OUT and ABOUT DRESDEN PART 2.
A ride along the Elbe, the new bridge, the Blue Bridge and the
loss of Tbear.
28th JUNE 2014
William Shakespeare wrote the Tragedy of Coriolanus sometime between 1605 and 1608 and a quote in the play that is pertinent to today is: ‘What is a city but the people’.
Much to our advantage today we met a person of the city of Dresden.
The first thing we did today was to go to a photographic shop to buy a couple of old lens containers to place on the handlebars of my bike. In the shop was a young man discussing the various attributes of a vintage camera with the shop owner. Outside, Bev was studying a map to locate the flea market and the vintage camera enthusiast came to our rescue by not only showing us where it was but he offered to walk us there.
To get to the flea markets meant crossing the River Elbe and passing through the main historic part of Dresden. As we walked, Philipp chatted away telling us about various buildings, the history of Dresden and his experiences when studying engineering at the university. In effect we had acquired our own personal guide.
One of the features Philipp told us about was the Procession of the Princes. The wall was originally painted between 1871 and 1876 to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Wettin Dynasty, Saxony’s ruling family. A painted surface was not going to last long so to make it weatherproof a replica was made in 1904/07 using 25 000 Meissen porcelain tiles. The wall with a length of one hundred and two metres is said to be the largest piece of artwork in the world.
Meissen porcelain, sometimes called Dresden pottery, is world famous, mostly for its exquisite figurines, and having manipulated a fair amount of porcelain myself over the past thirty five years I have more than just a passing interest in porcelain. The Meissen company’s development is long and complex, however, in brief, it involved the services of an entrepreneurial chemist who in the early 1700s claimed he could produce gold from valueless materials. The Meissen porcelain factory is 27 kilometres from Dresden and is still operating, having survived WW2 and the fact that when the Soviet occupied Dresden its machinery was taken back to Russia.
The mural shows the ancestral portraits of margraves (military leaders), electors (leaders), dukes and kings of the house of Wettin between 1127 and 1904. The joins in the tiles can only just be deciphered. For those who have made and decorated ceramic tiles they well know how much effort would have been involved with making the gigantic mural.
For me the most striking thing about the mural is its movement, facial expressions, hand positions and the placement of the planners’ shoes and boots, indicate a confident march into the future.
Eventually we made it to the riverside flea market and what a wonderful collection of ‘stuff’ there was for sale. The term ‘flea market’ comes from the French marche aux puces, a name originally given to a market in Paris which sold shabby used goods of the kind that might contain fleas.
On one occasion Bev was reprimanded by a stallholder when she pointed her camera at a stall. One possible explanation for the abuse was that a lot of the items for sale were probably stolen goods.
Our guide Philipp was on the look out for vintage cameras as one of his life’s ambitions is to travel the world with a plate camera recording the unusual. A plate camera does not use roll film but glass plates. They were the type of cameras used in the ‘olden days’, especially for family group photographs.
Philipp gave Bev and I a large photograph he took of a lone lady walking on Dresden railway station and we will proudly display it on our wall at home. To get the shot Philipp visited the station on a regular basis for three months. Unfortunately I have been unable to download the image but to view Philipp’s work go to
For the camera buffs: The lone figure on the railway station photograph was taken with a 1920 Zeiss Icon camera with a Telmar objective. Ilford 200 ISO roll film. Ilford is a familiar brand of film with old film buffs.
Philipp, Bev and I spent most of the day together. Our discussions covered politics, history, photography, global warming, sustainability and the planet’s future. It was refreshing for us to meet a local of like mind and we thank him for spending the day with us.
After the flea market we had a cuppa and again talked and the more we did the more we realised how much we had in common. Philipp is a civil engineer, not involved in bridges and such civil works but with soil and water conservation and sustainability. In October he is going to Morocco to work. It seems various corporations and one particular German bank have come to the conclusion that if the number of refugees flowing into Europe is to be curbed it might be best to improve the conditions in the refugees’ home country and then they might not want to leave. He will be involved with a sustainability project there. We will be watching his activities with interest.
Naturally we have invited Philipp to visit us in Australia as I’m sure he will enjoy the vastness, history and especially the photographic opportunities our country has to offer. Since leaving Australia in March we have invited hundreds of fellow travellers to visit us. We are hoping they do not all turn up at once.
It was mid afternoon by the time we bade Philipp farewell. The remaining part of our afternoon was taken up by riding to and across the Blue Bridge (Blue Wonder).
The Blue Bridge, a little way downstream from Dresden historic centre and it enables those living on the western shore of the Elbe to access the Dresden side. The western shore near the Blue Bridge was and still is considered to be a classy area. On the day we crossed there were crowds of tourists so to release ourselves of the tourist burden we took an historic path along the western shore of the river back to Dresden. I wish we hadn’t because this is where I think Tbear, unawares to me, was shaken out of his place on my bike handlebars.
The Blue Bridge was built in 1893 and it connects the two affluent residential areas of Blasewitz and Loschwitz. To build a bridge like this at the time, without piers in the middle of the river for support, was considered an engineering masterpiece. The ‘blue’ in the name comes from the fact that it was painted blue, although there is an urban legend that it was painted green originally but turned blue after exposure to the sun.
