Prague/Dresden Day 10: Vyšehrad

It was the last day of our trip, and we had a carefully selected agenda of “Places That are Open on Mondays.” To be fair, these were places we actually wanted to go, we just timed them so we could visit the not-open-on-Mondays places on other days.

First up, Vyšehrad, the OTHER major castle in Prague, and home to a number of famous Czechs’ burial sites, as well as another random diacritical mark. Sadly, we don’t appear to have taken any good pictures of the OUTSIDE of the castle, since it’s rather far from downtown, so here’s the Wikipedia link for reference.

Vyšehrad has a long and complex history that we’re not going to into here, because you can just read the link, and that’s where I’d be cribbing it from anyway. But here’s a picture of a building with a cannonball stuck in the side, just to pique your interest. (Cannonball is just to the right of the top of the window.)

It’s quite a large area, and we decided to violate our usual habit of wandering around going “What the hell is that?” by buying a guidebook, and taking turns reading to each other out of it.  This allowed us to replace the “What the hell is that?” habit with a new policy of reading a section of the guidebook and then wandering around going, “Where the hell IS that?”  Also, here’s another “Leigh and Dan take a selfie with a statue that looks like it’s taking a selfie” (this TOTALLY needs to become a Tumblr):

In addition to the impressive cathedral, the most interesting part of visiting Vyšehrad is the cemetery, where a number of famous Czechs are buried.  There’s Dvořák:


And lots of other presumably famous people, none of whom we’d ever heard of. On our way out of the fortress, we discovered that we were just in time to take a scheduled tour of the casements.  “That sounds like fun”, we thought. “By the way, what are casements?”

Oh.  How’s that fear of dark enclosed spaces working out for you there?  [Note from Leigh: This was the lit portion of the walk. The rest was pretty much pitch dark.] Seriously, you couldn’t see the floor, and the walk was about a quarter of the mile from the gate to the gallery and back.  It was at least nice and cool.  The walk did turn out to be worth it, however – the gallery at the end of the walk contains the originals of some of the sculptures from the Charles Bridge. (Did we mention that the ones out there now are almost entirely copies?)  This was a quite impressive and imposing way to view them.

Just try not to think about “Blink” while you’re in here. These casements apparently used to hold ammunition and supplies for whoever was currently in control of the castle complex.

The rest of the day was fun, but not terribly photogenic.  We did visit a building which was deliberately designed to look like Ginger Rodgers and Fred Astaire dancing: (You can decide for yourself how successful you think the architects were.)

After this, we went to a modern art museum on the north of town, where they didn’t allow photography, so no pictures.  It wasn’t really all that exciting a collection anyway, although there was a David Czerny on the roof.  We decided to finish the day by using our transit pass to find a few more far-flung geocaches, and then headed back to Wenceslas square for a final walk though Old Town.

Since we had a very early flight the next morning, we had decided to eschew a hotel room, and just spend the night in the airport.  We’ve done this before, in Helsinki, and it wasn’t much fun then either.  We discovered that if you attempt to lie down in the Prague airport, the cleaning lady will start screaming at you in Czech.  At least, we assume it was Czech. But it was definitely screaming.

Total Statistics for the Trip:
Czerny Statues Seen: 7
Geocaches Found: 31
Posters Presented: 2
Fireworks Displays: 1
Diacritical Marks: Many

Prague/Dresden Day 9: Dvořák and Dead Guy

With our last two full days in Prague, we had a number of remaining sights we wanted to visit. Prague was home to the two most famous Czech composers, Dvořák and Smetana. We had already wandered into the Smetana museum on our first evening, so today it was Dvořák’s turn. Incidentally, in order to get the diacriticals right, I’m having to cut and paste the name “Dvořák” each and every time it appears in this post. I hope you appreciate how much work we put into this blog that we haven’t finished writing nearly two months after the fact.

Um. Hey look! A dog wearing a hat!

That’s right – Pavlov got a metro stop named after him, and a picture of a dog to boot.

We got off the metro at the Pavlov station, because the bell rang and we felt strangely compelled to. Also, it’s where Dvořák’s house is. Well, not at the station … just nearby.

