I’ve been saying it for months now, with Dresden being a short and inexpensive bahn ride away, I need a day trip to the capital of Sachsen.
It finally happened. I visited Dresden.
It is as beautiful as people say it is, there has been so much construction work done since the German reunification in the 1990s to rebuild everything that was destroyed in the second World War.
I can’t say too much about the culture and feel of the city, because I spent half the day in the Altstadt seeing the popular and famous sites, including the churches and Residenz, so that’s always a tourist area. And then I spent the afternoon in Neustadt, which feels more like an area to actually live in, and has a feel of what (I think) the whole city of Leipzig embodies.
If you’re living in Germany or having an extended stay in the country, a great way and relatively inexpensive method to travel, is take the regional day-trip ticket or a similar offer with Deutsche Bahn. I did the Regional Day Ticket because I knew I’d be in Dresden for only the day, it’s also great because you can add people to the ticket for about 5 EUR per person for up to 5 people total (including yourself). Purchasing these types of tickets limits you to traveling on the Regional Bahn (RB), but if you’re not traveling too far, it’s totally worth the little bit of extra time. For example, if you take a high-speed train from Leipzig to Dresden, your travel time is about an hour; whereas if you take the RB from Leipzig to Dresden, it’s only a half-hour longer and you save money.
Arriving at the Haupbahnhof in Dresden Altstadt, one of the first things I spotted walking out of the station and into the city were several police officers dressed in gear with their assault rifles. Now, living in Western Europe or traveling in this area the past few years, it’s become kind of normal to see that in tourist areas of popular destinations. In Leipzig, I think we’re lucky, and you see the police presence, but I haven’t seen any intense gear or weapons here (yet). After waking up early on a Saturday morning, running to catch a tram to make it to the train station in time, then quietly enjoying the ride to Dresden, it was a bit of a surprise to see. I don’t know about you, but seeing that generally makes me feel more uneasy than not seeing armed patrol-people. For example, when I’ve swam in an ocean, I know sharks exist but I don’t think that there are sharks in the water around me, except in the Gold Coast of Australia: they have shark nets there, so the fear of sharks was on my mind the entire time I was in the ocean! Strange how the presence of something can make the awareness of it change your perceptions.
Dresden houses a population of over 500,000 people, so although the city isn’t small, being in the old and new city centres, felt small. It can be a challenge when you have a short period of time to spend in a new place; how do you decide on what to see/do/eat/experience? For me, I enjoy to go off of friends recommendations and other information I read off of blog posts. When I search for what main attractions to visit in a new place, information is relatively easy to find. I really need to dig deep to find those ‘hidden gems’ in a sense, to try to experience something the locals do.
Walking around the Altstadt is as picturesque as what you hear. I took one photo with my phone, and looking at it now makes me think of Cinderella: horse drawn carriage, beautiful classical architecture in the background, the sun shining – seriously, if film cameras were still super popular, I’d have used up 3 rolls (at least) of film while there. The Frauenkirche is stunning, both inside and out, and the rebuild was completed in 2005; seeing the marble columns inside with the deco style surrounding organ chimes – just stunning, I’ll also note this church is free to go in. My friends and I opted to eat lunch at the Augustiner Brauhaus located very close to this church. We decided the view and ease of German food and drink being worth the price. It’s a chain of restaurants around larger cities in Germany, originated in Bavaria, but I knew the food would be plenty and the beer was a standard German delight. I opted for the Käsespätzle, and I’m pretty sure I’ll end up writing a food blog post on that in itself soon enough (so cheesy and tasty), while my travel partners got the Schweizer Wurstsalat aus ‘Regensburgern’ and Hausgebackener Leberkäse.
Other highlights of the beautiful re-created old buildings in Dresden are: the Semperoper, Katholische Hofkirche, Residenzschloss, and Zwinger.
I was particularly taken with the beauty of the Zwinger, which is a baroque area of gardens that is enclosed by a neoclassical building that was created by Gottfried Semper in the mid-nineteenth century. If you’ve read other travel articles I’ve written, they you might see a pattern that I write about parks and gardens – I mean, they’re gorgeous, and on a sunny warm day, being outside is the way to go. Walking up the stairs to the terrace that circles around the garden, filled with small statues, it was lovely. I even appreciated seeing a tour guide dressed in period clothing walk through the garden (at a distance I thought it was perhaps a photoshoot!). Inside you can pay to see the renowned porcelain collection, but I was happy enough just walking around the top and taking in all the beauty.
Walking along Bruhl’s Terrace, seeing the Elbe River, was also filled with magnificent sites (although surrounded by construction. Welcome to construction season, I mean summer). I didn’t realize, unfortunately, but underneath the Terrace is the Dresden Fortress. Wandering around near the waterfront, we decided to pop in to the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Kunst, and I’m thrilled that we did. I’m not always a big fan of contemporary art, however, it was pretty nifty to walk the halls of this art school. There were a couple basic interactive pieces, for example, a sink drain with a variety of small pins inviting you to take one (and I did)! Sometimes, finding something that you weren’t even looking for is the most fun for me when visiting a place.
Ok, now to the alternative space in Dresden, or what I know of it thus far.
The graffiti, small cafes and restaurants, and kitschy shops. I love tacky things, so stopping in the Kunsthofpassage and seeing the Fruchtfliege shop was a highlight for me! I would’ve never thought a fruit fly could be cute, alas, cartoons can make anything super süß. I love postcards, especially tacky or cute ones like these fruit flies, so this was a score for me. Walking North towards the Neustadt, I enjoyed seeing some flea market type set-ups on the sidewalk. I loved seeing a bottle holder circle a garbage can for folks to put their empty bottles in, as well as graffiti on garbage bins and trees! Cool artwork on drainage pipes on buildings, lots of outdoor patio seating, and an all around relaxed atmosphere. I appreciated reading information on the graffiti and Neustadt area ahead of time so that I was aware to leave the city centre and check out this neighbourhood! (Side note: I like her blog for travel tips)
It was a game day for the 2018 World Cup, naturally we had to find a biergarten to watch it at. After wandering the neighbourhood, we decided on a place nearby as to not miss much of the game, and we were thirsty for a beer. Louisen Garten has the pretty typical German patio furniture, several beer selections from draft, as well as other drinks and grilled snacks to choose from. Hilariously enough, a bachelorette party stopped by, where the bride-to-be was working to sell random items to get some change (which I believe all proceeds go to the rest of the day’s festivities). It seems pretty popular, at least in Eastern Germany, that when a bachelor(ette) party is happening, the group works hard to embarrass them by doing silly things – such as having the bride/groom dress-up and have tiny bottles of schnapps, random kids toys, etc. to try to get some cash for.
I can check Dresden off my list of the many, many places to visit living in this lovely country. I’m a big fan of German cuisine (I mean, except for all the pickled items), beer, beautiful architecture and history: Dresden offers all this. Sometimes, I question my move to the East, but having Dresden and Berlin not too far away makes it nice. The size of Dresden is pretty attractive to me, because cities of this size make it fairly easy to get around by foot and still cover a lot of ground. I look forward to spending more time exploring this city, and lots of the smaller towns and sights in the surrounding area, such as the Sächsische Schweiz. #travelgoals