Monday, February 21, 2011

A travelogue without pictures

My camera and laptop are my constant travel companions. This time I ditched both for my short dash to Dresden, since this was just a trip to bring my belongings to Geneva. Nothing remotely exciting can happen, as I told myself, and no point in carrying more stuff than absolutely necessary. While my cute little Nookcolor did not allow me to miss my thinkpad much, the camera was sorely missed.

That was not because of the day long bus ride from Dresden to Geneva. To all fairness, this was my first long roadtrip in this continent, and while the scenery as we entered Switzerland was pretty, nothing was spectacularly new. The highways looked as boring as US freeways, with Mcdonalds' sprouting up in the middle of nowhere. The rest areas had the same look and feel, except one big difference. US is not just the "land of the free", but also the land of free restrooms, while here every usage involved paying.

But I digress. The day before, I flew to Dresden, and nothing seemed unusual till we landed there. The airport was full with police helicopters, and I suddenly remembered that was some kind of demonstration day for neo-Nazis. That thought slipped away somewhat as I boarded the train to the city center, and nothing could have prepared me for what I saw after arriving at the main train station. It was full with police, all in full gear. All the exits were heavily barricaded and guarded. I still thought it is just a preventative measure, but then I was told no public transit is running. No tram, and no taxis. Undaunted, I stepped out, and it looked like a battlefield. Shouting mobs contained by police barricades, armored cars, circling helicopters overhead. All the main roads were hopelessly blocked, hoping to contain the neo-Nazi marchers, with friendly policemen and women warning me of Nazis. Soon it became clear there are not only Nazis, but a battalion of anti-Nazi protesters too, and it was not obvious which group was which. They also sat on the main roads and tried to block the right wing folks, and the police had a tough time to keeping them apart. Later reports put number of neo-Nazis at about 4000, while the protesters were about 5 times larger, but its hard to get the global picture standing in the middle of it. Ironically, the more damage was done by the the protesters, setting trash cans on fire, and provoking confrontation (an aside: they should really learn from Calcuttans how to burn things. This looks pathetic, we burn buses and trams with much less ado). I had to walk all the way to my destination, taking many detours, before a good samaritan offered me a ride at the very end. The city was tense till late evening, with most shops closed, and random groups of people walking around.

Too bad I could not get any pictures. You do not get to see such a mayhem often.

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