Dvořák’s house is a quaint little abode with lots of memorabilia and recordings to listen to. There was a lot of nice information on the composer, and a whole set of displays about how obsessed he was with trains. (Hint: very.)  Dvořák would apparently send letters to people whose sole contents were a detailed description of the list of trains that could be expected to carry the letter to the recipient and deliver the reply.  While he was a brilliant composer, I get the impression he’s not someone you’d actually want to spend a lot of time talking to, if you get my drift.

While photography wasn’t allowed in the building, we discovered a statue in the backyard that looked like it was taking a selfie. So we took a selfie in front of it, trying to look like the statue. This should totally become a thing:

From there, we were off to the Vitkov National Monument. This is a giant structure that was originally built in the twenties to commemorate Czech legionnaires, but also hosts the largest equestrian statue in Europe:

Seriously – it’s big. But it’s not the most remarkable thing about the monument. No, that would be the dead guy.

Klement Gottwald was the first communist president of Czechoslovakia, and was Not A Nice Man. When he died, party leaders decided that anything creepy and cult-of-personality-esque that the Soviet Union could do, they could do just as well. So they mummified him. Still visible at the memorial are the room where his body was placed on view for many years, and the control room.

Yes, I said control room. Apparently the equipment for keeping Mr. Gottwald looking fresh as a Twinkie requires approximately as many dials as a medium sized shuttle mission:

I’m not sure, but I think the phone was a hotline so that Zombie Gottwald could receive orders from Zombie Lenin. And it turns out that all this equipment was for naught anyway, because the mummification process was screwed up and he started to rot, so they had him cremated in the end.

There was also an interesting museum on the premises about the history of the Czech Republic, but it was pretty much an anticlimax after that. [Leigh notes: there was also a really cool exhibit on music and protest movements in the Czech Republic, including the subversive role of punk music. My favorite part was the old museum docent who we caught rocking out to some of the punk music being played on the exhibit's audio stations.]

From there, we wandered over to the base of the TV tower that we mentioned in our earlier post about creepy baby statues, and got to see the creepy baby statues from really close up. They were just as creepy. We had a nice tea up in the elevated restaurant, and then headed back to the west side of the river to see more stuff. (This was a busy day, I tell you.)

This stuff included finally getting around to riding the funicular railroad up to the top of Petřín Hill. (More diacritically-based cutting and pasting there.) There was an observation tower which had a spectacular view of the city, and also a great vantage point of one of the most amazing architectural white elephants in the world.

You’re looking at Velký strahovský stadion, or the Great Strahov Stadium. In case it is not clear from this photo, it is gi-friggin-normous. The field is as large as nine regulation soccer pitches. It seats a quarter of a million people. Surprisingly, it is not a communist relic, but dates from the 1920s. It was originally intended to host mass exercise demonstrations.

That’s right. 250,000 people came and watched other people exercise. Here’s a clip from one such demonstration in the 1980s. Including swan dives.

Because swan dives. No one can figure out what the hell to do with the stadium today. Even the Rolling Stones couldn’t get it more than half full.

We continued the evening with a nice trip through a mirror maze (as one does). This one was left over from an exhibition in the 1890s.

To finish our penultimate evening in Prague, we found a few geocaches, and then had Lebanese food. Because why not? [Note from Leigh: Really, it was because as we were walking back to our hotel/trying to find somewhere to eat, we got caught in a MASSIVE crowd for some music festival that was happening in Wenceslas Square and we could barely move. Dan was highly amused by the fact that I got so frustrated that he swears he can identify the point where I dropped my shoulder and started playing roller derby in the crowd just to get people out of my way. (He was right -- that's totally what I was imagining!) I acted as a wrecking ball enough to get us to a side corridor that happened to have a Lebanese restaurant in it, and we both agreed that that was where we were eating.]

Horse statues photographed: 2
Stairs avoided in Petřín Tower: All of them

Prague/Dresden Day 8: Concluded

The highlight of Day 8 was the food tour, but that ended at 4, and we didn’t just go back to our hotel room and fall into a food coma.  From the dropoff point we wandered up into a park on the west side of the river which had a beautiful view of the city, and failed to ride the funicular railroad for the second time on our trip.

