Central Europe Adventures 2016 – Part Twelve: Dresden

After a week exploring Vienna, Bratislava, and Prague it was time to return to Germany. The train pulled out of Prague just as the sun was setting on a Sunday evening. To get to Dresden the train runs alongside the Vltava and the Elbe Rivers which was a very picturesque until it became too dark to see outside. Darkness completely descended around an hour north of Prague as we pulled into the Czech city of Ústí nad Labem. Despite the darkness this city looked fascinating to visit and is somewhere I would love to return to.

As we crossed the border into Germany many hikers boarded the train who had been hiking in the nearby region of Saxon Switzerland. I got rather excited discovering new places to visit and I quized my German travelling companion about Saxon Switzerland and I began mentally planning my next trip to this area of the world.

Our train pulled into Dresden Hauptbahnhof just before 7pm and we immediately headed for the S-Bahn to take our luggage to our hotel before getting dinner. Our hotel was located next to the Dresden Mitte station and – as the German word mitte means centre – we were expecting our hotel to be in the middle of Dresden. However, both sadly and surprisingly the effects of the destruction of Dresden from the second world war are still visible. Our hotel was between a train station and a main road with nothing much else but light industry surrounding it.

Once we had checked out luggage into our hotel, my friend and I walked the 15 minutes from our hotel to Dresden’s Altmarkt, walking past the amazing Zwinger Palace along the way. At the Altmarkt we had dinner at a Hans im Glück restaurant on the very strong recommendation from one of my friends in Munich. The burgers at Hans im Glück are amazing, they are on par with the best that a Burgerfuel in New Zealand can produce.

After dinner we walked around the Dresden Winterzauber (Winter Magic) Fair that was being held in the Altmarkt square. I tried to convince my friend to go ice skating again but he claimed he was still bruised from falling over on the ice rink in Vienna the week earlier.

We then came upon a memorial to the victims of the Dresden Bombing. The memorial was lit up with candles as coincidentally on the day I arrived it was 71 years to the day since the bombing occurred. On the site where the memorial lies in the square 6,865 bodies were cremated after the bombings. After pausing to ponder the needless destruction that war brings and its lasting scar on cities and cultural understandings we headed back to our hotel for the night.

Early the next morning we decided that getting tickets for a tour of the Dresden Semperoper (opera house) would be our top priority. As tickets often sell out we were first in line as the box office opened for the day. After we secured our tickets for the afternoon tour, we headed out to a cafe to get breakfast. For breakfast I had the most amazing scrambled eggs and do it yourself hot chocolate – you literally melt a block of chocolate into a cup of hot milk. If you visit Dresden check out Schloßcafé Emil Reimann their staff, service, and food is excellent.

Following breakfast, we walked around the few old buildings in the Innere Altstadt, visited the rebuilt Frauenkirche and decided to check out the Neues Grünes Gewölbe (New Green Vault) museum. The Neues Grünes Gewölbe contains a number of different exhibits. The first area containing the Dresden Green Diamond and other royal pieces is spectacular. And the later areas containing armour from the middle ages and coins dating back to the Greeks are equally impressive.

After a few hours inside the museum we went to the shopping area of Prager Straße to get a quick lunch before heading back to the Semperoper for our tour. The tour of the opera house was brilliant, our guide covered a huge history of the various opera houses in Dresden and the influence of Strauss and Wagner.

After the tour we then continued our exploration of the city. Across from the Semperoper is the Catholic Hofkirche (cathedral) and while inside the church the organ was being played. We then crossed the Elbe and walked around the Innere Neustadt area, including a visit to the “most beautiful dairy shop in the world”, the Molkerei Gebrüder Pfund. As the sun set we went to the Bundeswehr Military History Museum (photos will be in a different blog). Finally we wrapped up the day avoiding a PEGIDA protest and had dinner at Hans im Glück again.

We began our final day in Dresden the same way we had began the previous with breakfast at Schloßcafé Emil Reimann again. We then went to check out the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister at the Zwinger but unfortunately it was closed for renovation. Instead we went to the Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon which contains many historical clocks and scientific instruments. I was most intrigued by the Astronomical Clock of Elector August which shows the positions of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the Sun and the Moon. Additionally, Blaise Pascal’s Mechanical Calculator was impressive for its historical significance. After we had spent a few hours here it was time to leave Dresden for our next destination, Berlin.