Friday, December 20, 2013

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Well the weather was definitely not ideal for exploring the beautiful city of Dresden. But being the great Minnesotans we are we didn't let a little cold wind stop us (and later rain). So we started off the tour seeing the beautiful church of our lady Mary.  A wedding was being held there that morning so the church wasn't open to visitors. It would be absolutely incredible to be married in the church. After that we walked to another church and on the way saw a huge mosaic on the side of a building that illustrated many royal figures from Dresden.

 The church we finally got to was another incredible sight with many statues of saints adorning the roof. It is a Catholic Church that had to be kept secret during construction since Dresden is primarily Protestant. After that we took a walk through a kind of courtyard that used to have orange trees growing. (Maybe they still do grow but we didn't see any). The courtyard was beautiful with Greek mythological statues all over and incredible views of the city. After pretending to be royal and promenade around we headed to a museum that had tons of art from the royals of Germany. So many intricate statues, boxes, plates, and figurines that were incredible. It seemed that everything was made of ivory, gold, silver, or had jewels all over. Needless to say I left feeling quite poor. 
We also got to see a Turkish display of old weapons and armor as well as a display of Medieval armor. The more I see medieval armor the more I am amazed that people could even move in it. After the art museum we went back to the church of our lady and got to walk around inside. It's really cool to see how great of a job they did restoring the church after it was essentially bombed to bits during World War Two. So after the long day in Dresden we headed home. I would love to go back someday when the weather is nicer. It's a very cool city. I can't believe the exchange is almost over. It feels like we just got here and I don't know what I will do without doner!! I've become addicted to the cheapness and deliciousness of them. I'll end with a cool quote that Anja told us about Dresden.  It is said that people go to Chemnitz (a town in Saxony) to work, they go to Leipzig to trade, and they go to Dresden to live and experience culture.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Hospital Visit

Today we went to the University Hospital in Leipzig, which is where the students at the Berufsfachschule go for their clinicals. We were fortunate to run into a nurse named Clemens who went on the exchange several years ago and he showed us to the orthopedic unit. The unit was more open than ours with a  sunroof right in the center. They still use paper charts in the hospitals and the nurses here are more like LPN because the doctors do most of the work, but Clemens said that was in the process of changing. 
We then headed up to the Reverse Isolation/Transplant unit. We were met by the Head of the Ward and he explained the rundown of the unit. The unit is funded by the International Leukemia Foundation established by the great tenor Jose Carreras, (one of the Three Tenors) who became ill with leukemia but recovered from the disease years ago. In Germany they do bone marrow as well as stem cell transplants. Note: this is not stem cell research. Our bodies actually make stem cells in our bones and that is where they are harvested. These patients have severe illnesses that require treatments that completely wipe out the immune system. Since there is no way for their body to fight off even the mildest of colds, they are put into reverse isolation. This means that instead of protecting the rest of the world from this one patient we protect the patient from the entire world. Even as visitors who had no contact with any patients, we had to take off our shoes and clothes, and put on different shoes and sterile packaged scrubs. 
Each single room looks like something out of a fancy magazine, but with a plastic bubble wall on one side. The patients remain in this one room for about a month while their immune system rebuilds itself after the stem cell or bone marrow transplant. Basically no physical contact if possible--even the nurses and doctors who come to get blood or check vitals stay outside the room and do it using long gloves attached to the plastic wall. Once the patient's white blood cell count reaches about 1000 then they are free to go. If they bring anything from the outside like books or computers, (or for one little girl, a giant stuffed animal horse)  it all has to be sterilized up the wazoo, and they have to keep a really careful personal hygiene regimen too. On this ward there are two separate parts; one side is for patients ages 8 - 65 and the other for 65+. Each treatment protocol is very strict and the patients are monitored extremely closely because even though this is one of the very best transplant units in the entire world, the five-year mortality rate is still 50%. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Saxon Switzerland Part II

It was around lunch time when we reached the top, so after taking 99,000 photos, 

we sat down to munch on some fresh rolls, goat cheese, strawberries and grapes. Yum! We continued on our loop hike through a complex network of paths. Because of the surrounding sandstone, the paths are covered with a layer of fine white sand. Reaching the next overlook involved a very long descent and, since what goes down must come up, an equally long ascent where hands were definitely needed to keep from sliding off the rock face. 
The group felt that they needed some assistance, so they found some great walking sticks. Umm... Dawn? Are you sure that stick is the right size? Always trying to outdo everyone, eh?
When we got to the top, we drank the rest of our water and then admired the view. Again, a spectacular panorama was stretched out at our feet, and we took full advantage of the possibilities of digital photography. 

To prepare for the next leg of the trip, a nap was felt to be in order, and as it turns out, eroded sandstone makes the perfect place to snooze. 
We were sorry to leave this spectacular spot, but there were rain clouds looming on the horizon, so we made tracks for the parking lot. In this case, tracks meant long staircases! The rain luckily held off long enough for us to buy a variety of cake from the wood-fired oven in Schmilka. In fact, while we were devouring a large piece of "Bee's Sting" (Bienenstich) cake, the sun came back out. Kaffeetrinken (afternoon coffee-break with cake) is mandatory in Germany. After wishing that we had bought more Bienenstich, we took a short jaunt into the Czech Republic. It was a really odd sensation to drive right past the old border with its gigantic passport control buildings.
Now, you can just drive right across, and the only thing that changes is the language the road signs are written in!We had a really great time in Saxon Switzerland, and the rain even  held off until we finally hit the road again.