From there, we walked up the hill to Prague castle, featured in the last picture of the previous Day 8 post.  We didn’t go into any buildings, just wandered around the various courtyards lookin’ at stuff.  Of which there was definitely some.

From there we walked through the palace gardens, which feature not one, but two different structures designed to grow completely inappropriate fruit for the Czech climate.  Neither of which we photographed, for some reason.  Instead, here’s us standing in front of the Prague:

As we made our way along the hills north of town, we came to a plaza which apparently used to house a giant statue of Stalin pretending to be on a Madness album cover. It now has a giant metronome, which is only slightly less weird.

Also a whole lot of skateboarders.  By this point we were pretty beat, so we headed back into town, where we finished our day with the traditional Czech delicacy of pizza.  One final thing to give you nightmares – this sculpture of Kafka riding a headless man which is not, oddly enough, by David Czerny.

Things Pointed At: 2
Amazing Food Consumed: Much
Geocaches found: Many fewer than looked for
Funicular Railroads Ridden: Still 0

Prague/Dresden Sidebar: David Černý

In our post on the second day of the trip, we mentioned running across some creepy baby sculptures in a park in Prague. And by “creepy,” we mean “baby sculptures the size of a Honda Element with slot machines for faces.” These sculptures are by a Czech artist named David Černý. Leigh had come across some discussion of Černý while she was doing research for the trip, and once she saw (and fell in love with) the creepy baby sculptures, it became a running theme of our visit that we tried to find as many of his sculptures as we could during our time in the city. Rather than scatter them across the posts in chronological order, here they are all in one place, for maximum effect.

Černý is a sort of an enfant terrible of Czech art. Most of his pieces offer a wry commentary on politics, society, or both. Luckily the citizens of Prague seem to appreciate and enjoy that sort of thing, because Černý’s pieces are displayed publicly throughout the city. Thanks to Uncle Internet, we managed to find quite a few of them.

Hanging Out
It’s hard to tell from the photo, but this is Sigmund Freud. Well, It’s a statue of Sigmund Freud hanging by one hand forty feet above the streets of Prague. Because of course it is. The sculpture is actually hinged so it waves back and forth in the wind. Many pedestrians walk right under it without noticing it. Here’s a closer view of Siggy, just hanging out with one hand in his pocket.

The base of this fountain is shaped like the Czech Republic, and the two gentlemen are motorized such that their hips and, erm, appendages swivel and move up and down. They’re controlled by microprocessors so that over time, the streams of water they are emitting spell out quotes from Czech politicians in the pool. As we said, Černý is not given to subtle political statements. You used to be able to text messages to the sculpture and they would spell that, but that feature seems to be disabled.

Oh, and the whole assemblage is in the courtyard of the Franz Kafka museum, because of course it is.

In Utero
Yeah, so… this is a pixelated naked woman.  The, erm, undercarriage is hollow, so you can climb up inside, and then emerge. There used to be a sound and light show inside the sculpture that contained red lights and vague watery whooshing sounds. This one was right near our hotel, so we walked past it three or four times a day.

Located just steps from the terrifyingly improbable elevator described in our last post, and within a luxurious retail plaza’s atrium, this is a parody of the statue of St. Vitus on Wenceslaus Square nearby.  Given that the one on the square is an important national symbol, this is about as unsubtle a skewering of the Czech polity as one could imagine.

Quo Vadis?
This is located in the garden of the German Embassy, which does not allow visitors to come in and wander around at random, so the picture is a bit farther away than ideal. It’s a Trabant.  On legs. Here’s a link to a closer picture so you can see that yep, it’s a Trabant with legs. In the summer of 1989, hundreds if not thousands of East Germans came to Prague and occupied the then-West German embassy in hopes of being able to leave East Germany and move to the West. Many of them abandoned their Trabants on the street when they were finally granted passage to the West. This is Černý’s response.

And finally – remember those creepy babies?

