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Dessau, Weimar, Markneukirchen, Dresden drive 2nd March 2008

Initially we'd hoped to get as far as Karlovy Vary and Prague but were unable to set off earlier in the week as typically I'd caught a cold on my week off. So on Thursday we took a drive to the unassuming industrial town of Dessau to gawp at the Bauhaus school and any other architecture we might notice about the place. Small but fascinating standing exhibition in the school itself, focusing on the masters (Feininger, Kandinsky, Van Der Rohe and other overachievers) and a few key students. Groupius' Bauhaus building has been so thoroughly documented it was slightly unreal seeing it in real life. Every bit as stunning as expected, although the clutter of bauhaus-lite cubes that now surround it do detract a little.

On to Weimar, where we were thankfully undercharged for a Pension for the night and ate a hearty Thuringer-style meal of dumplings, Schwein and cabbage (myself) and Schnitzel and Bratkartoffeln (Stacey). It's picturesque. Goethe and Schiller lived here for a bit so perhaps this is the German Stratford upon Avon. Lots of tourists, even off season. Stacey took over driving the next day- through the increasingly hilly landscape towards the Czech border- as I was feeling a bit ill and useless. Markneukirchen (Musikstadt Markneukirchen, its tourism site proclaims) is the former center for East German stringed instrument manufacture. That includes Musima electric guitars, acoustic, zithers, and a whole bunch of connected pseudo-brands like Migma and Meinel und Herold. For more about this sort of thing, read the history of guitars behind the iron curtain on Junk The place doesn't look too happy these days though. Huge Jugendstil villas that line the steep valley are boarded-up or left open to the elements. In one of these formerly abandoned merchants houses though is the excellent Framus museum. Opened a couple of years ago it features some of the excellent original designs Framus came up with in the 60s and 70s, when European guitar makers didn't simply copy American designs. I particularly loved the offset semi-hollow models (see 'Images' on the right). Up in the attic of the Museum they even let you try some of the new Framus models: high quality instruments produced after the brand was resurrected by Warwick in the 90s. The build quality and sound of the Mayfield, for example, is excellent (list: €2000). The guitar designs themselves however are rather staid and not a patch on former glories. I can be quite confident in saying we were the only visitors that day.

Prager Str in central Dresden features three entire Plattenbau blocks converted into Ibis Hotels. We spent the night in soulless Ibis comfort having explored the city at night in the hunt for a non-touristy Italian restaurant. Dresden has it's own equivalent of the former Palast des Republiks, the Kulturpalast, complete with coppered glass and gaudy Socialist Realist frieze. The reconstruction of some of the baroque architecture was none too sympathetically carried out during the GDR days, but overall the old town is beautiful to walk around. There's still very much to be done, and the city feels more of a building site than even Berlin. Huge archaeological digs in various parts of the old town displaying medieval foundations, wells, stairs and cellars are a constant reminder of what was lost in the citys pointless and wasteful firebombing at end of the Second World War.


Images - Doing something with this, not sure yet.