August 10, 2018

Dresden

Last two weeks, I lived in the capital city of Saxony, Germany, and.. what a life it was!

I had an opportunity to make art inside a city I hadn't been to before, which would be a win-win itself. Still, since the people I met there were an absolute treat to interact with, and the city's outgoing culture was so vivid that many bigger cities could learn from it, all my expectations were surpassed.

Dresden is a home of over a half million and is Germany's twelfth largest city. It is very flat:

Such a disposition is convenient for bike commuting, and the infrastructure is fully adjusted to this, disponing with numerous bike lanes and so on. Sure enough, locals make proper use of it; bikes all over the place were one of the first things I noticed when I arrived. Seeing how bike-friendly the city is was super cool, and it ended playing a crucial role in the artworks I made here, but let's not skip ahead.

My days consisted of some eight hours in a studio; then, I headed out to see the city. Here is what caught my eye, sorted into a few categories:

The City Centre

The downtown has a neat collection of historic buildings, notably from baroque and rococo. Perhaps the most memorable image of it opens from the river Elbe that flows through the city. Many of the prominent landmarks are visible from around the shores.

Hausmannsturm of the royal palace

Venturing further away from the river banks offer picturesque compositions, too.

Dreikönigskirche

But mainly at night, the Elbe's hard to beat.

Augustus bridge and the Dresden Cathedral of the Holy Trinity.

The city centre is also heavily dotted by recent developments, which hints at the pure hell that happened here during WW2. However, there aren't many reminders of the sad history besides the frequent new buildings. I found it impressive, as, in some other cities, I saw plenty of wartime images displayed all over the place so that one couldn't escape the gloomy feel. Here, they either rebuilt the ruined structures or established business, academic, and cultural centres to spark new life into the neighbourhoods.

There are also plenty of high-capacity housing projects thought the city.


Being there in summer, I could utilise them long days. But once the sun went towards the horizon, it revealed another benefit of the mentioned area flatness: there can be seen some spectacular sunsets:


Once the sunshine is gone, another essential aspect of the city emerges: its nightlife. The centre of it is the so-called Assi-Eck, which translates into something like "an asocial corner."

Assi Eck in Dresden

No matter if it's 10pm or 3am, Saturday or Wednesday, it is always full of people having a good time. Only if every city would be this "asocial"... I thought. Just a block away from Assi-Eck, the Schaubuden Festival took place, also attracting crowds after the daylight was gone.

Crowds attend Schaubuden Festival, Dresden

The festival hosted many theatre plays, comedies, and music performances.


The music itself forms a significant portion of the city's culture. Street musicians play on many corners, making it fun to walk around.

Besides the Schaubuden, there was an ongoing summer festival in a park in front of the Japanisches Palais, called Palais Sommer. It was very popular, for good reasons: Besides concerts happening every day, they had workshops and poetry nights, and it was all accessible free of charge. The culture in the city visibly thrives, which is sweet!

Kendy Gable and Claudio Donzelli perform during the Palais Sommer festival, Dresden, summer 2018.

Kendy Gable and Claudio Donzelli perform during the Palais Sommer festival. The Japanisches Palais, in the background, was lighted by a mapped projection every night.

Going a bit Elbe's upstream from Japanisches Palais, there was another open-air stage for concerts or movie screening. This one was with an admission fee, but not too far from the podium is the Carola Bridge, where locals often gathered to listen to the performances for free. Pictured below is when The Kelly Family played their gig, one could barely cross from one side of the bridge to the other.

All was fun, but for me, the most memorable musical moment was getting a taste of the local electronic scene. Inside an old factory, massive rumbling vibrated anything that was not bolted in, and it was just so easy to get lost in these detuned rhythms. Before I knew, it was morning. So it happened that I also witnessed a few sunrises.


It is not only about the evenings and nighttime tho; people maintain the habit of staying out during the day. In every park, folks played frisbee, badminton, football.. or just had a picnic and socialised. I am a fan of this attitude to public spaces.

In between the parks, the city has a reasonable amount of greenery, adding to the nice feel.


Another likeable feature of the city is that once you are away from the river, there's a good number of fountains to decorate the place, cool down and freshen the air. It was welcomed; the temperatures were boiling. My watch rang with heat warnings every day, something that never happens in Scotland.. Anyway, fountains:


After seeing the downtown, I visited some industrial points of interest. Dresden is by no means an industrial city, but one can find unique and pretty structures.

Yenidze Dresden

Yenidze, a former cigarette factory built in 1909 in Moorish revival style, was on the top of my list. This was the first building from Dresden that I learned about several years ago. It wasn't one of the fancy churches; it was this. Seeing it in person was fab.

Yenidze Dresden

And there was more.

Nossener Brücke Cogeneration station

Cogeneration station Nossener Brücke from 1995

Former meat processing plant, built 1927-30.


Navigating around, I passed some arches..

Dresden Hbf

The main RR station from 1898. Since its renovation by Foster + Partners in early 2000, the trainsheds' roofs are roofed with Teflon-coated glass fibre membranes.

Dresden Hbf


And stumbled on other scenes that I found interesting:

Bundeswehr Museum Dresden

Bundeswehr Museum

Rosengarten, a good-sized park from the 1930s.

Kunsthofpassage

"Yard of the elements" within the Kunsthofpassage. The crooked rain pipes make music during a downpour.

Dresden is definitely among the better cyclable cities I've seen.

Total Lunar Eclipse on July 27, as seen from the Großer Garten, a 180ha public park. My handheld pic won't do it justice; it was pretty splendid.

the exhibitions I saw here were nicely curated, enjoyable.


That's for the what-I-saw part. As of what I created... As I said, the local cycling scene was inspiring — I was amazed how the bikes form an integral part of the city's culture, so I decided to make the city out of bikes; particularly, out of discarded bike tires.

The piece is based on a tourist map of the city centre, which is then scaled up. The streets are made out of different tires with according width to match the streets' hierarchy; the river that flows through Dresden, Elbe, is marked by an exposed blue puncture-protecting belt. Here's the finished piece:

"Bikes Make Dresden" installation. Read more about it HERE.

But it wasn't it. I also ended up making another artwork from spares:

"Artificial Nature," a set of organic-looking sculptures and ornaments.

On the end note, I really enjoyed the discussions I had with locals, whether it was about the positive highlights of the country or the issues it faces. Immigration, nationalism, and complicated history... Topics that often spark beefy debates across the planet these days; unfortunately, most of the time without arguments supporting more than one point of view. Here, however, having an open-minded insight from people who deal with it first-hand was refreshing and eye-opening. Last but not least, the food here was better and surprisingly cheaper than in the UK. Good times, indeed.


If you liked this post, visit my blog archives for more stories. Thanks for reading!

Published by: Jakub Stepanovic in Stories

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