Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dresden

I traveled down to Dresden by train and arrived at a modern hotel just opposite the station. It was so new there was construction inside of the adjacent areas, and at first I thought that was the hotel and it wasn't open!! False alarm. The hotel, lovely room and service, gave me a free travel card for the trams, so on the 2nd day I got in the swing of them and found getting around in the heat more easy.
The city of Dresden is in some ways, best known for having being flattened by allied bombing at the end of WW2. It has been rebuilt, and with some treasures undamaged including the amazing F├╝rstenzug in the Augustusstrasse, at the back side of the Royals Mews, a 102 m. long mural known as the Procession of Princes, it depicts a parade of rulers of the House of Wettin since 1127. It was originally painted between 1870 and 1876 by Wilhelm Walter. When the stucco started to deteriorate it was replaced between 1906 and 1907 with almost 25,000 ceramic tiles from the porcelain manufacturer Meissen. The tiles miraculously survived the bombardments of February 1945.
The Goldener Reiter a statue of Augustus the Strong who ruled till 1733, also escaped unscathed from the allied bombardments as it had been dismantled and stored in an underground cave in Pillnitz in 1944.
The oldest part of the Royal Palace is the Georgenbau, a beautiful sandstone building in renaissance style.The inner courtyard has the most beautiful facade, recently renovated, it is decorated in white sgrafitto (a technique made by scratching through to the layer underneath) on a gray background. Stunning!!

The Zwinger means 'interspace' and originates from its location between former city fortifications. The Zwinger, with its large inner courtyard, was used for court festivities, tournaments and fireworks.It also has a beautiful a small enclosed courtyard the Nymphenbad, with a baroque fountain featuring numerous statues of nymphs and tritons.
The magnificent church, Frauenkirche boasting the largest dome north of the alps soon became a world-known symbol of the city. It seemed to miraculously survive the heavy allied bombings and subsequent fires of February 13, 1945, but on the 15th, after the building's sandstone had started to cool down, the whole building collapsed.
The reconstruction is a great symbols of world support and action. That same year the local church started a campaign to gather donations for a reconstruction of the Frauenkirche, but those efforts were halted soon after the end of the war. 45 years later, shortly after the fall of the Iron Curtain, Dresden citizens started a new initiative aimed at reconstructing the city's most renowned building. The church of Saxony and the city of Dresden soon supported the initiative and in 1993 reconstruction of the Frauenkirche finally started.That year all the rubble was sorted and put on shelves, so that as much of the original stones could be reused. Those stones can be easily identified on the now brand new looking church: they have a much darker tone than the new sandstones. Most of the funds for the recontruction came from donations world wide. The most symbolic is the new replica of the 4,7m high steeple cross, donated by a group of British donors.
Dresden, also known for Meissen china was also a great opportunity to see several exhibitions of porcelein

Friday, August 6, 2010

Berlin

I had bought a Eurail pass 6 days in 2 months to allow myself a day in Berlin.
I went by train (1hr) on the day after I arrived in Leipzig. In a way a big mistake as I was jet lagged, and also had very swollen feet from the flight. I ended up with blisters on the side of my ankle from rubbing on the edge of my sneakers It was also 38 degrees. So an Interesting but not comfortable day!!
As mentioned earlier all I had seen before of Berlin was Checkpoint Charlie in the cold and rain, and in retrospect I did not really know what it was!
Top of the Brandenberg gate
But Berlin is now the capital of Germany again and all the big Galleries etc are moving back there. Because I was only there for the day I didn't the hop on hop off bus trip so I didn't have to walk too far.
"Niemand hat die Absicht, eine Mauer zu errichten!" (No one has the intention of erecting a wall!).Is probably one of the most laughable denials of events to come.
Two months later at midnight, the police and units of the East German army began to close the border; and by Sunday morning, August 13, the border with West Berlin was closed. East German troops and workers had begun to tear up streets running alongside the border to make them impassable to most vehicles, and to install barbed wire entanglements and fences along the 156 klm around the three western sectors, and the 43 kklm that divided West and East Berlin.
A few months after the barbed wire was erected, the U.S. government informed the Soviet government that it accepted the Wall as "a fact of international life" and would not challenge it by force.
Between Oberbaum Bridge and the Ostbahnhof, along the former borderline that ended at the Spree and M├╝hlenstrasse, stretches a unique picture gallery. After the Wall came down in 1989, hundreds of artists from all over the world gathered and transformed the east side of the Wall that had been untouchable up to now, with their paintings, giving the Wall a new face in a new time.The Berlin Wall East Side Gallery is a 1.3km-long section of the wall near the center of Berlin. Approximately 106 paintings by artists from all over the world cover this memorial for freedom. Unbelievably (or maybe not, maybe I am an optimist) the paintings have had to be restored as tourists / visitors have taken chunks of them, or carved their names in them.
It is a moving sight.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The WAIMH Conference

This biannual conference is a good excuse to travel the globe. Last time Japan, prior to that, Paris Melbourne, Amsterdam, Finland. Next stop South Africa.
I flew to Frankfurt and then got the train to Leipzig about 4hrs. The train left from the Airport so didn't have to go into the city. Arrived at the huge railway station and easily found my hotel at its western exit.
The Conference venue was 20minutes away and the idea of having to get there was daunting. But there were trams at the door (immediately outside the station) leaving every 10minutes and we had FREE travel with our conference ID.
Not a thing to happen here!!!

The Conference venue was enormous but very well designed and we had little problems with rooms or access and especially we had quick meal service. Always a horror at conferences You can spend the whole meal break lining up!
The opening ceremony was naturally music based, and a children's music school led us through the years of learning music. The little ones were gorgeous but the musicians really good. A great start.
I enjoyed the conference program this year I think because I chose papers only directly related to my work, and consequently got more out of it. Even if it was just to know we do it better!!
My two posters went down well. They were all up in a big area and I was there for 1.5hrs at lunch time, and spent most of the time talking about the posters. Especially the one on Intervention with a clingy toddler. Lots of compliments on its easy of reading and design. (Thanks E.R.C.!!)
Also caught up with Tarryn, a social worker from Melb who went to UK three years ago, and works at Great Ormond Street.

Leipzig

This was the first time I have been to East Germany, and when backpacking in 1974 we only went to Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin. I remember it was cold dark and raining, so not really impressive.This was the World Infant Mental Health Conference and held in Leipzig home of Bach. I must admit I was expecting a dull and depressed look but it is beautiful; there are run down buildings , albeit now being renovated, but the city itself is fabulous
The city is also the home of the Nikolaikirche (Church of St Nicholas) - the starting point of peaceful demonstrations against the communist regime which led to German Unification. The collapse of communism hit Leipzig's economy very heavily, but it is now on the mend.
The church where Bach worked for most of his life hosts a museum to the greatest German composer of all times. We had a concert in the Bach Church as part of the conference events Really lovely.
Leipzig's Old Town Hall was built in 1556 in the Renaissance style and remains one of Germany's largest. Located on the main square of the city, (I imagine it would be more lovely when the construction is finished!) it is a good orientation point. The Old City Hall was built 1556 by Hieronymus Lotter : It is a beautiful Renaissance style building, 90 meters long with arcades , six gables and a tower. Until 1904 the Old City Hall was home of the city administration. Then it became home of the city museum. Most impressive is the huge Banqueting Hall with Renaissance interior .








I was in Leipzig as Germany was moving through the World Cup heats, and the noise as each victory came was a regular event in the late afternoon!