Date: 21 November 1999 

Subject: Back in Dresden

On Sunday morning we spent quite a while packing carefully. Our packs had gotten rather large, what with birthday, and winter and lots of maps! We had bought a bottle of special Hungarian wine in Budapest to give to Annet's family, but they were rather upset by our other gifts and we felt like it would not be well recieved -- so we were still carrying it. Our friend Manfred in Germany really wanted some Tokji wine so we figured we would take it to him.

Annet drove us in to Dresden and out to a palace called the Hunting Lodge. It was this enormous, fancy palace on a small island in a synthetic lake. It was stunningly gorgeous with the snow all around and the light snow falling, however Annet was quite bummed because the lake had been drained. Annet wanted to give us a tour of the fancy parlours, but they would only allow people in when on a special tour, so she was even more bummed. We walked around behind the palace to the huge gardens, which were really nice in the snow. Unlike many palace gardens, only a small part of the gardens were grassy areas and the vast majority was a wooded area with beautiful small alder or birch-like trees which were covered with snow and ice. It was absolutely stunning. I really wanted to spend a lot of time there, but we needed to move on. Annet took us to a cafe where we got a late lunch and ice cream and we tried very hard to pay for her but she refused to let us pay at all. She paid for us.

Annet was a bit upset about us staying in a hostel -- I think she and her family found it a little insulting. It made a lot of sense -- the hostel was 5 minutes from the train station and we could sleep until 8 and catch our train instead of having to get up a 4:45 -- AND Annet could sleep at her apartment in the city instead of having to get up at 4:45. But it was weird anyway. When we gave her directions to the hostel (we had walked by it earlier in the week) she said, oh, by the cool World Trade Center mall!? And we said that we didn't see a mall, but it might have been. She couldn't believe that we didn't spend time at the mall!

The hostel was very nice, but way way too expensive. It is amazing, many of these Hostelling International hostels we have stayed at are more like hotels: double rooms, private bathrooms etc etc, but they also COST like hotels! Ug. They seem to have forgotten the budget traveller and only cater to school groups, rich kids travelling on daddy's money and, yes, business travellers! It is a little frustrating! We much prefer the small cheap bunk room with a kitchen where we can cook our meals and a common room where we can visit with other travellers.

We got groceries at the Austrian based grocery store next door and sat in the room to do some travel planning. We have spent most of this trip with very vague plans, but there were certain people, places and events that we needed to work around. The Leonids was one of these. Now we had to decide where we would be for the holidays and what we would do after that. All we knew was that we were going to Prague next. We really wanted to spend Xmas in Muslim southern Spain, but it just was too far away with too little time. We were trying to decide whether we should go north or south after Prague. We had people who had invited us to visit in southern France and in Sicily and we REALLY wanted to see Poland and Dalmatia. We spent A LOT of time slogging through it and finally decided that we would go to Siciliy for the holidays and visit Giselle in France in January. So I took our phone card downstairs and made some phone calls that I needed to make and made arrangements. We also decided we would spend one more day in Dresden. But we still didn't know if we would go north or south after Prague!

The following day we DID go to the World Trade Center mall, where we found a very very nice outdoor store gear store. I finally got a wallet (a waterproof box) and we bought some buckles and straps that we needed. We tried to explain to them that their clock labeled SAN FRANSISCO had the wrong time, but they didn't really care. We also found the main location of the city library where we were able to use the Internet for a while. We found out, a bit too late, that there was a 30 minute limit, but since there were many free terminals and no line they only glared at us until we logged off. Nevertheless it was fun and interesting and we got to check our email! We even sent Annet email telling her about the place!

Then we went and hopped on a tram -- we actually got on it going the wrong way, but that was ok, because we had a daypass and because taking a tram out to the end of the line is one of the best ways to see a city. My grandfather went to Europe in 1930 and his travel advice to me was always, "First thing you do when you get to a city is take the tram to the end of the line." It's a cool thing to do.

We wandered up into town and ate at Mr. Clou for a third (or was it fourth time) time, before we went out to the Technical University and spent some time walking around campus. It was cool -- there is a feeling to a college campus that doesn't change where ever you are. That is another thing that I think is a wonderful way to travel. Find the university, find the student union, the mensa, the library. You can probably talk to people, maybe eat cheap and certainly relax and learn a lot about a place! It was snowing lightly as we walked around the area -- we found another hostel, which appeared to be cheaper, but it was closed! Finally we found the library, and once in the library it took us almost an hour of investigation to find the computers, but we did and we spent an hour or more doing email. On the way out I went to the bathroom and I had something terribly embarassing happen to me. As in most of Germany there were three bathrooms, Men, Women and Handicaped. Since the other two were full, I followed the example of the people around me and used the Handicapped. Now I will talk more later about the toilets, but suffice it to say that unlike in the US, every toilet is different and it always takes a second to figure out exactly how to flush the thing. I looked around and I found a cord hanging next to it -- seemed right so I confidently pulled it. Turned out it was the alarm for when someone in a wheelchair needs help. Lights flashed and all. I cleared out fast but was VERY embarassed.

It was snowing pretty hard as we walked to the tram and headed to the train station. We had a wonderful time with a very friendly woman, who spoke no English, at a ticket counter asking about dozens of prices of different ticket prices for trains around Germany! (This was before we knew about the WONDERFULLY useful Deutschebahn website at http://bahn.hafas.de/)

We were, at this point, extremely hungry and getting pretty frustrated and useless until Cheryln had a brilliant idea. At the Umweltzentrum there was a wonderful looking natural foods resturant called Brennessle (Stinging Nettle) . The food was good and so was the atmosphere. We were very happy about it. On the way home we picked up another bottle of organic milk -- we were, after all, leaving Germany tomorrow.


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PRESENT PHYSICAL LOCATION: Leonardo & Carmela Cannizzaro's house

                 Castelvetrano, Sicily, Italy

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