Yep. Babies. Creepy ones. Crawling up the Zizkov TV tower, which is the highest tower in the Czech Republic. You can see the creepy babies from pretty much everywhere in town. Apparently Černý was asked to do an installation on the tower, and this is what he proposed — and people not only approved it, but liked it so much that it became permanent. In other words, awesome.

We actually ran across one more of his later on, but we didn’t realize it was his, so we didn’t take a picture. It’s a giant skull on top of the modern art museum.

It turned out that pursuing Černý sculptures around Prague was a great way to see lots of the city, and to learn yet more about Prague’s history. The more you know…

Prague/Dresden Day 8: Taste of Prague!

We’re going to divert from strictly chronological reporting here slightly, and talk about what we did Saturday morning as part of a separate post later.  So this is about Saturday afternoon and evening. [Note from Leigh: the vast majority of this post is Dan speaking; my comments are interspersed throughout in this fashion.]

Before we left, I had run across the website of a tour company called “Taste of Prague.”  I was mostly looking for good places to eat, but when I ran across a guided tour that was focused on restaurants, only took small groups, and appeared to have a sense of humor, we couldn’t resist.  We met our guide, Jan, in front of a church near our hotel along with one other young American couple.  The format of the tour was simple – we walked from restaurant to restaurant, trying food at each location.  The five of us got to know each other, and Jan told us a bit about the last 100 years of Czech history, sometimes assisted by an iPad.

First stop was a meat market.  We had what was essentially pub food – sausage, ham, and pickles. All of it excellent.  That’s Jan on the left, or at least half of him.  On the walk to the next stop, we learned a lot about how Czechs dealt with the aftermath of World War II, the Soviet occupation, and their feelings on potential monetary union.

We also saw a pimpmobile:

OK, probably not actually a pimpmobile.  [Leigh: Jan actually knew the owner of this car.] Next stop was a wine bar.  Interestingly, there is very little Czech wine for export, so if you want to experience it, you’ll just have to visit the country.  Not a serious drawback, if you ask me. (I don’t drink, so I’ll let Leigh describe the wine itself.) [Leigh: I had a Pinot Noir that was pretty tasty; I've had better in Oregon, but that's not a fair comparison.]

Now it was time for the main event. This was a steakhouse named Čestr, where in addition to beef stew, we were also feted with Czech sourdough bread with cream cheese with herbs and chives, beef spare ribs marinated in red wine for 24 hours and cooked under the lid in red wine for 16 hours, beef neck slowly stewed in paprika sauce with sour cream, slow-grilled chicken with truffle stuffing and juice from the grill with black truffles, chicken schnitzels, Czech salmon trout roasted on butter and served with carrot and orange sauce and peas, potato dumplings, garden salad, Czech escargots boiled in root vegetables, baked in mushroom and served with Sabayonne mousse, “Olomoucke tvaruzky”: aged cheese deep fried in bacon and breadcrumbs and served with home-made mayonnaise, beef steak tartare with quail egg, fried bread and raw garlic, and new potatoes with curd cheese. (My memory is NOT that good: they emailed us the list after.)

While we were being astonished by the food (my favorite was the chicken with truffle stuffing) Jan regaled us with some commercials from the Soviet era.  Bear in mind: there was no actual competition, so there was no need to produce commercials.  But full employment had to be maintained, and so we now have this to remember the era by.

After absolutely stuffing ourselves we stopped briefly to take a picture of me pointing at a cow…

…and then proceeded to our final stop. Pastries. Oh god.  Such pastries:

Om nom nom.  Video at this point was of some hilariously awful synchronized exercise demonstrations from the 1980s, to which we’ll include the link in an upcoming post.

On the whole, the tour was fantastic, and we would recommend it wholeheartedly to future travelers in Prague.  In retrospect, it seems obvious that there was probably some financial understanding between the tour company and the restaurants that wasn’t made clear on the surface. Frankly, we don’t care, because the food and company were both great.

One other thing that Jan stopped to point out over the course of our tour was this improbable device – a Paternoster elevator.

