Dresden - A Christmas Dream

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December 20th 2017
Published: January 5th 2018
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We didn't know what to expect in Dresden. All we knew was that we missed the opportunity to visit the city some 24 years ago and have thought about going many times since then. Finally we had the chance so we jumped on the train from Berlin and spent a few days exploring what turned out to be a fantastic destination.

Staying in the old town (well, the historical part of the city as we all know what happened 70-odd years ago) was out of our budget so we opted for the NH Hotel in Neustadt, the new town. It was very comfortable and, once we had figured out how to get around by tram, very conveniently located. We bought a 3 day pass which enabled us to use public transport,and it also gave us discounted access to various museums, although we didn't use the card to its full potential as most of the listed museums were not on our agenda.

Visiting at this time of year, you can't avoid the Christmas markets, and nor is there any reason why you should. In Berlin they all seemed rather homogeneous, but in Dresden every market was different with its own unique character. It didn't seem quite as cold either so we got to sample our fair share of gluhwein!

Attracted in by the collection of Trabants visible through the window, and the one outside on the street, the DDR Museum (website in German only) is most definitely a must-see. When most of us think about East Germany we think of Berlin and life behind the wall. In cities like Dresden there was no wall and so their existence was a little bit different to those in the capital. It was intriguing to see the museum set out from their perspective with no window on the west. They were even unable to pick up West German TV in Dresden so their exposure to the outside world was somewhat limited. Seeing TV programs, listening to music (of questionable taste!) and sitting in a school classroom complete with text books demonstrating how English was learned - there was intrigue in every corner of this excellent museum. There were QR codes on many displays providing an English language translation too, a very welcome touch.

Wandering through the old town of Dresden, it's easy to lose your bearings. All you really need to know is where the river is, and where the beautifully restored cathedral is. The centre is full of fabulous buildings and in the run up to Christmas there seems to be a market around every corner. It is a true Saxony city and the architecture reflects this. It is breathtaking no matter which way you look - left, right up or down! and if nature calls, just nip into the Hilton hotel and look as if you belong there!!

Dresden Mitte train station deserves to be on your itinerary. The archways facing the city centre have been painted with incredible scenes representing Dresden's industrial heritage and its modern future. The so-called Glass Factory, where you can see the VW production line through it glass front, features as does the airport. The well integrated transport network is well represented too. Nearby is the Yenidze tobacco factory which looks very much like a huge mosque. Nowadays it is an office building but from the posters around, it seems that inside its enormous dome they put on theatrical performances.

Neustadt isn't just the part where our hotel is. Stretching north from Albert Square (Alberplatz) you'll find a host of bars and restaurants. In the surrounding streets there is an awful lot of stunning street art. Along one narrow alleyway there is a high building painted blue which plays music in the rain. apparently as the water runs down its many pipes, a tune can be heard thanks to its ingenious construction.

Out on the northeast edge of the city we visited the old Stasi prison and headquarters. It's not a place for the faint of heart as it is obvious just what a horrible place this was. Informative plaques tell the story of many of the rooms. On the upper floors there's a good history of the Stasi and how they turned friends into enemies and neighbours against one another. We were disappointed there was no section devoted to those who are trying to piece together shredded documents to enable people to discover more about their past.

A tram ride eastwards eventually takes you to the Blue Wonder bridge. This impressive piece of infrastructure is actually the Loschwitz Bridge. Open parkland stretches back towards the city and a path runs alongside the river where you can marvel at the old castles and watch the boats go by. Over the river a funicular railway takes you up to what must be an amazing viewpoint. We didn't make it up though as we ran out of daylight. One of the perils of a winter visit.

Finally, we can't finish this blog without mentioning the incredible variety of food we managed to sample. As well as the fare on the markets, we found restaurants from across the communist world including fabulous dining in Cuban- Vietnamese- and Bulgarian-style. Throw into that mix the opportunity to dine in what looked like Granny's living room jam packed with trinkets and memorabilia, and a pizza place serving the biggest pizzas we have ever seen, it's hardly surprising we had a sudden craving for a healthy salad!!!!

Additional photos below
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6th January 2018

Dreaming of Dresden
Dresden was a town I wanted to explore when we were in Germany and didn't get there.Loved your impressions of the Christmas markets. Thanks for sharing.
6th January 2018

Love this photo.

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