Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Dresden, Germany

The Frauenkirche and Martin Luther statue
Dresden was one of the destinations I was most looking forward to on this trip for three reasons: it's the smallest city on our travels (population just over half a million), it would be a new city in Germany for me, and we had an excursion planned to the Swiss Saxony National Park.

The summer palace in the Grosser Garten
Due to time restraints and the smaller size of Dresden, we only scheduled two full days there, including the excursion. We have not been wasting time on our travel days though. We arrived in the afternoon, settled into our hostel, and went out to explore. The only real highlight the first day was the Grosser Garten, where we wandered around the park, took pictures with the Sommerpalais, and found a geocache. In the evening, we ate döner kebabs, a Turkish food that Germany has embraced, and we enjoyed a cocktail in the rooftop terrace of our hostel overlooking the city.

Exploring the park... TREES!!!
The first full day there was the real day in Dresden. Our first stop was the famous Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) which was destroyed during WWII, then rebuilt 50 years later and reopened in 2005. Afterwards, we located the tourist office where we had bought our Swiss Saxony excursion tickets online to ask about the meeting point. It took some searching, but eventually we found the office, checked in with the lady, and everything seemed good to go, even though everyone besides her was on vacation - in the middle of tourist season.

Inside the Frauenkirche
Then we moseyed about thBrühl's Terrace, nicknamed the "Balcony of Europe," which runs alongside the Elbe River. This terrace eventually led us to the Procession of Princes, which according to Wikipedia is the largest porcelain artwork in the world. It depicts portraits of Saxon kings, dukes, and other high ranking officials from 1127 - 1904. 

We stopped briefly at the Dresden Cathedral and the Zwinger Palace before delving into the museum exhibits at the Dresden Castle. This was one of the best museums I've ever visited, and I highly recommend it if visiting Dresden. While here, we also climbed the clock tower to have a nice view of the historic district. 

By this time, it was around 3pm, so we made our way to Cafe Sperling for lunch, after which we took our tired feet to another park to laze about before heading back to the hostel to wash clothes and hang out on the rooftop terrace.

Panorama of the Procession of Princes

It rained that day. too.
The next day was the day I had been waiting for - the tour to Swiss Saxony Park. Scheduled for 10:00am at the meeting point, we arrived at about 9:40. We stood around for a while until a tour guide with a hop-on, hop-off bus company thought we looked lost. We told him about our tour. It was his tour company that provided that tour, he said, but the bus left at 9:30. He called someone. He apologized. He was helpful and sincere. Crap. Disheartened, we returned to the tour office where we had purchased the tickets. No one was there. We went to talk to another tourist info place. That was the only trip to the park today, they said. We went to a cafe to collect ourselves. Caleb returned to the initial tour place and was able to meet with someone and request a refund. 

The ferry
Why can't we just go? It's on the S-Bahn line. Our Eurail tickets cover all travel on the S-Bahn trains. Okay. Let's go. So we went on our own. It took us about 45 minutes to get there. We ate glorious salads in a restaurant in a little town near the border of the Czech Republic, then realized to make the hike to the Bastei bridge, we were on the wrong S-Bahn stop. So we went back to the right stop (ferry, S-bahn, ferry) and had plenty of time to enjoy the walk in the woods up to the Bastei bridge. The bridge itself wasn't as big as I had expected, but the whole experience of being there was amazing with some incredible views of the German countryside. 

The Bastei Bridge

A view from the top

We ate schnitzel and wurst in the little Germany town at the base of the Bastei before hopping on the S-Bahn to go back to the hostel. A train attendant asked for our Eurail tickets and was pretty insistent that we fill in some information about our travels that we knew we didn't need to fill in. I held my own arguing with her in German, and eventually, she gave up. Victory! 

Even though we didn't spend too much time in Dresden, Caleb and I both felt that there was a strong sense of community and family. It felt like a lovely city with acceptance for all types of people, and it was a pleasant and beautiful place to visit. Next stop, Prague!


Waiting for our train to Prague

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