Saturday, August 25, 2012

Russia - Part 2: St. Petersburg

This is the second of three blog entries describing my trip to Russia with Cliff and Andrey in the summer of 2010.  Picking up from the first post, we had just arrived in St. Petersburg from Moscow.  One of the first things that struck me in St Petersburg, not unlike Moscow, was the subways.  In particular, though, it was the depth of the subways.  As you entered the station and approached the elevator, it seemed to dive down into infinity.  Really, I'm not exaggerating.  These were long, deep, subway entrances.  The overall St. Petersburg subway system is in fact the deepest in the world. This is because St. Petersburg is essentially built on a swamp, and you have to get deep to real solid ground.  One station is 105 meters deep.  This combined with the frequency of trains meant that one or two trains would come and go while you were on the way down the escalator.

After arriving we made our way to the flat owned by friends of Andrey's.   They had lived there several years, but had also moved to Germany since.  They kept their flat in St. Petersburg to have a place to stay when going back.  It was located ideally - just a few stops on the subway to get to the city center, and a short walk to the ocean.  Similar to Andrey's mother-in-law's place, this building also had a typical communistic feel - no frills.  Inside the flat was actually quite charming - and looked as if the decor and amenities had not changed for 25 years.

The radio on the wall was originally from Soviet times - it would get one channel.

One evening we walked down to the sea and along the water for dinner.  Sadly, what was once a seaside cafe with a nice view is no longer close to the coast - a new ship port is being built, along with a bout 75 acres of land where there used to be sea.    I think the cafe has probably taken a hit.  We were almost the only ones there, despite the offering of live music:

St. Petersburg was particularly exciting and topical for both Cliff and I because at the time we were both reading historical accounts of the city.  Cliff was reading about the Russian Revolution, much of which initiated and took place around St. Petersburg in 1917.    Many of the landmarks played a part in this history.  I was reading a biography about Peter the Great, the great Tsar who founded St. Petersburg.  As an aside, I can highly recommend this book, "Peter the Great", by Robert K. Massie.  It is long, but exciting and captivating, and one feels they really become acquainted intimately with the Tsar from childhood on (Massie won the Pulitzer prize for the book).  So many of the monuments, buildings and general city layout were of particular interest to us.  And there was a lot to see.  We started off taking in some sights around the city center, churches and the like.

From here we took a stroll down the famous Nevskiy Prospect, the most touristy street in St. Petersburg, lined with shops and with access to several sights.  To our surprise, as we were walking down the street, we actually witnessed a kid try to rob an older man.  The man was wearing a "fanny pack", and the kid (young adult) walked up, unbuckled it from behind, and tried to run with it.  The man had quick reflexes, and after a brief tug-of-war, the kid gave up and simply let go and walked away calmly, blending back into the crowd.  As we continued walking we remarked there was a police officer on the corner not 30 meters away.

We continued walking, a bit in disbelief that it was so easy to do that and just walk away.  Cliff and Andrey walked ahead of me by a few meters, and just as we were passing an ice cream stand with several people in line, a man quickly stepped right in front of me.  So quickly and close to me that I actually ran into him at the pace I was walking, and had to put up my arms to brace myself and push him away.  At this, he shoved me back, right into somebody else who was now immediately behind me.  Suddenly, I was in the middle of about five or six guys, I think, all shouting and shoving.  It was literally like being in a mosh pit at a concert.  I thought I had inadvertently walked into a gang fight or something, and was bouncing around just trying not to get hurt.  This all happened in about 5 seconds, at which time somebody put two arms around my waist and physically extracted me from the mayhem.  It was Andrey.   He said something like "Alex, be careful!", and at the same time I swung my camera bag around to my front and looked inside.