In case it’s not clear from the photo, and of course it isn’t, because no such thing should actually exist in the real world of people who aren’t completely out of their minds, this is an elevator that never stops moving. [Leigh: link contains a quicktime movie with Jan explaining and Dan expressing disbelief.] The cars on the right are continuously moving up, and the ones on the left continuously moving down. There are no doors.  That’s right – you have to fling yourself on and off a moving elevator to get from floor to floor.

Of COURSE I wanted to ride it.  Sadly, it was a private elevator that we just stared at through a window. While it moved. Continuously. [Leigh: I was so incredibly glad that we couldn't ride this thing. I used to have nightmares about elevators when I was a kid, and this horrific contraption is SERIOUSLY straight out of those nightmares.]

After Jan dropped us off, we went and saw Prague castle, one of the most historic and important sites in the city, but frankly after lunch it just felt like an afterthought.  A massive, historic afterthought [for which we will have to write a different post].

Food Eaten: All.
Calories burned stomping up and down hills: Many, but probably not enough.

Prague/Dresden Day 7: Mostly Travel

Like the title says, there’s not a whole lot to report about day 7.  I had a few more conference talks to attend in the morning, and Leigh stayed in the hotel room and accomplished things.  Then it was back to the train station for the return trip to Prague.  I had some cheese left over from my trip to the dairy store the day before, (Which I completely forgot to write about, so I’ve gone back and edited that into Thursday’s post) which we ate on the train.

Leigh had found us another hotel in a spectacular location just a block or two from the city center in the opposite direction from our first hotel, so after checking in, we set out to find some food.  We ended up at a little microbrewery near Wenceslas Square.  Over the next few days, we realized that this place, which had six different beers available, was in Prague an example of absolutely stunning variety.  Most places had at most two.

After dinner we walked back to our hotel via Wenceslas Square, about which more later.  Not too much else to say about day seven, but just you wait – Day eight was amazing!

Prague/Dresden Day 6: Leigh continues to not go to a conference.

By now I was getting brave, so I decided to take a Dresden tram to the end of the line and investigate Pillnitz Castle. Like many European castles, it has existed in various incarnations since the 14th century, but those various incarnations have burned, sank into the swamp, or burned and THEN sank into the swamp. And like all things in Dresden, it was built for someone named Augustus. (Seriously, there are so many Augustuses in Dresden’s history that there’s no way to keep them all straight.)

The directions to Pillnitz Castle online seemed straightforward: take the 2 tram to the end of the line, then take the ferry across the river to the castle. This all seemed fine until I got to the end of the tram line … in a rather nice residential neighborhood with no signs at all. Though there was this, right on the sidewalk:

Because you never know when you’re going to be walking through a stately German neighborhood and realize that you need cigarettes.

Eventually a couple of serious-looking bicyclists passed me, and I decided that that must be the way to the ferry and the castle. Luckily I was right, and I discovered the tiny little ferry whose job it is to make the grueling 30-second trip across the Elbe.

One grueling 30-second trip across the Elbe later, and a bit of following more people who seemed to know where they were going (aided by the fact that you can actually see the castle from the river), and I ended up in the Pillnitz gardens.

Mom, these next few pictures are mostly for you.

This is the central garden, between the main buildings in the castle complex. I get the feeling that later in summer, these gardens are more filled in; there were lots of workers scampering around doing garden things. It was still lovely though.


Here’s a closer shot of the main building:

And here’s a 360 degree panoramic shot — click on it to enlarge it for the full effect.

It was a lovely cool day, so I decided to walk through the rest of the (large!) gardens. As I mentioned above, I think some things weren’t fully planted yet (the Chinese garden and the Dutch garden were basically just grass fields, disappointingly); I also saw signs that there had been some flooding there recently, so that may have been part of why some of the gardens weren’t fully completed. There were still a few striking elements in the garden. For example, this:

This is a more than 200 year old camellia tree that was supposedly brought over from Japan and planted in this location in 1801. Since Dresden’s climate is a little bit different than Japan’s, they’ve had to figure out ways to protect the tree during the winter. The glass house you see behind the tree is on rails, and in wintertime it slides on the rails over the tree and protects it with a computer-controlled climate inside the chamber. There was also an orangery (which appeared to be undergoing renovation), because an orangery was a status and wealth symbol in the 17th-19th centuries, and the Augustuses weren’t ones to skimp on status and wealth symbols.

