A Tale of Four Cities : Part 1 Berlin and Dresden

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August 1st 2019
Published: September 8th 2019
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This holiday was a bit different from my usual travels ....I like big country landscapes but when an offer of a home exchange to Dresden popped up the trip morphed into a "why not visit Berlin and Prague moment , followed by why not take trains and where else can we go , why not Amsterdam " and so it became a cities tour . For the first part my son Chris and his wife Anabel along with 6 year old Maya would travel with me . Half way through they would return to the UK from Prague and Jenny would then join me there for more Dresden and Amsterdam.

Maya, for a 6 year old , is a great walker but some of the sites in Berlin are spread out so a Hop on/off bus was a great option... and staying not far from Potsdamer Platz we managed to get around and see most of the main sites. It's a stark reminder of Germany's history when you walk by the Holocaust Memorial and see slabs of the Berlin Wall, and Checkpoint Charlie. The architecture is stunning and magnificent especially along by the River Spree and the boulevard, Unter Den Linden. Spires and columns and wrought iron lampposts and a cavalcade of the old East German Trabant cars took my eye. In the massive green space the Tiergarten we wandered in a peaceful place. The big kids went off to visit the Reichstag while Maya and i went to the Lego Discovery Centre ( a bit disappointing - nothing like the real Legoland in Denmark).

I was under an impression that trains in Germany would be efficient and run like clockwork - WRONG ! Next a train ride to Dresden... the newly built Hauptbahnof,Train Station is huge and quite overwhelming with several levels and it takes a bit of research ( for any train travel anywhere look up the Man in Seat 61 ...this guy has all the answers) to find out where the platform is .... up and down several lifts ! But finally we find the platform but in spite of having booked seat allocations and a map on the platform telling you where to stand for your carriage that information was useless as the train pulled in. And it was every man for himself to get on the train and we were stopped by a guard who then let on a load on cyclists with bikes, which meant we had to run along the platform to another door and squeeze along the corridor with all the bags and everyone else doing the same thing ...yes this train was one with compartments ( haven't seen one like that for many years!) to find our places. After some more confusion as one of our seat places on the tickets didn't correspond to an actual seat we settled down and made friends with a couple of women in the compartment by sharing Maya's Gummi Bear sweets. So we found out that some of the trains running through Germany are coming from Hamburg or somewhere and going to Budapest or maybe Prague and sometimes you might be on Czech train not a German train, and they are not all modern flashy trains ...more of that later. Arriving in Dresden we took a taxi and were at our new home in a few minutes ....we could have walked!

As many of you,who follow me, know I have been doing home and hospitality exchange for more than 25 years . Its a great way to immerse yourself in a local culture
Korean Peace PavilionKorean Peace PavilionKorean Peace Pavilion

Commemorates the fact that Berlin is reunited whereas North and South Korea are not .
and often gives you an opportunity to go to a place which you might not have thought of going , such was Dresden. I knew Dresden had been badly bombed towards the end of WW2 and there were huge numbers of civilians killed and there is still controversy over whether that bombing campaign was necessary. To find out more about that we went to The Panometer and exhibition and museum where the artist Yadegar Asisi has created a 360 deg, 27 meters high Panorama of Dresden immediately after the bombing. It is quite an emotional journey to experience this exhibition and not to be missed if you are in Dresden.

Our home in Dresden was in the Neustadt ( New Town ) area , however new means actually it was the oldest part of the city which after a fire was rebuilt some centuries ago. The house was old 1830s and in a very large plot and garden shared with a slightly newer building housing 3 apartments. The very friendly neighbors told us these families had lived together for 15 years, a very nice way of communal living. On 3 floors with a stone flagged entrance and some very old wooden interior doors this was another interesting home with no doubt a lot of history...which we found out later when we came across bronze plaques set in the pavement outside the house to commemorate the Jewish couple who had lived there, one of whom had escaped to Canada, the other murdered in Auschwitz.

The days in Dresden we walked and walked through Neustadt across the river Elbe to the city centre to admire the wonderful architecture of the Zwinger Palace, Bruhls Terrace, Japanese Palace, the Frauenkirche the beautiful market square with its statue of Martin Luther and all the time we were amazed at how this city had been restored, resurrected from the ruins of the wartime destruction.

In another area of Neustadt there is a complete change of scene with street art adorning walls and some interesting courtyards, little coffee shops and craft shops with very quirky unusual walls, you might say the walls are a work of art! To top it off we found the most wonderful play area for Maya , a real tumbledown ramshackle place for kids to explore with chickens and goats roaming around and where Maya could get herself into the hutch with the rabbits. Combined with the wonderful city sights and the house and garden with trampoline and tree/rope swing this had been a great family holiday for all of us...next step was to be another train ride to Prague.

Additional photos below
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15th September 2019

A cities tour!
Sounds like a lovely idea. I"ve always wanted to go to Dresden. We loved our time in Berlin. Your blog brought back some wonderful memories. Rich in history and that is why we need to visit all these locations. You learn so much more while exploring.
28th September 2019
Dresden City Centre

Dresden looks interesting
We have visited Berlin three times and love that city. I am surprised to see that Dresden also looks interesting. Maybe we will try that city too some time. /Ake

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