"My camera's gone!!" I shouted to Cliff an Andrey.
"He went that way, he went that way!!" shouted two men in thick Russian accents, standing there, who must have been part of the scuffle.    I took a 360 degree view of my surroundings and could not see anybody clearly making off with a camera.  But somehow my instinct said that it was going in the exact opposite direction as the men were pointing.  I told Cliff and Andrey to go in the direction they were pointing, and I turned around and walked opposite.  As I started to take off in this direction one of the men grabbed my shoulders and said "No!  That way!  That way!" pointing me again in the other direction.  I had to push him away to continue in the same direction.  After maybe 20 meters I for some reason focused on one guy, a relatively small guy in relation to all the other men around, walking, but at a brisk and determined pace down the street.  And he had a large scarf tucked in the elbow of one arm.  I ran to catch up with him, then slowed to his pace aside him.  He did not look at me, but straight ahead.  In my mind I thought "There is a chance that is my camera wrapped in that scarf.  But there is also a good chance it is not.  Can I ask him?  Can I just try to take it?"   For lack of a plan, and with things happening quickly, for some reason I said, in a sort of friendly and high-pitched voice, "Hey, uh, did you see a camera around here?" And I think as I was saying this I realized it was stupid and useless, especially since he probably did not speak English, and so at the same time I lunged at him and grabbed the scarf from his arm.  Within a second I knew, in fact, that it was my camera (A large DSLR).  And I now had it.  And the scarf.  But he managed to hang on to the scarf.  And so now here we were, about exactly where the fanny-pack incident went down, and here is a another tug-of-war, with a scarf.  Only after about 2 seconds I realized I didn't care at all about the scarf, I had my camera.  I dropped the scarf, looked at the guy, and in a another moment of brilliance could only say, "That's my camera, asshole!"  At which point we both just froze, for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only another 2 seconds, him looking dumbfounded, me dazed with adrenaline.  And then he started cursing/shouting at me in Russian.  And so I decided I should probably walk away quickly at this point.  I found Cliff and Andrey again, who were of course surprised I had my camera again, and we walked around downtown St. Petersburg for a while recapping what happened as I came off the adrenaline high. 

Andrey later said that there was a chance that these guys probably had a deal with the police officers standing around there to look the other way - probably as long as there was no violence or something.  Clearly, they had picked me out some time before based on my camera bag - I thought it was actually relatively safe - it looks more like a messenger bag than a camera bag, but these guys know their stuff.   I hadn't shot a photo in maybe 45 minutes, so I think unlikely they spotted the actual camera, but possible.  I was, not surprisingly, super-paranoid the rest of the trip about my camera/bag.  I had actually even had it buckled closed when the guy went in and wrestled out the camera.

The next day we were about halfway through our trip and all needed some time alone - I headed over to check out a military history museum, and then set out to find Okkervil River.  You may know Okkervil river as a band from Austin, Texas.  But there is also an actual river, and it's in St. Petersburg. So being a big fan (of the band), I thought maybe it'll be an adventure to find it.   The band is actually named after a short story of the same name, party set near the river, by Russian writer Tatyana Tolstaya, whom Andrey was familiar with.  Okkervil river is located off one of the extended subway lines, well off the beaten path for tourists.  As you see, it's more of a dirty creek than a river.

While I was there in the less-tourist-traveled parts of St. Petersburg I came across a manhole, still with the old CCCP designation.

With our last two days in St. Petersburg we took in Peterhof, Peter the Great's famous palace of fountains up the coast, and of course, the Hermitage, both magnificent, and featuring prominently in our books.  All in all a beautiful city, that couldn't be diminished in my mind by the attempted robbery.

Fountains at Peterhof

The crew.  I think Andrey is looking hard to discourage more camera-stealing.

On the walk back to the flat

Next:  Part 3,  back to Moscow, and a visit to Moscow State University,

Monday, May 28, 2012

Russia  - Part 1: Moscow

It's been over 18 months since I took a trip to Russia with Andrey and Cliff, but better late than never to post about it.  There were so many stories and photos I think it just seemed to daunting to give the proper treatment on the blog.  But the longer I wait the less I remember, so best to get it down in writing.

I had been talking to Andrey for years about visiting Russia with him, but without really making any plans.  Cliff and I had a good time taking the Trabi to Krakow the year before, and with him having a baby on the way and a move to the US coming up, there was sufficient urgency for the three of us to plan a trip.  Getting visas was relatively easy since Andrey new some travel agent connections and had relatives that could formally invite us if need be.

We flew into Moscow, where Andrey lived several years, including during his graduate studies, and where Andrey's mother-in-law lives.  Andrey told us before she lived in one of the nicer neighborhoods, so it was a bit surprising that the entire neighborhood was comprised of buildings reminiscent of communist-style "Plattenbau" housing, and looked similar to many other parts of Moscow.  With easy transit access and relatively central location, I suppose it was actually pretty premium. 

It turns out that Andrey's mother-in-law has been living in this apartment for a long time - well before the collapse of the Soviet Union.  And in communist times, it actually housed her family and well as others together.    Some of the decor/furniture/appliances from the time were still there.