After more meandering, I took the ferry back across the river, had a delicious sausage for a late lunch at the ferry landing, and wandered back to the tram stop to head back into town. Dan’s posters were that afternoon and I wanted to try to crash the conference and see them. (Seriously, this conference had the best security of any conference I’ve ever seen. No badge? No conference!) Except for the small security issue of half of the conference attendees wandering out from the poster presentation room onto the patio to smoke. Conference crash success!

However, there was no way I was going to get to crash the banquet that evening, so Dan went to the banquet and I meandered some more in the old town area. I wandered through the Zwinger again right at sunset and took some lovely photos:

I’m pretty sure one of us mentioned the Zwinger already, but just in case, it’s a large palace/fortification that these days is a museum complex (the Scientific Instrument museum we went to was in the Zwinger).

Like many things in Dresden, the Zwinger was mostly destroyed during the 1945 bombing, but it was rebuilt. (The Orangery, though, has seen better days. Of course the Zwinger had an orangery.)


Never let beautiful light from a sunset go to waste.

I started heading back to the conference center, thinking I might be able to crash the banquet now that dinner was over. Dan, however, had already left the banquet and was in the hotel room. We decided to go for a walk along the Elbe, since it was our last night in Dresden. As we walked in front of the conference center, we noticed that almost everyone at the banquet was out on the patio, looking towards the river. Twenty seconds later, the conference fireworks started.


You heard me. Conference fireworks. The glowing bit at the bottom says “IPAC 14″. We had a riverfront, unobstructed view of the roughly ten-minute long conference fireworks display.

SMT has a lot to live up to now.

Prague/Dresden Day 6: Dan spends more time at the conference, and things go boom.

Thursday was my big day at the conference – I had two posters to present on my research. For those keeping score at home, the titles were “Measurement of the Longitudinal Acceptance of the ReA RFQ,” and “Preparatory Investigations for a Low Frequency Prebuncher at ReA.” Riveting stuff, right?

Before poster time, however, there were more talks, and then lunch.  Leigh was off at a castle somewhere (and how often do I get to say that?) so I hopped a tram to Pfunds, the self proclaimed “most beautiful dairy store in the world,” to acquire cheese.  Sadly, the most beautiful dairy store in the world does not allow photography. Here’s a link to some pictures on their website. On the upside, I was able to have a lovely young raw milk cheese that would be illegal in the U.S.A. (darn you, Kraft!) on bread, so it was worth fighting the tourists.  Of which there were many.

The poster sessions each day had been in a large room that also contained the industrial exhibits, like so:

However, since this was the last full day of the conference, they had taken down all the industry booths and just filled the room with posters. So I had two of about 400 posters on that day alone. Also, since my two posters were on the end of an aisle on opposite sides of a panel, I had to keep running back and forth to make sure the poster police weren’t checking the opposite side to make sure I was indeed presenting. (This matters: they can actually withdraw your poster from publication if you’re not there.)

Fortunately, I had a very nice view of the Dresden.

I also was sharing an aisle with two people who looked very much like Simon Pegg and Benedict Cumberbatch. Sherlock Holmes is an expert on free electron lasers, it turns out. Then again, why shouldn’t he be? He’s an expert on everything else.

The evening concluded with a very nice conference dinner accompanied by, sadly, smooth jazz. And at the very end, an official conference fireworks display. No really – 15 solid minutes of IPAC fireworks, including the phrase “IPAC14″ spelled out in six foot high letters of fire. This never happens at music theory conferences.

Posters Presented: 2
Desserts Eaten: 3
Why Women’s Football is Less Popular: Something to do with Bessel Functions

Prague/Dresden Day 5: Neustadt, the Kunsthofpassage and derby

Dan was once again occupied by his conference and I was on my own to wander. I decided to investigate the Neustadt area of Dresden, which is full of fun and funky shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars. I mostly just walked around and looked at stuff, which is coincidentally one of my favorite things to do.

