Deutsches Hygiene-Museum Dresden

We went to the Hygiene-Museum on Friday afternoon.  It’s an enormous  nondescript building next to the Dresden Zoo (that’s next week).  We were going back and forth about visiting this museum because we couldn’t quite figure out what the content would be given its name.  And I, in my grey way, had visions of hygiene and its historical application to vast numbers in WW II, so if you’re willing to walk a mile in my socks or a meter in my socks you get the picture.

Anyway, we took the plunge and it was wonderful.  We spent close to two hours there which is one hour longer than our limit tends to be in museums.  They have an exhibit up called Dance! moves that move us.  It’s an historical look at dance, beginning with the innovations of Nijinski stepping right into b-boying ( a new name though not a new form to me).

There’s a classic video loop of Mary Wigman (

Mary Wigman  Hexatanz

Mary Wigman

performing Hexatanz  a significant piece in dance history as well as  contemporary interactive exhibits like wi and sound producing wobble and jump boards that can be used to create musical scores.  Along one wall  a series of monitors  were set up with headphones showing clips from various dance movies beginning with a Fred Astaire film and ending with Billy Elliot.

One of the films was Michael Jackson’s  The Way You Make Me Feel video issued in December 1987.  ( I don’t really remember it from the year it was released, I probably wasn’t watching MTV very much but seeing it in 20014 – the way it made me feel was uncomfortable.  The violence, the implied threat of the situation and the movement, Jackson’s pugnacious jaw and strong pelvic thrusts while singing about the way SHE makes him feel … yikes.  The fact that the woman he is chasing is so similar in body type as Jackson himself just lays down another level of creepiness.  While R and I had a glass of wine in the cafe on the first floor he expressed the same reaction which surprised me.  He said he couldn’t watch it.  I’m interested in what people had to say back in 1987 – if there was any discussion about the content then – and interested too, in people’s current reaction to the clip.  Take a look at it.  Let me know what you think.


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First the good news

I love to swim – and to swim outdoors in a pool – heaven!  So when Robert came home last week and said, “First the good news …” and then told me about the enormous outdoor swimming pool he had found I was thrilled.  It was a ten minute walk from our apartment and cost about 3 Euro for the day, had a snack bar and was surrounded by green space.  I was packing my bag while I asked him, “And what’s the bad news?”  He smiled. “It’s FKK.”

IMG_1746I took this picture in Rovinj, where it was bit too cold yet to explore the beaches.  This sign indicates that it’s a nude beach, not clothes optional mind you, but nude.  Clothes not allowed.  And please, let’s discuss the silhouette.  Perky breasts.  Flat tummy.  Long, slim legs.  And oh, yes, female.  That’ll make me want to strip my clothes off and play volley ball, uh huh.

But swimming – outdoors; it was awful hot the first ten days we were here – 94 F and humid. So I packed a towel and off we went.  Beautiful day, clouds gathering in the sky promising a temperature changing rain storm soon, but not yet.  I was a little nervous.  I remembered the sign from Rovinj.  I thought perhaps I could wear a sarong to cover up my lovely scars, not to mention my hips.

We paid our fee, walked through the turn style and made our way toward a low building that looked as though it housed toilets or lockers.  We were mumbling to ourselves trying to figure out where to change, I mean undress and  wondering where to do it.  In the toilet? Or are there lockers?   or do we just stop where we are and drop ’em?  The answer is C.

The toilets are …. toilets.  That is their only purpose. If you had wanted to remove your clothes in one of them you’d have to be a Chinese acrobat.  The pool is dug into a mound that is surrounded by grass.  You pick your spot and get rid of those pesky clothes.  I draped my towel insouciantly over my shoulder wishing I’d had one of those giant swim towels and sauntered toward the pool.  Okay, skittered crab like, toward the pool.  I showered off at the shallow end – gritting my teeth and refusing to scream out loud at the cold water  but only because no one else was screaming- and got right in.  It was grand.  The pool is warmish but certainly warm enough once I started doing laps and boy is it fun to swim without bathing suit  straps digging into my shoulders.

The bodies at the Luftbad do not look like the ones on that sign.  They are round, paunchy, wrinkled, skinny, droopy, scarred, old, young  and everything in between.  They’re just bodies and really, kind of cute and cartoon like when unclothed.  I don’t know why that is.  Maybe because they are doing all the things that bodies with clothes on do.  Like standing around and talking to each other, giving a three year old a juice box, reading a 1000 page beach book while laying on a lawn chair, lighting a cigarette.  Just no clothes.  Although one caution did come to mind.  Bending to pick up one’s clothes or towel should be done with the knees pressed together, slightly turned to the side with a  folding  action- rather like a fan –  as our grandmother’s taught us.  You are likely to reveal a bit more than anyone needs to know if done otherwise.



