Since she didn't speak any English, and we didn't speak any Russian, it was a bit awkward to communicate upon first meeting - mostly smiles and hand signs before asking Andrey to translate - but her energy and high-spiritedness did away with it soon. The ice really broke when she invited us into the kitchen the first night for a round of vodka shots.
"Putinka" vodka - named after Putin

One of the great things about staying here was that Andrey communicated that we'd like to try to real traditional Russian recipes, and so we were fortunate enough to have a couple traditional meals. 

The first day after we arrived we decided that one of the first things we had to do, of course, was head down to Red Square.  The day started off smokey.  You may remember that in 2010 smoke form large wildfires around Moscow covered the city in a dense, dangerous, smog.  We arrived just as they were dying down and the public health threat was minimal, but the presence of smoke was still evident when the wind blew from the right direction.  Some people were still wearing masks, and one night with the window left open the stench woke me up.  But this was only really evident on our first and second day, and after that the weather on our trip was for the most part quite beautiful and comfortable. 

"Red Square"

Doing our best to look like American tourists - it bit me in the ass later

fly and St. Basil's

One of the most surprising and impressive things about our trip were the subways, both in Moscow and St. Petersburg.   The stations in Moscow are incredibly grandiose, with beautiful marble in places, lots of adornments, majestic entryways. 

I learned that the Moscow subway carries the second most people per year in the world, after Tokyo.  About as much and London and Paris.....combined.  Also, the trains were incredibly frequent.  We never had to wait more than a couple minutes.  We spent a fair amount of time on the subway system getting around to various locations.  This was a common sight for me:

One of the new things Cliff and I tried while out on the town in the heat was the local vendors outside the Metro stations selling cold Kvass (KBAC), which is a cold, fermented drink made from bread.  It's like 1% alcohol. It basically tastes like drinking bread, or yeast.

Andrey and Cliff partake of the Kvass

After taking in some of the essential sites, we decided to head to St. Petersburg, so we could make it back in time to chill in Moscow a few more days before heading home.    On a map of Russia, Moscow and St. Petersburg appear pretty close to one another, which is of deceiving, because Russia is friggin huge.    It's actually like 700km between them, which is like Paris to Prague.  We decided to take an overnight train, party for the convenience of making the most of our time, partly for the experience. 

Cliff chillin in our cabin
Our pretty train ticket, and the classy tea cup that we were served complimentary tea in.

The three of us got our own cabin on the train.  I have to say, it was probably the most comfortable train ride I've had.   I actually slept pretty well, and when I woke up, we were just outside of St. Petersburg.  Arriving in the St. Petersburg train station was one of the most dramatic impressions I had of the trip.  Loud, patriotic orchestral music filled the large main hall of the station, and a gigantic train map-mural in a style that must be at least 50 years old was an imposing sight covering one wall.  The whole scene really left an impression of power.

Next post:  Russia - Part 2: St. Petersburg.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Tubulin Prep and Meeting My Meat. 

Most of what I do in the lab involves manipulating DNA in little tubes, growing cells in culture dishes, and taking images of them with fancy microscopes.   The most striking images are inevitably those where microtubules are labelled (in the image below in white).

These filamentous structures are not only beautiful but extremely functional in the cell, and myself and thousands of other scientists around the world spend a lot of time studying how the cell uses them to carry out a variety of essential functions.

Several people I work with use purified microtubules outside the cell to study how other proteins interact with them and modulate their physical characteristics.   Microtubules are made of small proteins called 'tubulin', which stick together in an ordered way to eventually generate the long skinny structure.  Getting reasonably pure tubulin is not trivial.  It's just not as easy to generate and purify as some other proteins.  So the best way to get lots of tubulin has been to get it out of cells that have already made it naturally.  The most tubulin is in nerve cells, and the most nerve cells are in the brain.    So the best way to get tubulin is from brains.  And the best way to get lots of tubulin is from lots of brains, and the bigger the better. 

My friends Simone and Per, who are expert tubulin biochemists, recently decided to organize a large tubulin purification.  And until some brilliant person comes up with a way to purify large usable amounts of tubulin without brains, this means acquiring lots of brains.  Of course I jumped at the opportunity to help.  This sounds like real science. 

Now, it turns out that tubulin in brains doesn't freeze well, so the best way to get tubulin is actually from lots of big fresh brains.   It also turns out that thousands of big fresh brains are simply trashed in these parts each day in an effort to satisfy the German craving for Schwein.    The mission, then, was to go to a slaughterhouse in the wee hours of the morning, and get 100 fresh, warm pig brains, right out of the pigs.  

