Day 19: Saturday, September 23, 2006
a Beautiful Place
We got up fairly early and set out
for our three hour journey to Dresden. When we were planning
our trip, we wanted to go to what was, at one time, the old East Germany. We
had been advised that Dresden was an interesting place to go.
We headed out of Nürnberg and got on the
autobahn without getting lost. The scenery on this trip was
different than anything we had seen on our trip.
There were lots of large hills and deep valleys with forests and
areas of red soil. The land was the driest that we had
experienced thus far.
Dresden is the capital city
of the German Federal Free State of Saxony. It is situated in a
valley on the River Elbe. The city's population in 2006 was 500,000
(2006); that of the greater Dresden conurbation, 1.25 million.
Dresden is part of the Saxon Triangle metropolitan area, with an
overall population of over 3.2 million. Dresden has a long history
as the capital and royal residence for the Kings of Saxony, who for
centuries furnished the city with cultural and artistic splendor.
The controversial bombing of Dresden in World War II, plus 40 years
in the Soviet bloc state of East Germany, changed the face of the
city dramatically. Since German re-unification, Dresden has emerged
as a cultural, political, and economic centre in the eastern part of
the Federal Republic of Germany.
Dresden is a city of startling
contrasts. Next to the beautiful vistas and impressive sights in
the city (most of the famous buildings destroyed in World War II
have been restored or rebuilt from scratch) one can find several
appalling areas and depressing neighbourhoods. Partly, history
is to blame for this. Two long nights in February 1945 were
enough to annihilate the bigger part of Dresden's architectural
heritage. The city was once an important cultural and commercial
metropolis featuring some of Germany's most impressive
The most important urban renewal/reconstruction project was
the reconstruction of the Frauenkirche ("Church of Our
Lady") and the surrounding Neumarkt district. The church,
once the city's symbol and widely considered the world's
finest Protestant church, was rebuilt following German
reunification in 1991 from the remaining pile of rubble of
the original church's ruins thanks to private and corporate
of Frauenkirche after the 1945 bombings
It was completed in 2005, a year
before Dresden's 800th birthday. The new Frauenkirche was
rebuilt according to historical drawings and photographs and has
been open for public use since Reformation Day 2005. Despite the
inner city's almost total destruction in World War II, many
areas have been restored to their former glory. The urban
renewal process will continue for many decades, but public and
government interest remains high, and there are numerous large
projects underway — both historic reconstructions and modern
plans — that will continue the city's recent architectural
We checked into our lovely
Hotel Belmondo and caught the transit to the city centre.
The transit here consists of smaller, above-ground trains that
run on trolley wires. We arrived at the Altmarkt (Old
Market Square) in the Altstadt (Old City). The
geographical center of Dresden, this site is also the central
focus of the city's post-war development and restoration.
Restaurants, bars, discos and nightclubs share space with
baroque castles and churches, Italianate palaces and museums.
The heart of the city has managed
to maintain its culture and history despite massive destruction
and rebuilding under heavy Communist rule. A must-see stop on
any visitor's sightseeing list. There was some sort of festival, with rides and
food tents, going on. We order bratwurst, bratkartoffeln
(fried potatoes) and a beer - okay, Kathryn had a Fanta.
We then walked a couple of blocks to Neumarkt (New
the Neustadt (New City) is actually older than the city
centre Alstadt, due the massive firebombing that signaled the
of World War II.
The Neustadt, and its main square Neumarkt, offer visitors a
wealth of sightseeing options. This region of the city is home
huge baroque buildings as well as
bars, cafés and restaurants.
At the edge of the huge Square we
found a fenced-in archaeological dig. All the signs were
in German and I haven't been able to find anything about this on
We wandered around the Neumarkt and took several photos (see
slide show below). We strolled under an arch of the
Bruhlsche Terrasse (Brühl
Terrace) and came to the Elbe River. Often called the
"Balcony of Europe," the Terrasse runs along the edge of the
Elbe River and fronts some of the most important buildings in
the city. The park-like setting of trees and benches, as well as
the unbeatable views across the river to the Neustadt, make a
walk here a memorable experience. On spring and summer days,
tourists spill out of cafés and restaurants and fill the lively
This is a
panorama of four photos of the Brühl
Terrace. The wall looks curved because I was too close
to the wall and the way I
turned to take the photos but it is really a straight wall.
The top of the Frauenkirche is in the background above the
arch. The Elbe River is at my back.
for a larger version.
After walking around the rest
of Neumarkt, we caught the trolley, changed trains at the
Hauptbanhoff (Train Station) and went back to our hotel.
After dinner, we watched the movie "Munich" on TV in our room.
This was weird because it was in English with German subtitles
except when someone spoke German, then there were no subtitles.
When the terrorists spoke Arabic, the subtitles were in German
so we didn't know what they were saying.
Ken was totally blown away by
Dresden. Although there were many "East German" buildings
and houses and other signs of decay during the communist years,
the beautiful baroque buildings downtown were simply
For more beautiful Dresden
Click here for a slide show of Day 19 photos.