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Trip Report A Superb 8 Days in Dresden

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My wife and I had a marvellous 8 days in Dresden, in the latter half of March 2014. Beforehand we enjoyed familiarising ourselves about the attractions in and around Dresden, of which there are numerous. We really looked forward to the visit and I’m glad to say our high expectations were well exceeded. We saw lots in a very relaxed manner. The early spring weather was pleasant throughout, ideal for sightseeing.

We love walking and did much, which was one of the pleasures of the holiday. We used the excellent S-Bahn system extensively, also the trams, getting good value from our weekly tickets.

I would like to share some of our lovely experiences, so off we go.

Wednesday
After on-time Lufthansa flights from Dublin we arrived at the Historical Elbvilla Apartment on Bautzner St at 2pm. The accommodation was very spacious and comfortable, tranquil and an ideal base for the holiday. Our host was most welcoming and helpful.

The Villa back garden leads onto the lovely Elbe meadows with its cycle and walking paths. We strolled along the river at a leisurely pace to Augustusbrucke (the third bridge). As we approached the centre the glorious iconic skyline came into view.

We walked around the gorgeous streetscapes admiring the outstanding Baroque buildings. We are very interested in architecture, viewing it as a form of public art. This city is a fabulous exemplar, encompassing the marvellous restored centre to the modernity of the Glass Factory, the New Synagogue and Parliament and not forgetting the quirky Yenidze.

We viewed the impressive Procession of Princes and it was fascinating to learn that it comprises approximately 23,000 Meissen tiles. We saw the magnificent Zwinger and Semper Opera House, uncrowded on the fine square. We looked forward to attending a performance later in the holiday.

We visited the Frauenkirche, which is such a powerful symbol. The interior is astounding. The multitude of decorative features includes beautiful stonework and carvings, gilt and painting. The salvaged mangled cross stands conspicuously. We lit a candle to join the many others symbolising peace.

We finished the day with a fine meal at Alte Meister, followed by a walk home along Bautzner St. We saw the unmissable gleaming Golden Horseman statue of Augustus the Strong, a ruler whose legacy is widespread.
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Thursday
We took the S-Bahn to Pirna and enjoyed the trip in the early morning sunshine. It is a lovely town with a colourful Market square and attractive architecture.

We are very interested in the history of the places we visit so we wished to see the sobering Sonnenstein Memorial. It is a pleasant walk up to the fortress, with panoramic views over the town and Marienkirche.

The museum is at the far end of a park, in which there is also a somewhat dilapidated church with a notable feature of vivid blue windows, some broken. The memorial is located in the basement of the building where the original atrocities happened. We found the descriptions and exhibits very moving giving a detailed and graphic account of the incomprehensible horrors that took place here.
There are photographs and a mini biography of some of the victims. Touchingly, on display is a collection of personal possessions, including a comb and mouth organ. On some of the paving stones in front of the building a cross has been painted in different colours.

On the way back we visited the fine Marienkirche and admired particularly the magnificent vaulted roof.

We had tickets booked for a 1pm entrance to the Historisches Grünes Gewölbe in the Residenzschloss. The collection of precious treasures is astonishing. From the first room containing lovely amber works, the beauty and exquisiteness of the pieces continue to the final exhibits.

We took a break for a cappuccino and snack at the outdoor seating at Café Vis-à-Vis on the Terrace, before resuming in the New Green Vault. Another treasure-trove. Two that stand out are the Moghul Court extravaganza and the ivory frigate with wispy sails and the multitude of miniature sailors.

Walked home along the Elbe, very scenic in the setting sun. Later we repaired to Restaurant Henricus for dinner.

Friday
An early train took us to the pretty town of Freiberg, which necessitated a fare supplement as it is beyond the VVO area. A pleasant walk along the park with lakes brought us to the gorgeous Schloss, home to the astonishing Terra Mineralia. Over a number of floors the displays of thousands of minerals and crystals from all parts of the world are wondrous.

After visiting the Dom St. Marien, with its fine interior, we enjoyed the trip back to Dresden. In the afternoon we availed of the lovely sunshine and visited Rathen by S-Bahn. As we approached we could see the unique rock formations of the Bastei. We ascended, with panoramic views of the whole area. Later we relaxed with dinner on the terrace of a riverside hotel, watching the lights shimmering in the river as the sun set.

Saturday
In the morning we took the S1 to Grosssedlitz to see the Baroque Garden. It was a pleasant walk through farmland to the striking gates. We expected the trees to be still leafless and a dearth of blooms but the scale of the gardens still impressed. We enjoyed a relaxing stroll around the manicured paths, which are adorned with much statuary.

We spent a delightful afternoon in Meissen. Crossing the bridge from the Bahnhof we got our first views of the magnificent Albrechtsburg. After walking around the lower town square we ascended the steps to the complex. The Gothic cathedral is splendid. The view along the nave is wonderful with the sea of columns soaring heavenwards. The seats have a gorgeous red hue, adding to the experience.

We got an audioguide for the Albrechtsburg that gave a comprehensive and fascinating account of each of the highly ornate rooms. A notable feature is the vaulted ceiling in many. The quest for porcelain, ‘white gold’, was engagingly described and some beautiful examples are on display.

Later that evening we were fortunate to attend the vesper in Kreutzkirche with the Kreuzchor. It was almost full to capacity; our seats were on the first balcony affording us a good view of proceedings. The Choir was exceptional.