Coincidentally, at that time I was going pseudo-vegetarian, after reading the moving book 'Eating Animals' by Jonathan Safran Foer, and felt this would be a good opportunity to see the inner workings of a slaughterhouse.  Since I knew I would not realistically be able to cut out all meat forever, I thought I should at least know first-hand how it got to my plate. And who knows, maybe it would have some sort of impact.  I was starting to fall of the wagon. 

So Per and I got up one morning before sunrise to drive to the slaughterhouse, collect brains, and be back in the lab with enough time for all the biochemical processing to get the tubulin.  I think we were in the lab around 5am to get the supplies, where we found a friendly note from Simone:

She had arranged a chocolate basket and note for us to bring all the guys down at the slaughterhouse as a thank-you for all the brains.   

I don't have any photos from the slaughterhouse, I didn't even bother trying to take my camera in there.  As Per and I arrived in the dark the entrance looked like the registration lobby of a hospital: clean, white, cold, sparse, open.  After we explained we were the scientists there for the brains, our contact guy came out to greet us wearing a full body lab coat.  He then gave us each protective wear, including shoe-covers and hair nets.  We had several heavy containers of ice that the three of us then had to carry all the way to the slaughterhouse floor, which was a long trip though a maze of cool, white, fluorescently lighted corridors and locked doors, even more emphasizing the hospital feel.  Except that at with each door we crossed, a distinct scent registered stronger in my nose, undetectable at first, and overbearing by the last door.    At the last room before the slaughter floor, we passed over a machine that scrubbed our feet, and then through a door, where we were instantly confronted with a large, loud, crowded room with a thick suffocating stench, and absolutely buzzing with activity.  Dozens of workers, men and women, and hundreds of pig carcasses where whizzing around.  There was a long assembly line, which came in the room beyond our vision, twisted throughout, and back on itself, and then exited on the opposite side.  Our contact, probably younger than both of us, very matter-of-factly took us to the place on the line where the brains were removed, and then asked me a question.  With all the noise, and the guy's thick Saxon accent, I could just not understand what he was asking, but eventually gathered he wanted me to follow him to the other side of the room.  He very adeptly navigated across assembly lines of hanging carcasses being whisked through stations.  I had to pause often to get the timing right for fear of getting whacked with a carcass, but more so of somehow screwing up the whole operation.   Eventually he took me to another guy, high up on a metal grating, seemingly overseeing all the operations of the floor with a panel of knobs and phones. I was to come back to this guy when we were finished getting brains so that we could be led out of the floor.  

Once back at the de-braining station Per and I decided to dive into collecting.  We then realized that with all this protective gear, we were never given any gloves.  As we glanced around, we only then noticed that in fact nobody on the floor had gloves.   To ask for gloves would mean bothering three more people, interrupting the whole operation, and potentially receiving the scorn of the people in the room that were already looking at us with annoyance.  So we dug in with bare hands.   From our position, pigs came by cut in half.  They were whole about 30 meters to the left of us, where a guy stood with what essentially looked like a giant chainsaw with a firehose integrated. He cut the pigs, hung by their forelegs, perfectly in half, head to tail.  When the half pigs came by us, a woman was grabbing the brains and kidneys, and tossing them into separated cartons.  We then grabbed the half-brains, about 3 seconds out of the pig, and still quite warm, and tossed them into an ice-cold saline solution.   Occasionally a kidney would accidentally fly into our carton.  It probably took us 15 minutes to collect 200 half-brains. 
After we had packed all the brains in the car and ready to go, we were blocked in for several minutes by a huge semi truck - with a trailer containing dozens of pigs sticking their little snouts out through grates in the side of the truck, eyeing us in confusion.  If we had come 30 minutes later we would have had their brains in the trunk. 

Back in Dresden the sun had come up and a small team had assembled to process the brains as fast as possible.  The first step was to clean them up.  A cold room was set up to process them.

It was a cheerful environment as the team whistles while they work:

Ultimately the brains were liquified in a giant blender for further processing.  The official protocol says they should be blended until the consistency of a nice strawberry milkshake. 

More milkshake action, in the 4 degrees C room.  10 liters of brains in the end.

The rest of the purification consisted mostly of hours and hours of centrifugation steps and running protein over columns until reasonably pure tubulin was isolated.  One thing I did not foresee was that the incredible penetrating stench of the slaughterhouse would stay in in my clothes and skin.

