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My friend and I always plan our travels on a budget, using the cheapest transportation we can find, staying at budget hostels with their own kitchens. That is partially how we decided to stop in Dresden.
Dresden was not on our itinerary. We were on our way from Berlin to Prague by bus and via Dresden, located in a valley near the Czech border, was the route we chose to take.
Wiesse GasseVisiting Dresden turned out to be a great decision. The former Saxon capital has rare qualities not many European cities possess. The town looks best in the summer, thanks to the Elbe River, which provides a serene setting.
We arrived late at night, and began our exploration early the next day. Cosima, the receptionist of our hostel, gave us map and advised us to start our tour-by-foot from the steps behind Dresden’s Kunstakademie art school.
“You must find the steps to the Brühl Terrasse,” she explained. “And from Brühl Terrasse, you can go by foot to every must-see place in Dresden’s Altstadt [old town].”
FürstenzugTour guides refer to Bruehlsche Terrasse as “The Balcony of Europe” due to its length: the 500-meter pavement connects many of Dresden’s important baroque buildings: Standehaus, Dresden’s Kuntsakadamie, Albertinum and the Catholic Church’s Hofkirche.
Hofkirche (churchyard) is where Augustus II the Strong’s heart is buried, along with the last king of Saxony and the remains of many other members of the powerful Wettin family. Augustus II was also king of Poland and the rest of his body lies in Krakow, but his heart, that he said will always belong to Dresden, stays in Dresden.
Dresdeners have a lot to thank Augustus the Strong and his son Augustus III for. Their visions produced many of Dresden’s architypical buildings, including the Zwinger (the palace), Semperoper (Semper Opera House) and the Frauenkirche (the Church of Our Lady).
The Frauenkirche ranks amongst the world’s most beautiful baroque churches. It was one of the buildings most heavily bombed during World War II.
The British royal family is direct descendants of the Wettins and many of the donations to rebuild the church came from German’s former enemy. The church is now a symbol of reconciliation between the two countries.
When it was time for lunch, we took the steps down to the Weisse Gasse. Parallel with Neumarkt area, Weisse Gasse is where the selections of outdoor cafe and restaurants can be found. In the middle of Weisse Gasse stands the Gänsedieb or Goose Thief Fountain. The fountain depicts a student, a real person named Thomas Blatter, who supplemented his income by playing bagpipes and stealing geese.
Lots of cafes and restaurants offering international cuisine can be found in the area. We had a nice long break from the summer heat by ordering “een Gaffee un’ eene Eierschegge” (a cup of coffee and a piece of cake) in one of the cafes. We also had lunch there, a hearty goulash and dumplings accompanied with one from Dresden’s many local beers, Freiberger.
Before heading to Bhrül Gardens after lunch, we made a stop at Furstenzug, the largest porcelain artwork in the world. The 101-meter-wall is a comic strip showing all Saxon rulers from 1127 to 1904.
Dresden is the first place in Europe that did not have to import porcelain from Asia. One of their citizens, an alchemist named Böttger, accidentally found the formula for Meissner porcelain.
For dinner, we had small picnic at Bhrül Gardens, where Böttger did his legendary experiments in the garden’s cellar.
German is famous for its delicious bread and we picked several versions along with butter and sausages. We also tried Bautz’ner Senf, mustard that we were told only available in East German.
It was a perfect close for our day, enjoying dinner while watching the sun set over the beautiful Elbe Meadow.
The Brühl Terrasse at night.
Instead of shopping for gifts in souvenir shops, try local supermarket for typical old-fashioned East Germans products that even people in Western part of Germany still hardly know; products like Bambina or Knusperflocken chocolates or Dresden Stollen during Christmas time.
In Dresden, “Nu” does not mean disagreeing, the contrary, “Nu” is a Dresden version of “yes”.
If you need to ask directions, it is better to stop young people. Unlike their neighboring Holland, older people in German do not speak English well. Most people over 40 learned only Russian at school.
Bring extra jacket or sweater in case the temperature suddenly drops under 18 degrees Celcius. Europe has the most unpredictable weather, even during the summer.
Public transport in Dreden only operates until 10 p.m., so make sure you arrive in Dresden before that time because taxis are a rare sight in town.