One of my goals was to see the Kunsthofpassage, which is a small art enclave between two streets. The boundary buildings are painted in creative and beautiful ways, and there are cafes and small shops throughout. One of its more famous buildings is the “Courtyard of the Elements,” which has a setup on the side of the building that plays music when it rains.

Sadly, it was a beautiful day when I went there, but a small plaque (in German) offered what appeared to be a promise that there would be a demonstration every half hour. It was just on the hour when I was there, so I waited … and waited … and waited … and nothing happened. Figuring I was having a translation issue (I know just enough German to hurt myself, apparently), I wandered around and took more pictures of the Kunsthofpassage. This was the opposite wall in the Courtyard, meant to represent the sun.

And this was one of the other courtyards:

 At half past, I went back to the Elements courtyard, and there were a few other people milling about and waiting for the demonstration of the water instrument, so I figured I was just misreading the plaque and that it actually said it would go off every hour on the half hour.

So I waited … and waited … and waited … and once again, nothing happened. That is, except for the guy who was riding his bicycle through the courtyard, stopped, and said something in German to the family next to me, from which I gathered that the instrument wasn’t running that day. Grrrrrr. So here’s a video from YouTube that sort of illustrates it — the video is VERY quiet, and there’s a couple of noises that might either be the instrument or might be an epileptic monkey playing a recorder in the background; it’s hard to tell.

More wandering happened after that — I walked up to a large park, saw everyone on the planet eating ice cream, decided I needed ice cream, got ice cream because I’m a grownup, damn it, and can get ice cream when I want it, and walked even more. I walked a LOT.

When I got back to the hotel to meet Dan after his conference ended for the day, we ended up going right back to Neustadt for dinner, and then headed over to a sports complex to meet the Dresden Roller Girls, who were practicing on an outdoor court and had invited us to come.

Seriously, how adorable are they?

After surviving the practice — not because I was on skates (because I wasn’t), but because of the mosquitos! — we went to a bar in (you guessed it) Neustadt for a beer. We went to a giant beer garden that was packed with people watching the World Cup. Once Spain got knocked out (which I understand was kind of A Big Deal for People Who Know About These Things), we were able to grab a table and talk about our sport of choice. Lots of fun derby talk, and getting to know some amazing girls. Perfect ending to a very fun day.

Ice creams eaten: 2
Tram ticket inspections: 1
Mosquitos: many

Prague/Dresden Day 4: Reflektor!

On Sunday evening, when we arrived in Dresden, we were setting up the internet in our hotel room when somehow, serendipitously, I must have accidentally opened an app on my phone that tells me what bands are playing nearby. (This app is of limited value in Lansing, Michigan, but I live in hope.) Anyway, as it opened, the app recognized that we were in Dresden and brought up the upcoming concerts in town … which included the Arcade Fire. On Tuesday. In Dresden. And it wasn’t sold out.

Monday morning I found the ticket office and handed them rather a lot of Euros in exchange for tickets. Tuesday evening, Dan and I headed to the Junge Garde, a large-ish outdoor venue in Dresden’s equivalent to Central Park. We got there in the middle of the opening act, Owen Pallett, a violinist (who also plays with Arcade Fire) who does some really cool things with multitracking. Between the opening act and AF there was a DJ who turned out to be Steve Mackey from Pulp (which explained why AF started singing Pulp’s Common People at one point during the show [bonus Shatner link, just because]).

The concert was amazing. Arcade Fire put on a great, high-energy show. At one point during the concert there was a person dressed as a giant glitter disco ball standing in the middle of the audience with a bright light shining on him, reflecting (see what they did there?). Here’s the setlist they played; at the end, they shot massive confetti cannons into the air, completely covering the audience towards the front.

This was after about two-thirds of the confetti had settled!

Between the last song and the encore, people came out on stage wearing giant bobbleheads, with one of the heads being a square video box with an image of David Bowie singing “Heroes” in German. Inexplicably hilarious.

The moral of the story is: sometimes, you go to Dresden and end up seeing the Arcade Fire.

Cigarettes smoked by the guy next to me: many