Located in Saxony, East Germany, just over two hours away by train from Berlin, Dresden is a beautiful and historical city situated on the banks of River Elbe. During World War II, Dresden’s city centre was completely destroyed by the Allied force bombs which also killed thousands of civilians. However, the entire centre was reconstructed and all the landmarks and historical buildings have, since then been restored to their former glory. This makes visiting this city even more interesting.
Owing to the city’s beautiful location (on the banks of river Elbe), the exquisite baroque architecture and its importance as a cultural hub, Dresden is popularly known as the ‘Florence on the Elbe‘. Historically, the city was used used as the residence of Electors and Kings of Saxony, and that is the prime reason for its rich artistic and cultural heritage.
Dresden is also located exactly mid-way between Berlin and Prague in Czech Republic (which was our final destination). This made it easy for us to stop off for a day before continuing on. The twenty four hours we spent there was absolutely worth it.
Our nice mid-sized budget hotel, Motel One Dresden Am Zwinger was very conveniently located right next to the Zwinger Palace and was walking distance from the other important landmarks. Since check-in at the hotel was only after 3pm, we decided to leave our bags and head straight for the Zwinger, one of the best known examples of baroque architecture in the world. Built in 1709, the Zwinger was used for tournaments and court events. Now the building and its galleries are used as museums, including the Alte Meister, which houses the famous Madonna Sistina of Rafael.
Just a few metres away from the Zwinger, stands the Semperoper – Opera House. Originally built in 1841 by combining a classical style with renaissance elements, this building was destroyed by fire in 1869. It was rebuilt in 1878 but destroyed again during the World War II. In 1985, it was successfully reconstructed for the second time and continues to enthrall the audiences with ballets, operas and concerts.
One of Dresden’s most important and popular sights is the Frauenkirche, or Church of Our Lady. Built between 1726 and 1743, this church was completely destroyed by Allied force bombings. The ruins were left untouched as an anit-war memorial and reconstruction only began in 1994, after Germany was unified. The church reopened again in 2005.
While walking from the Semperoper to the Frauenkirche, we came across the Fürstenzug – the Procession of Princes! It is the largest porcelain mural in the world, depicting a parade of Saxonian princes and dukes. Originally painted on the wall, it was later replaced by 23000 porcelain tiles to make it weatherproof. Some say it looks better at night when the wall is all lit up, but to me it was equally imposing in the day. The mural can be found on the outer wall of the Stables courtyard of the Dresden palace.
All this walking around had made K and me really grubby so we stopped at a nice and busy looking coffee shop right in the main square. I had read that one of the must eats while in Dresden was the Dresdner eierschecke. I promptly ordered one and despite not being a fan of desserts, I thoroughly enjoyed this cheesecake-like dessert which was so different from a regular cheesecake!
Next stop on our things-to-see list was the Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault). For anyone who enjoys seeing historical treasures, precious gems and ornately crafted jewellery, this place is a must visit. The exhibits are massive and you need quite a bit of time to see both the Neues Grünes Gewölbe and the Historisches Grünes Gewölbe.
We then crossed over to the Altmarkt (Old Market) square where a small and quaint local market was taking place. Given that this was also the time of Oktoberfest, the market was serving several different types of beer and had a large number stalls selling local food. This is where we had an early supper with more than a few pints of beer!
On the way back to the hotel, we took a leisurely stroll down Brühl’s Terrace, nicknamed ‘The balcony of Europe’. The terrace provides beautiful and uninterrupted views of the Elbe in front while at the back stand the grand and majestic buildings of Dresden.
By the time we arrived back at our hotel, K was exhausted and decided to call it a night. I, however, was keen on taking a walk through the Zwinger and the church later in the night. So after resting my feet for an hour or so, I made my way back to the main square and captured some of the best images (below). There were no crowds…no tourists…just history and me.