Here Per and I had changed clothes from the slaughterhouse, but the stench of the worn clothes were so great we had to wrap them in plastic bags.  And were only in there for 30 minutes!  My skin even smelled for a day.  I can't imagine working 40 hours a week in that place.  I guess you get used to it, but that smell must be permanently attached to you. 

In the end the prep was a success, but we slightly underestimated our brain capacity and could have collected more in the beginning.  By making tubulin ourselves, we saved literally tens to hundreds of thousands of euros compared to buying it pure. 

As for the experience of seeing a slaughterhouse in action, and my newly found pseudo-vegetarianism, I was glad for the opportunity to visit.  It wasn't really all that disturbing to me while inside, as the pigs were already partially processed by the time they came in our room (dead, with no hair or skin, more like being in a giant meat locker).  It did kind put some things in perspective when the truckload of live ones showed up as we were leaving.  These are intelligent fully-aware individuals being processed.  And the sheer number was astounding.  

Our expectations for having meat for every meal really doesn't make sense when you sit down and think about it.  It's not sustainable, it's not in anyway necessary for health reasons, and as I've found out, meat actually tastes a whole lot better when you eat it on rare occasions, and when it's of the highest quality. I've gone from about 10 meals a week containing meat, to less than one a week on average.  I don't miss it, because if I really have a craving, or if I'm in a nice restaurant, or traveling, I go ahead and have some, preferably of free-range origin.   I'll never give up an occasional BBQ brisket or fresh homemade bratwurst, but I'm happy to give up cold-cut turkey (I cut out turkey, cold-turkey, so to speak, going from 4 sandwiches a week for the last 10 years to zero since I stopped), low grade hamburgers, canned tuna, and tasteless steaks that you just stuff in your face to make you full. 

Sunday, December 04, 2011

December in Germany

Okay, 9 months since my last post.  Anybody who read this blog regularly is long gone.  December is here, and along comes the wonderful Christmas season in Germany.  This winter so far has been unseasonably warm, and while I really can't complain, I do hope we get a good snowfall at least once before the holidays are over.  Two years ago I posted a round-up of the Christmas markets around Dresden with photos.  Last year I posted a time-lapse movie over-looking the Striezelmarkt.

Last year I got a few nice photos when there was some snow on the ground, and I'll post them now since it hasn't snowed this year.  The first is from the Neumarkt Christmas market, currently the best in Dresden:

Last year I went down to Nürnberg during the season, too, and luckily it snowed.  What a beautiful town.  

And the year ended with fireworks in Dresden


Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Cell Phone Camera Dump

About a year since the last one, random images and observations accumulating on my phone:

If you live in Germany, sometimes, even if you're leaning vegetarian lately, you just have to go for big hearty German meal, like Haxe, Saurkraut, Knödel, and Bier.

This is a photo of the sleeping situation I've encountered multiple times in hotels. This bed is two mattresses. There is a space in the middle. The frame of the bed is once piece. Who is this for?? If you want to sleep two together, or spread out alone over the bed, somebody falls in the crack. If you want to sleep two separately, you cannot separate the mattresses. On the other hand, I HAVE gotten used to the whole no covering sheet thing in Germany. Just a mattress covering sheet and a duvet.

This vuvuzela has been in our lab for years. It is not used anymore, but at one time it was the bane of my existence, and so I wrote "Use only in case of emergency" on it. And somebody got smart with an extra comment.

Speaking of vuvuzelas, last summer was of course the world cup. I happened to be traveling while Germany was playing, along with several other unfortunate souls. I think this was the Frankfurt airport, where not only was the gave live all over the airport, not only did they even pipe it in on planes, but the buses that took us to the planes had a live feed over the speakers. What you hear here is the drone of vuvuzelas over the radio.

This photo is also from the summer. I was at a conference in Heidelberg, and as I was leaving a full cafeteria of people on the last day after saying goodbyes to catch the train home, I walked smack straight into a clear glass door. I did not look back to see people staring, but walked straight on to catch a cab, pausing only to reflect on the pain and take a photograph of the welt developing on my forehead.

Flohmarkt on the Elbe. Cliff and Sarah rented a stand to get rid of their wares in preparation for moving back to the States. I joined and sold a shirt and a headset!

