If Dresden had an unreal quality to it, it wasn't because one felt like he was (the troll or the prince?) walking around in a fairy tale, though once it would have felt just that way, awash in Baroque exuberance. Rather, despite its small beauty and typically European good sense, its unreality, its sense of foreignness came from the open space and new construction that made the whole city into an open-air shopping mall. So many perfect surfaces disinvite the imperfect creature from resting, even visually, in the townscape, the way insects feel out-of-place in a clean room.
The vacation began, for me at least, in the Berlin Hauptbanhoff, a new technological and civic splendor, set in the middle of what might be a war zone in some forgotten Eastern European kleptocracy, rather than in the economic engine of the West. Every building was scaffolded outside--even Rome, in the run-up to the Jubilee was less under-construction--and the street itself plowed through like a furrow. It was like landing on Mars.
We walked too far and I carried the bags, and then we found our cool hotel, the Tryp Mitte, along another depressed street and went out into the city to find it full of style and charm of the big-city sort that shuns the Belle Epoque. Everything looked done by the Soviets (much of it was) or the Americans, the two worst guardians of town-planning imaginable, beating their hammers of industry in alternating blows on poor blasted Berlin.
For all that though, there are artists here, and where there are artists, there is flourishing: coffee shops, bookstores, good ethnic food. I could easily see us living here, and in a sense, I'm glad we weren't stationed in such a vital place, because it would make our homecoming less likely, or less satisfying.
We saw mostly the exteriors of buildings, its being Monday and nearly everything major closed, but had a good time of it anyway, thanks in large part to the excellent food and cute shops for pottering about in.
Back home it's been work and reading, which is nice, as Spring--the shyest girl at the party!--blinks her eyes in the corner, hoping to be noticed.