shops all over the streets and it is impossible to walk around Dresden in the afternoon and not see at least 20 people licking an ice cream cone.

I may have figured it out. The staples of a German diet necessary for survival are ice cream, bratwurst, and beer. (In no particular order of course.)

Peanut Butter!

Each day I have entered a place I have not yet been, many of which are grocery stores.  It is pretty safe to say that most of the money I have spent since in Dresden is going toward food. As it should, right? Today my eyes were opened to the best grocery store yet. (That says something when you consider that I’ve been to four different stores already) Karstadt is the winner. It is on the basement floor of a large department store. My was it a beautiful sight. I finally was excited to go grocery shopping again. To compare, I would say it is most similar to Whole Foods in appearance and variety (and price) but not everything is organic, only some. There is a large supply of organic foods available at most supermarkets but the choices aren’t as large as in the United States. Being picky about buying organic is something I have had to ease up on a bit in order to continue to enjoy a varied diet.

Although this market is slightly more expensive, it’s for good reason. There are so many options to choose from and everything is of impeccable quality. And… THEY SELL PEANUT BUTTER!! Now, I don’t really eat peanut butter on a daily basis but being in a foreign country where the food I am accustomed to are less prevalent (or non-existent) I found myself really aware of it’s absence. I thought it was nowhere to be found. Then alas! My life was complete. Not only did I find peanut butter but also jars of almond butter and sunflower seed butter to name a few. Scavenging through other grocery stores there would be a whole aisle of jam and jelly, Nutella, about 3 other types of Nutella-like products and no peanut butter. Are the Germans unaware of the magic of a pure peanut butter and jelly sandwich? I suppose not. (I tried it with Nutella. It just isn’t the same.)

Otherwise, I am still experimenting with different types of milk, yogurt and cheese. It is impossible to tell what they will be like from the German on the wrapper so each selection is an adventure. Milk I have learned what to look for (most important being 1,5% fett). Cheese is easier to guess by what it looks like even though I can’t read the German names. I bought a block of cheese the other day slightly concerned as to how it would taste but it is actually quite lovely. It is a firm “lamb cheese” that has a delicate flavor that reminds me of Emmental. Quite yummy. Yogurt… I just don’t even know.

I’m just happy I finally found peanut butter. I feel so satisfied even though I haven’t even had any yet.