This was on odd, uh....snack I found on the shelves in the supermarket. Texas barbeque-flavored Taccos. My impression is that it's some sort of god-awful combination of tacos, texas BBQ, and some sort of shish-kebab. So I went to the Chio website to learn more. You should visit, it has a very cheesy sound intro followed by - and it changes when you reload - either a man or woman essentially having an orgasm. If you navigate to the Taccos page, you learn they "schmecken wie deftiges Texas Barbecue, kross über dem Lagerfeuer geröstet - ganz so, wie's die Cowboys lieben". riiiiiight.

The tortillas chips you can find in stores here are basically terrible, even though I've gotten used to one brand...but the Chio brand are the worst. They taste and have the texture of pure chemicals. And the cheese dip they market, I literally could not eat. Had to throw the whole thing in the trash.

In conclusion, not even the lure of a free trip home can get me to buy this product.

This is my favorite Hefeweizen. It's not super-easy to find in Dresden, you have to know where to go, but when you find it it's 79 cents a bottle I think. This photo was taken in a supermarket back in the States, don't remember if in NY or TX. Excited they had the beer, was subsequently saddened by the price tag. If and when I get back to the States this will be a hard transition.

Last month I went skiing in Austria. This was the view (click to enlarge; taken with cell phone camera - not masterful at panorama stitching) at the top of a lift where we ate lunch a few times. Unreal.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Singing Sinatra

This year's MPI-CBG Christmas party was a bigger hit than usual, and I think most people agreed it was due to a new format, which was basically much more informal, and with lots of live music, spearheaded by Tim Cross. Several months prior, Tim sent out an email calling for anybody with any sort of musical talent to sign up to play at the Christmas party. I sent an email back saying I'd always dreamed of singing Sinatra with a band, but had never sung before an audience, nor had been trained in any way. I did not expect Tim's response, which was "RIGHT FUCKING ON!!!", and a promise to assemble a band. I then attempted to back out several times over the next couple months, thinking I was in over my head, but Tim wouldn't have it. And so a band was assembled, and with a handful of rehearsals, but never with the entire ensemble present, we pulled off a number of tunes that night:

Tim is on bass, Per's on guitar, Coleman on the drums, Guillaume on paino, and Veikko on violin. These guys basically pulled this off without really practicing, and with me asking for stupid things like changing the key up a couple steps cause it was more familiar that way. It was quite impressive.

I don't have videos of any of the many many other acts from the night, but they were
quite phenomenal, sometimes to a jaw-dropping degree. It's amazing to see your colleagues really jam and wail.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dresden Neustadt - Old and New

One day in a random web walk I came across some old black and white photos of Neustadt on somebody's flickr page. It appears that they were taken in the early 90s - not long after the wall came down. Several seem to involve some of the first BRN (BunteRepublikNeustadt) festivals. Most of them include what most likely were long neglected and then rapidly abandoned buildings - most of which (but my no means all) have been since restored. I thought it'd be fun to try to identify the same places in Neustadt as a sort of puzzle, and then try to photograph them today, from the same perspective. Some of them were easy to find, some were difficult, and some basically impossible (closeups with little clues). Below are the ones I've found (I've made mine black and white too for better comparison).

The first is of Alaunstrasse, where there are now a couple of crappy bars. What used to be a bricked up part of the facade is now the entrance.

A closer photo nearby shows how another previously bricked-up entrance is transformed into....another soulless bar....

Also on Alaunstrasse, you see how the buildings have been renovated, and right now they are reconstructing the road here.

I like this next one. Böhmischestr., just around the corner from my flat. This was unmistakably Raskolnikov, with the characteristic window shutters (one of the decent bar/restaurants in Neustadt). To be sure I actually was able to find the exact same stones in both photos. Notice the new photo is the one with cobblestones. Those are about a year old. This is still one of the best streets to visit during BunteRepublikNeustadt - it seems maintains some of the original vibe.

This is another photo from Böhmischestr., now between Rothenburgerstr. and Alaunstr.
Notice there's a patch of cement on the new photo where there was some sort of piping in the old photo. It looks like the doors have been totally replaced, but keeping part of the design. Also, you see holes in the wall from an older sign exist on both photos.

Here's the corner of Louisenstr. and Alaunstr. Now mostly vegetation in front of "Katy's Garage". Which is not actually a garage, but.....another crappy bar.

Here are a couple shots from Sebnitzerstr. First, a "Kinderplatz", where the ground seems to be about two feet higher than it was 20 years ago, based on the building.

And a row of seemingly abandoned buildings

Finally a photo I took this month, but could easily have been from 1993, with the Trabant and graffiti....