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We’ve been in Dresden for a week. 
DSC04641We started out at 7:45 last Friday morning and arrived about 8 hours later after missing our first connection (even Germany has scheduling problems) and making 4 changes to catch up with our original train.  Though it was long it was still fun.  Dresden was celebrating when we got here.  Crowded, festive.  The change of heart that is now Germany – inclusion, tolerance, acceptance was apparent.  
Bachelorette Party

This femme fatale had a dress made of condom packets, 8″ white pleather boots and as you can see a demure cardigan with pearls. She took pictures with a bachelorette party that passed through. The bride to be wearing a tray around her neck and carrying a sign offering a blow for a euro.  The tray held balloons.  Yes, that’s the blow.

Aussicht aus Fenster

This is the view from our apartment window.  We’re feeling rich because we’ve got three rooms on the top floor and there always seems to be a breeze passing through.  I’m relieved that we are in a city.  While Illmensee was lovely we were held hostage by the limited transportation system.  Here we’ve already bought our monthly passes and have used them daily.  There are busses every 20 minutes or so on into the night which means we are free to go in and out of the city, explore, ride to the end of tram lines – turn around and come back or stop and explore any neighborhood or cafe that looks interesting.  You can see the Frauenkirche to the left.

This fountain is in Plauen, just a few stops down from our apartment.  I like the creatures perched on the rim.  They hang all around the edge spurting water.  When we there a pigeon was taking a very careful bath beneath the water, lifting first one wing then the other, shaking himself off, then repeating the whole dance.


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You may be away but you’re never that far away …

We leave for Dresden tomorrow morning.  I’ve been chomping at the bit for the last ten days.  While I love rural landscapes; cows, birds, gardens – my bottom line requires a bit more remote stimulation that a largish town or small city can provide.  I’m glad we’re leaving – for a more recent and challenging reason.

The house we’ve been living in has a small apartment downstairs in which an American couple – around our age (M and N)  – have been staying.  We’ve done a few things with them.  They have a rental car and are a bit more flexible in their schedule than we are.  It’s been pleasant.  R and M (the male of the couple) have gone some rounds over liberalism, global warming and well, a few other things.  But nothing requiring stitches.  I stay mum mostly and talk with N about hobbies, the cost of food – chat, in other words.

They’ve been gone for a week or more- their style is to take car trips where ever the fancy takes them.  A few weeks ago when they e-mailed me that they were in Sweden I thought they were joking.  They weren’t.  Tonight we went down stairs to say we were off to Dresden.  M opened the door.  Heard our chipper statement.  Told us to “have a nice trip” and closed the door in our faces.  I was astonished.

I can’t imagine what it is we might have done.  We’ve paid for coffee, cake, lunch when possible as a thank you for the car availability.  I think when they left for their last trip we were on good terms.  Hmmmmm.

The social see saw that has always screwed with my sense of balance is clearly on tilt-o-mode.  And I thought – wait – this is what social media is about … something happens, you are too far away to call a friend and “process”, so you blog about it.

While I haven’t left high school as far behind as I had hoped I have leapt into the 21st century and see yet another way to “stay in touch”.

I’m really looking forward to Dresden.  Really.


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The Zusptize or a sister

The Zugspitze or a sister mountain

Garmisch-Partenkirchen sits at the base of Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze.  It feels as if you’re being held in a wide bottomed bowl as you look up at the massive peaks above your head.  My brother was born here some 63 (or so) years ago.  Garmisch for me, has the air of a folk tale.  My mother talked of skating here, having coffee on Marienplatz, of giving birth to my 13 pound brother.  I have some photographs of them shortly after he was born – he looks like a one year old.


My brother and me in N.Y.

My brother and me in N.Y.

Some of the facts of our lives have always felt shrouded in mist, much as the peak of the Zugspitze. I know it’s there but I can’t quite see it.  It is a mystery conjured by my mother who more often than not felt that children should be seen (nicely dressed) and not heard and that one should eat everything not know everything.  Though as I got a little older she would tell me stories about herself when she was younger.  They were tinged with not nostalgia so much as a sense that there was a life lived before and one after.  Somewhere inside me there was always a hope that my mother would decide to move back to Europe – I of course would go with her and fulfill my destiny to be exotic and live “abroad”.


