Kathryn and Ken's European Vacation
All photos are the property of Ken Runquist and have been reduced in size for faster downloading.  The originals are 1280 x 960.  Contact me by email if you would like a larger size copy of any photo.
Day 19: Dresden
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Day 14: Lahr
Day 15: Lucerne
Day 16: Munich
Day 17: Munich
Day 18: Nurnberg
Day 19: Dresden
Day 20: Berlin
Day 21: Berlin




Belmondo Dresden


Sunny with a high of 26°C

Day 19: Saturday, September 23, 2006     Dresden, Germany

What 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 architecture. 

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 donations.

The ruins of Frauenkirche after the 1945 bombings

Frauenkirche 1930

Frauenkirche today

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 renaissance.

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 Square).  Ironically, the Neustadt (New City) is actually older than the city centre Alstadt, due the massive firebombing that signaled the end

Ken chowing down

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 to numerous huge baroque buildings as well as bars, cafés and restaurantsAt 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 the Internet.
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 Terrasse.

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.  Click here 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 breathtaking.

For more beautiful Dresden panoramas, visit http://www.stadtpanoramen.de/dresden/dresden.html


Click here for a slide show of Day 19 photos.

Day 20

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