The church interior is striking. The almost ubiquitous off-white plaster is very effective and the organ against this background is fabulous. There are some lovely features, including the fine balconies, arches, roof and altar.

Sunday
An early S1 to Radebeul-Ost, where we saw the Lößnitzgrund Railway steam locomotives, left us a short walk from the Karl May Museum. The two villas comprising the museum were good. First stop was Villa Bärenfett, devoted to the American Indian and featuring hundreds of artefacts and displays.

Villa Shatterhand where May lived is engrossing. Over a couple of floors many rooms are to be seen, including a library, the individualistic study where he wrote and living rooms. Numerous momentos from his travels are shown, as are works of art.

The nearby DDR Museum is vast and provides thorough coverage of the State from 1949 to its collapse. Pictorially and display-wise we found it excellent. From the fourth floor down every aspect of life is covered – officialdom, at home, holidays, the postal service and so on. On the ground floor numerous Trabants and other car models are on display.

Later we spent a delightful 3 hours in the Alte Meister Gallery. There are superb paintings covering many centuries. The audioguide was a great accompaniment. Works by Lucas Cranach are extensive, including his tremendous Martyrdom of St Catherine. The Sistine Madonna by Raphael with the charming angels at the bottom is great. There are numerous works by Canaletto including his iconic views of Dresden.

We finished the day with a fine dinner in the lovely Kurfuerstenschaenke.

Monday
Given the intertwining of the military in the history of the country we were keen to see the coverage in the eponymous museum. The building certainly makes an impression on approach, with a modern portion appended to an earlier conventional structure. It works as an effective display space.

We viewed both the chronological exhibits and the thematic subjects. Comprehensive coverage is given of the often turbulent military, up to the present day, including the disasters of the two world wars.

At the top level we walked along the modern structure, which is somewhat open to the elements, thus allowing experience of the ambient weather. There are great views over Dresden, as far as the iconic city centre skyline. The nearby large military church is clearly visible.

As a premier Catholic Church we wondered what the Hofkirche interior was like. We found it quite attractive with some lovely decorative features. The organ and pulpit are noteworthy. But overall it is far from Baroque flamboyance.

We had an early dinner in the Coselpalais Grand Cafe & Restaurant. It was a lovely occasion, a most stylist dinner in ornate surroundings. We then attended an enjoyable Così fan tutte at the wonderful Semperoper. It had a modern setting with wonderful singing.

Tuesday
We thought it interesting to visit a town indelibly linked with the long German tradition of health wellbeing and spas; none better than Bad Schandau, conveniently on the S1 line. It was a grand journey along the scenic river. Taking the little ferry across the Elbe left us close to the pretty village centre, with the lovely Sendig Fountain. We visited the nearby St. Johns Church, which has a lovely interior, with elements comprising the two storey altar, the gallery along the sides and stained glass windows.

We wished to explore the incomparable Koenigstein fortress. One stop back on the S1 brought us to the town from where after an energetic 30 minutes hike we arrived at the formidable complex. It was easy to understand why it was so intimating to intending conquerors. The audioguide was informative giving interesting background information and history. The site is massive with around 50 buildings. It broke a number of records including having the largest wine barrel in the world, at nearly 250,000 litres and the deepest well in Saxony. The water cistern is enormous, most of it underground.

It was lovely strolling around the perimeter wall, enjoying the panoramic views of the Elbe valley and the surrounding countryside. Midway through our visit we had coffee and a snack in the pleasant Zum Musketier Café.

On our return a two level cargo train loaded with cars was stopped at the station. It stretched to the horizon, an impressive sight of economic might.

Later we went to the wonderful Neue Meister Gallery at the Albertinum. The more modern sculptures are fabulous. At the beginning is the charming Little Dancer by Degas. The extent of the works by Rodin is wide, including The Thinker and John the Baptist. There is a marvellous wooden creation, in a spiral-type shape. The Roman mosaic on the ground floor is large and splendid.

We were looking forward to seeing the paintings as we had rarely seen works by Friedrich and his compatriots. There is a tremendous collection of Friedrich masterpieces including his intriguing Cross in the Mountains.

Afterwards we had a fine walk in the Grosser Garten, having a look at the Glass Factory on the way. We finished a perfect day with dinner in the delightful Kastenmeiers.

Wednesday
I think it is rare that a vineyard is easily accessible by public transport. Not the case with Schloss Wackerbarth, Tram 4 leaving us a short walk from the entrance. The estate is very impressive.

Given the time of year the vines were in abeyance. It was fascinating to see rows of them neatly cut back and trained along posts and wire. Workmen were busy up along the terraces ensuring preparations in place for the approaching growing season. There are lovely walks around the grounds and terraces. These afforded pleasant views both further up the terraces and to the lower areas.

Back in town we visited the Transport Museum situated in the lovely Johanneum. Immediately on entering, the marvellous vintage and veteran cars are to be seen. They have been beautifully restored. They reflect the great innovations and advances in car technology in Germany from the late 19th century.

Other modes of transport get comprehensive coverage. There is a marvellous and beautifully restored steam engine. Bicycles and motorcycles feature. Upstairs there is a great display of early biplanes.

After afternoon tea at Coselpalais Grand Café, our final attraction was a scenic trip on the historic suspension railway, Schwebebahn. It was a gorgeous clear sunny day and we had wonderful views over Dresden, the Elbe and of course the Blue Wonder Bridge.

We had a fabulous time in Dresden and have many enduring memories.

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