Moorings of a vagabond

My Travel Writing Scholarship 2011 entry - Journey in an Unknown Culture

WORLDWIDE | Monday, 28 March 2011 | Views [268] | Scholarship Entry

I was anxious. It was my first hitchhiking trip. I was holding a placard that said “Dresden Bitte” outside a petrol station in south west of Berlin. I didn’t have to wait for long. A group of three kind travellers offered me a ride in their spacious van.

The van driver introduced himself as Young. He empathised with travellers like me. He had been a seasoned hitchhiker too, he told me.

Young and his friends, an old couple, were returning from a skiing adventure in Norway. I considered myself quite fortunate. I got a safe ride and handy tips to explore Dresden from Young, a local.

In a couple of hours, I was standing in the middle of Altstadt (old town) in Dresden. Its splendour was obvious. I was seeping in some carefully captured moments of history untouched by time. With its baroque style architecture, buildings and the enchantment of River Elbe I was elevated to a quixotic mood.

I was bemused. The “old town” looked so opulently new. My paradigm was soon shattered. After talking to fellow travellers, I discovered the city had witnessed dramatic overhaul many times. Indeed, the bombing during World War II had reduced the magnificence of Dresden to ashes. But the reunification of Germany in 1990 and floods of 2002 affected it too. On exploring further, the scorches of WWII became visible on few heritage buildings.

I walked endlessly in all parts of the city. The streets and alleys were closely knit. It was swarmed by travellers and tourist groups in the daylight. But as the sun kissed the horizon, the scars of the buildings mingled with Dresden’s evening silhouette. I spent most of the evening soaking in the dazzling aura of city’s reflection in River Elbe.

The next day, I decided to explore a passion of my own. I headed straight to Rustkammer, the museum of armoury inside the Zwinger palace.

I was instantly teleported to an era of knightly jousting, court festivities, and royal tournaments. The splendid armours shining bright, robust war weapons, early era guns, helmets, ancient pistols, rifles, helmets, shields, swords, daggers and ceremonial clothing, art chamber pieces magnetised me for the rest of the day.

The stunning intricate yet seemingly delicate carving combined with the splendid semi-precious stones and artistic enamel paintings on the hilts of swords, handles of guns, armour, helmets put me into a stupor.

I could sense the pride of gunsmiths, artists and artisans from all over Europe who made these weapons and the men who owned them. Even a person not interested in armoury is likely to gape widely at the magnificence of the makers of the weaponry. Anyone can be tempted to hold the multi-studded rapiers or guns in their firm grips to get a feel of the power. I couldn’t feast on this fantasy for long.

As I boarded my train to Prague, I hoped marvelous architectural renaissance of this romantic yet scarred city would continue.

Tags: #2011writing, travel writing scholarship 2011

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