21 June 2010


1954. My grandmother is 15 and grinding poor when she hops on a train somewhere in bombed-out Dresden to escape to West Germany. She gets caught. It doesn't take long and she tries again. Successfully, this time. I wish I'd know the details of the story (Where did she hide inside that train? Was she afraid?), but I do know now that she must have been very brave.

Oma Walli passed away some seventeen years ago. I've always thought I don't remember her all that well. But in Dresden, staring up in awe at the Zwinger Palace, the way she always said she had done as a teenager, and playing with Fé in that little park right next to where she used to live, I suddenly remembered. Her warm smile, her dark voice, and her thick, almost black hair. I remembered the sweet woodruff syrup she used to make, which we kids loved. And the gooseberry rice pudding, which, to this day, is the only rice pudding I have ever managed to eat without choking. And we always, always, got Black Forest Cake with a cherry on top and hot chocolate when we came over.

I can see her now, as a young girl, standing in the middle of the Zwinger, dreaming the dreams all young girls dream. And I feel like I know her again.

Seeing, remembering. It was glorious. Dresden is magical.

That gorgeous woman you see on these pictures is my cousin Pia, who also happens to be one of my best friends. And whom Fé adores like no other. Who also took this picture above of the Dresden Elbe Valley. (If you are ever in Ratingen-Lintorf, drop by in her boutique, Leroy.)

P.S. We stayed at this hotel. I highly recommend.


lilla a said...

It looks like you had a wonderful trip.

Katarina said...

Glad to see you had a nice time. I love your grandma's story. Places and smells have a great power of bringing back seemingly long-lost memories...

p.s. I'm also selfishly glad you're back :)

ajh said...

Yeah Dresden is a wonderful city! Sounds you had a really nice trip! The pictures are great!

Christina said...

I miss Germany.
I hope I'll get to see Dresden someday!

mäemamma said...

Hi Isa,
it's lovely the way you started this posting. However, it made me think of so many other things instead of Dresden ;-) It made think for instance how as we get older and while having kids of our own, how our ancestors become more and more important to us. We WANT to know everything that was before, as if the urge to know where we come from grows bigger with each passing year. Not to mention that the fact of living far away from your family and birthplace adds loads of more significance to this notion. I feel the bonds getting tighter between me and my Estonian family, and family history is so important!
So as long as we have people and places to go back to, everything's possible! After all, stories live inside the people and it's only by talking to them and showing interest we can really get to know them.

IPH said...

Wieder einmal schöne Fotos und das mit Pia und Fé ist super getroffen. Dresden ist echt schön, würde auch glatt nochmal hinreisen ;)

Trula said...

Dresden is such a beautiful city. I saw it as a kid, and later went back once. At that point they were still in the process of re-constructing the Frauenkirche. I spent a long time reading about its history and the effort to rebuild it.

chatondeluxe said...

Hey Isa, sounds like you had a great trip! I love the photos and the story of your grandmother! I'm just back from a trip myself it's so refreshing isn't it (well until you get home with heaps of laundry that is...)!

the sleepy time gal said...

so beautiful. i can't imagine how your daughter is taking this all in. wonderful.

Isa said...

Sirja, yes! the older i get the more I feel connected to the women that have come and gone before me... Family history is such an important, and wonderful, thing. I wish I'd have more time to delve into it!

Trula, I find Dresden very inspiring for that reason. It's not only a pretty city, but very resilient, too!

Chatondeluxe, hehe. Heaps of laundry indeed! ;)