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First Trip to Dresden

October 31 , 2004

(Written Nov 12)


Dear Families and Friends,


Dresden has been on our list of "must see" cities for a long time, but it's been surprisingly difficult to get there. First, it's not particularly near Frankfurt, much closer to Prague or to Poland in fact, so a simple weekend doesn't work. Last Spring, we tried to sneak in a Friday off but that trip ended abruptly, before we reached the old capital of Saxony, when my boss called and said I MUST show up at work. Now we were going to try again.

The idea was for Marianne to drive down to Erlangen Thursday night for the Cheese Seminar (see last diary) and then we would get an early start on the four-hour drive northeast to Dresden, in time for a full afternoon of touring. However, work again interfered and our "early" start was delayed until noon. We do have to find a way not to work, but winning the Lottery hasn't happened so far.

Anyway, we hit the autobahns at about the same time as a zillion other weekenders. Monday was going to be a holiday in Bavaria and people who had migrated southwest from job-poor eastern parts of Germany to Bavaria were heading home to enjoy their three-day weekend. This traffic was added to the normal rush of trucks to escape Germany's weekend ban on heavy trucking on autobahns. I know the tourists brochures and car magazines talk about the wonderful, high-speed roads linking all corners of Germany but, on this particular day, our road was anything but high-speed.

By the time we reached Dresden, the streets were dark, we were hungry, and any interest in touring was gone. We found our hotel, parked, unpacked, and went down to the restaurant for soup and wine. The hotel was clean and pleasant, the parking easy, the soup tasty, and the wine serviceable. Road trips were looking good again.

Dresden grew to power as the capital of the Saxony Principality. Augustus the Strong combined Saxony and Poland under his rule in 1697, converting to Catholicism to complete the deal. He and his sons went on a spree of building fancy castles, churches, offices, and homes, which they then filled with splendid treasures. Dresden was a showpiece for three-and-a-half centuries, until it was flattened by British and American bombers in three February days in 1945. Post-war rebuilding under Soviet East Germany proceeded but even now, fifty years later, scars remain.

We short-changed Dresden by visiting for just a single day. Of the 31 museums, we saw only a couple. The best of these were the Green Vaults in Augustus' palace. The collection of treasures in gold, silver, crystal, and precious stones was amazing. Pictures were forbidden so our photo album has no samples, but pictures might not do justice in any event. This was a must see. Afterwards, we managed to climb to the top of the "Hausmannsturm", an almost-restored tower that offered spectacular views of rain-soaked central Dresden. At dusk, we squeezed in a bus tour, but that just reminded us of how much we had missed.

The next day, we left before seeing more because we had several hours of driving to do, first to Erlangen to get Marianne's car and then up to Frankfurt. The long drive was not particularly fun and the prospect of repeating it some time in the future was not attractive, but Dresden is definitely on our have-to-see-it-again list. Meanwhile, we've included some pictures from our FIRST trip to Dresden.

Best regards,

John and Marianne

We walked along the Elbe River from our parking garage into the center of Dresden. The skies were gray and the air misty, but the river scene was still romantic and the Hofkirche ("high church") impressive, although we would tire a bit of gray as the day drizzled on.
We went into the grounds of the Zwinger Historical Museum and joined the crowds. The gilded garden tower would have dominated, except for the on-going reconstruction, something we saw repeatedly as Dresden gets ready to celebrate its 800th anniversary in a couple years.
This bridge connected the palace on the right to the Hofkirche, so the royal family could be devout but not inconvenienced.

In the Hausmannsturm, we found a small photo display of Dresden as it looked after the 1945 bombing. The scene was truly incredible and we could forgive the city if its reconstruction wasn't quite finished yet.

The turm ("tower") also had a 1991 restoration of the clock mechanism, this time modernized and of such craftsmanship as to be an art piece by itself.

From the tower's outer walkway we could look down on the Hofkirche, the Elbe with it's old paddle wheel boats, and the Semper Opera House.

Back on ground, this mime fascinated kids with his almost-animated story of Augustus the Weak and Puny.

Of course, the gilded statue was of Augustus the Strong, the 17th Century ruler of Saxony and Poland.

Our goal in the Neustadt ("new city") part of town had been this market, but it was a bit disappointing. I think it had been rebuilt so much that it resembled nothing more than a standard shopping mall or ubiquitous "Food Court".
Walking back, Marianne posed by the door of a perfectly restored tour bus. The driver opened the door and invited her aboard, for the next trip. Instead, we took a regular double-deck bus. (The car next to it was a Trabant, the Soviet East German entry-level car, cardboard fenders and all.)
At night, the Hofkirche and neighbors were quite charming, even the rain wasn't so bad, I suppose.

In 1708 Boettger "invented" European porcelain and the first Meissen factory started three years later near Dresden. Today, Meissen and Dresden porcelain commands royal prices.

This mosaic, is also Meissen porcelain, 24,000 tiles of it, depicting all the Princes of Saxony from 1123 through 1904. Only governments can afford this kind of pottery!


ps: websites:

--------Dresden Tourism: http://www.dresden.de/index.html?node=12248

--------Our Hotel: http://www.residenz-alt-dresden.de/2004/english/home.html



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