The future of the Blue Bridge is in doubt as it is in serious need of repair. No longer can trucks use the bridge, only cars, cyclists and pedestrians. In the closing days of WW2 two people saved the bridge from being destroyed by the German army by cutting the detonator wires to the explosives.
En route to the Blue Bridge we passed under a bridge that should be called ‘The Bridge of Controversy’. It has caused controversy because the Dresden Elbe Valley lost its World Heritage status in 2009 due to its construction.
The controversy in the case of the Waldschosschen bridge revolved around those who gained from tourism income. They believed that if Dresden lost its World Heritage status then less tourists would visit but according to statistics the loss has not deterred visitors from coming at all. At the moment there are 1007 World Heritage sites listed worldwide of which nineteen are in Australia. Bev and I have been to many of the nineteen and those we haven’t been to might well get a visit from us in the near future. I wonder if there is anybody in the world who as been to the 1007.
Up until now I have never given a lot of thought to UNESCO World Heritage sites but now I am a little more informed. In 1954 the government of Egypt decided to build the Aswan Dam on the River Nile, an event that would have flooded the valley containing many treasures of Egypt including the Abu Simbel temples. UNESCO launched a worldwide campaign to save the treasures and thus the World Heritage listing came into being.
The best thing about the ‘Bridge of Controversy’ design is there is no need for bird porcupines, the fine steel needles placed on horizontal overhead surfaces where pigeons roost. No overhead roosting sites means no faecal matter on the ground or on places where people sit or children play. The two children playing on the bridge abutment in the above photograph would not be doing so if pigeons were able to roost overhead.
Urban pigeons (descendants of the Rock dove) have served man as a symbol, source of food, sacrifice and messenger. The urban pigeon today is either detested or loved. Those who love them do so because of their long service to man and those who detest them say they carry disease and make public places unsightly. Personally, I detest them because of the latter and also because they land on vacated outdoor café tables and help themselves to leftover food, which of course can’t be healthy.
After crossing the Blue Bridge we returned to Dresden along the west bank of the Elbe through what is known as the meadowlands. The meadowlands is a narrow strip of grassland running along the edge of the Elbe and on the day we rode past children and adults frolicked in the mown grass. I thought afterwards that if you lived in the city and had never seen naturally growing grasses it would be a novelty to romp in grass like this.
Returning to our pension I realized Tbear was missing and the only place I could have lost him was on the rough cobblestone path along the river. It was too late to ride the route so we decided to ride the route at first light in the morning in the hope we would find him.
An attempt to find Tbear.
Sunday 29th June 2014.
Not a good day at all. We set off on our bikes around 5-15am to retrace our ride of yesterday in an attempt to find Tbear but about two kilometres from our pension I had a flat tyre and not having our tools with us meant our only alternative was to push my bike back to the pension and effect repairs. By the time we arrived back at the pension Bev also had a flat.
Back at the pension I set to fixing the tubes, both had glass slivers in them. I put a new tube in one and repaired the second. We thought all would be well but the bike pump was kaput and it being Sunday there was little chance of finding a bike shop open to buy a new pump so we had no alternative but to wait until the bike shops opened on Monday morning.
In some areas of Dresden there is a lot of broken glass on the streets and it’s the result of the drunken activities of local youth. When riding this morning (before the flats) there were a number of inebriated individuals sleeping rough on the cobblestone footpaths. Yesterday a group of intoxicated youths tried to sell me spirits. In their attempt to force me to buy a bottle they dropped the bottle and the smashed glass was left where it lay.
After fixing our punctured tubes we spent the remainder of the day in rest, recreation, writing and reflecting on the fact that we may have lost Tbear. Tbear has travelled to many places with us since 2004. Following are some images of Tbear’s activities.
Mulga ants build on flood plains and construct a levee around the entrance to their nest and place mulga leaves around the outer batter to stop wave erosion.
Green ants inflict a nasty bite but are considered to be bush tucker by some Aboriginal folk of the area. The rear portion of their body is sucked and the liquid drawn off is lime-flavoured.
Witchetty grubs are best lightly roasted in hot sand and have a slight almond texture.
Noogurra burr is a particularly nasty burr found in many parts of Australia. It has a hook that is not unlike the hook portion of Velcro. Velcro was invented by a Swiss engineer in 1948 and it was the result of a similar burr getting hooked in his dog’s fur. The name Velcro is that of the first company that made it commercially available.
When I told Philipp that we had lost Tbear he walked around the bike path some days later looking for him but to no avail.
For some years I have been thinking of writing a children’s book entitled Tbear’s Travels and his disappearance has inspired me to start writing his story.
Looking for Tbear Monday 30th June 2014
Yesterday afternoon late I borrowed a pump from the owner of a Vietnamese restaurant so we were able to ride out and search for Tbear at daybreak. In short, we rode the pathway scouring high and low but there was no sign of him. It seems he has decided to stay in Dresden. We are hoping he has been picked up by a local and is now ensconced in a comfortable abode although I bet he won’t have as many adventures as he has in the past.
After the unsuccessful search we returned to our pension packed up and rode to the railway station to catch the train to the village of Calau where we are staying with a friend for a few days before heading east to the Oder-Neisse Rivers.
That’s the end of this post. The next post will deal with our adventures around the Spreewald wetlands area. Hope you enjoyed our encounter with Philipp, the like-minded Dresdenite.