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I had hoped that Spring would have arrived in Europe, but as our flight lifted off from transit in Shannon, Ireland all we could see was grey cloud. I have a theory that England has two main weather patterns: grey and greyer. As we circled over London the shades of grey were amazing and, in a subdued way, actually beautiful. We were met at Heathrow by my sister, Lucy, who has lived in London for the last 5 years. 48 hours later we were back in the air - this time to Stuttgart, Germany to see Silwen, my other sister and her family. It was great to see them all again, but our plan was more than just a family reunion. We wanted another road trip, this time with Silwen through to Dresden in the former Eastern Germany then on through the Czech Republic before heading back to Stuttgart, a 1300 Km round trip.

Stuttgart is famous as the home of Daimler Mercedes-Benz (or whatever they are called since all the mergers with Chrysler) and they have a fascinating museum with some of the beautiful cars they have made over the last 150-odd years. This was one of my favourites:
Mercedes-Benz museum, Stuttgart
We headed out from Stuttgart on our first leg to Dresden. Again, any hope of Spring was dashed by a blizzard (see our last email for a very similar scene from Ohio). But it was still very beautiful and a lot of fun. Some of the small towns we passed through we just gorgeous. Silwen had booked us into a houseboat in Dresden. It took us a while to find, but it was a great place to stay. Outside it was cold enough that it was frozen into the river, while inside the cabin was toasty. That night we had dinner in former cigarette factory in a building that looked like a huge mosque. It was quite surreal.
In the final months of the Second World War the Allies bombed Dresden in several days of raids. By that stage Dresden had very little strategic importance but the raids killed over 30,000 civilians as well as doing huge damage to the buildings. By many the bombing was seen as revenge for the blitz over London. Now Dresden is being rebuilt and many of the former buildings are painstakingly restored. Interestingly, one of the major buildings was going to be pulled down by the East German government, until someone pointed out that the basement was good for growing mushrooms - so they left it alone!

Glass Volkswagon (VW) Factory, Dresden,