My mom in Berlin, post war

My mom in Berlin, post war

I have no doubt that that idea was mine and mine alone.  My mother took great pride in her Americaness.  When someone would ask her, because of her accent – a life long difficulty with th’s, w’s and f’s what nationality she was, she’d fix them with a very blue eye and say, “American”.  She was proud too, of the fact that I was born in the states, though I lied for many years and said Paris was my birthplace.  We spoke English at home until I took French and German in school and only then did we institute one day a week foreign language use.  I could bring her to tears speaking French with a pretended southern accent.

There is another reason I wanted to go to Garmisch.  I’ve had trouble sleeping most of my adult life.  Some years ago on one of those frustrating and painful nights, in a fit of restless insomnia I whined to Robert to tell me a story.  Early on we had discovered that his voice could lull me to sleep but if he read he’d needed a light which would add to my insomnia.  Thus only a story, told in the dark in a soothing voice would do.  He began weaving together a series of stories about a little girl in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, her family, a very special dog and world events that became a creative cycle that took on a life of its own.

Putting my feet on the cobblestones of Garmisch, looking at views and landscapes, store fronts and pubs that had been woven into the stories is like my dream of Disneyland.   We’ve continued to tell the stories back and forth, suggesting details, correcting misconceptions that one of the other of us has formed.  It’s an ongoing creative project that darts and weaves throughout our lives.  That it has some relationship to my own life in actuality makes it all the sweeter.

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The hills are alive …

with the sound of panting … it’s me.  Trying to make it up the long, steepish hills around here on my bicycle.  But yesterday – May Day – Willi, our host finished repairing an electrical assist bike and I’M IN LOVE.  This bicycle is so sweet!  You still have to peddle but it’s like having someone hand you the end of a rope tow – up you go – barely breaking a sweat.  It’s been raining a lot here the last two weeks and there is promise of more, much more, to come but I’m thinking I can hold an umbrella over my head or just buy a raincoat already.  This thing is too much fun to miss.Garden1

I walked down to the market this morning, about 5 kms there and back, just to prove that now that I had access to battery power I wouldn’t become lazy.  Anyway, if I bike I miss looking at all the schneken along the path.  I’ve got this theory that slugs are homeless snails and that the yellowish snails are hippies and the largish beigeish ones are staid and practical snails, just trying to get along here.  On the way back from shopping I stopped and talked to the woman who made this garden. She was outside with a barn coat, gloves and a tin can, walking around the vegetable patch picking off the caterpillars. They eat her vegetables but she didn’t want to harm them because they would eventually turn into butterflies.  And yes, the whole conversation was in German.  I may have missed some of the particulars but I got the gist.  My German is getting better though once I answer a single question correctly the native speakers take off and I have to ask them to slow down. The Germans are extremely tolerant of non-native speakers which makes it easier to bump along and practice.

We’re in a little studio apartment – a bedroom with a separate bath and kitchen.  While we are doing fine the rainy cold weather is complicating things as the two of us in one room all day – well, let’s just say it’s a bit touch and go.

Our room is right above those first barn doors from the left.

Our room is right above those first barn doors from the left.

We make small excursions – places we can get to by bus.  Today though, we may bike down to Willhelmsdorf (if the rain stops long enough) just to go out of the house.  And to replace the exploded cutting board.  But that’s another story for another time.  Maybe.


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April 21

We left Rovinj

Rovinj shore line

on Wednesday at 5:15 in the morning.  Dark, cool, with the sound of the ocean in the background.  Our host, Millevoj gave us  a lift to Porec to catch the bus to Ljbjlana. As we crossed the border my stomach began to hurt and my palms got a little sweaty.  We were waved through at both borders by simply semaphoring from the back of the bus with our passports.  So much for our fine.

The  main square

Two days in Ljbjlana was perfect.  Walking, exploring, enjoying the beautiful city


And as usual there was wine enjoyed.

And as usual there was wine to enjoy.

And an incredible, painterly view from the train

And an incredible, painterly view from the train











And now we are in Illmensee, in southern Germany.  It’s a beautiful little town – once more at the back of beyond but this time there is transportation and lots and lots of green.  We set feet to the ground and began working the visa issue right away – and that is yet another story in the making.










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If you’re feeling sad, blue, sorry for yourself – go to Ljubljana (the spelling is under discussion) but it’s in Slovenia – go downtown across the river find  and sit at an outside table at a place called Jaznu na plac.  If it’s raining feel even more sorry for yourself – but still sit outside.  Smoke cigarettes (Gauloise, Players, some foul European brand that smells like burning horse hair) order wine – I say red, R says white.  Order two glasses.  Then order the pasta with cheese or the vegetable stew.  Become giddy as you eat (you’ll wait a bit before it arrives) because it is like being in Nona’s arms.  Both dishes are creamy and rich without being cloying – they seem to be what macaroni and cheese and potato soup were before they became as we know them at home.  And then eat the little piece of cake they give you – just because you stopped to eat at their restaurant.  Order another glass of wine.  Sit there – in the rain, in the wind, in the cold.  But sit there.  It is beyond comfort moving into the world of bliss.

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We’ve been getting ready to leave Rovinj.  R, in a burst of nostalgia for our first week took us on a bicycle route five miles around the city to get to a place that is ten minutes away.  But once there (traffic dangers and gravel roads aside) we found olive groves and vineyards, abandoned churches from the 11th century, wobbly big bumble bees looking for spring flowers and the loveliest quiet.  Well worth the trip.

I know it must seem as if we’ve been on vacation all along but we have been living frugally. Mostly eating at home, being careful about the day to day expenses.  And since it seemed we had both lost our concentration a bit after The Border Affair we decided to be tourists for this last week.  We took a ferry ride around the islands getting to see Rovinj from a different perspective.  No matter which way you look at it  – its a beautiful place.


A lighthouse that we could only see from the ferry

There’s been a Red Bull Fly In going on since yesterday afternoon.  The air is filled with the buzzing sounds of small planes.  The wharf now has food carts strung along its edge and all of the restaurants on the square are open; waiters standing at the ready, encouraging people to step in for lunch, dinner, dessert, coffee – you get the picture.  There were supposed to be 80,000 – 100,000 people here for the event – hotel rooms filled, streets packed.  There’s a band stand set up on the square.  We’ve promised ourselves to take a walk down tonight and see what’s up though we could just faintly hear it from the new apartment on Centener.


The rocky shore – though the sea has been mostly calm.

We’ve worked out how to get to Germany from here – with a two day stop in Ljbijana followed by a train ride to Ravensburg.  I’m looking forward to the trip and to a little more ease with the language.  I’m afraid the only Croatian I’ve managed are the very basic of basics, rather like a two year old.  Dog, good, bad, please, thank you, a continental shrug of the shoulders which means I don’t understand and lastly, a fairly good imitation of an owl like bird called a Cuk.


One of many beautiful sunsets

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Fined, but fine

I’m not in jail.  Neither is R.  We were fined – a whopping $800.00.  Our credit card didn’t go through the first time.  I began to plan where I would sleep at the police station because I’d already decided that I wasn’t leaving town without my passport.  Second pass, whoosh, from our pocket to theirs.  I let out a cheer and the young male officer (who once I realized reminded me of Joey Howell, a police officer in Kentucky, R’s oldest grandson and also a very, very, sweet and funny young man) I became less nervous.  Got him to crack a smile with my pleasure at increasing the GNP of Croatia.  Ivana, the 18 year veteran who was helping us out got a kick out of it as well.  I thanked them all with a dozen doughnuts, chocolate bunnies and handshakes (some of which is true).

We’ve got an extended visa – good for 20 more days. Since our plan and our tickets to Germany are for the 16th I think we’ll be okay as long as we stay out of bar fights, don’t indulge in public drunkenness, avoid littering, pay our cafe bill with small change and continue to impress the natives with our scintillating wit (such as it may be).

By the way, I loved the advice from all of you.  True to type some was practical, some was heartfelt offerings of support and some pointed out what a bunch of nitwits we can be.  Thanks.

Our weekend in Slovenia is the most expensive non-trip I think I’ve ever taken.  But we are ticking the lessons learned.  Don’t trust anecdotal information about government related rules, in other words – read for yourself twice, pay once.  Stay calm, be curious rather than defensive.  Assume you are correct and be surprised that anyone would think otherwise.  Be polite.  Enjoy yourself – it’s the only possible way to get through it without making yourself and others sick.

So, once again, thank your for your advice, thoughts and caring.  I didn’t realize quite how dire the earlier blog might sound to some of you – while it was  a little nerve wracking – it was okay.





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