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Published: June 17th 2016
The forecast for today when we went to bed last night was not good with rain predicted for most of the day which will not make for a pleasant day of sightseeing.
However, the forecasters thankfully have got it wrong and there were patches of blue sky appearing as we awoke.
Late last night Gretchen got her mobile phone working and the updates downloaded and there was time to check this morning that it was still working as she had left it last night. Now there was no need to go searching for a replacement phone today.
We are meeting Emily today who is taking the train down from Cottbus, an hour and a half or so north of Dresden where she is studying at the University. She is going to guide us around the sights of the restored city which was heavily bombed at the end of WW2.
We should explain we met Emily 3 years ago in Scotland when staying with second cousin Aileen. Emily’s mother is married to Niall,also a second cousin(it is there second marriage).She had asked us to contact her if we made it as far north as we have and so
it should work out to be a great day, the sights and someone other than ourselves to converse in English for a few hours!
Train travel in Germany is cheap and frequent and clean! Why would we bother taking the car into the city, have to find a car park and of course pay some exorbitant amount for the day when we got ourselves an all day pass that covered us both, and a third person if we found someone who wanted to share with us, all for €8.20.
We should say here that we were tempted to change our plans by the smoke issuing from a steam engine getting ready to take a tourist train from an adjoining platform at the station.Had we known in advance there was a steam train operating we might have had another day here.
Right on time our train pulled in and we silently glided our way through the suburbs of Dresden to the main station in just over 20 minutes arriving bang on time.
The Hauptbanhof is a typical main station in Europe, a sort of half dome and mostly glass with platforms in all directions depending upon whether
it is a surburban, regional or international line you are taking.
Like most other structures in the city it was destroyed in the bombing but has been restored to the way it looked in 1898 when it was built. The main passenger concourse has a modern, fresh look about it and is decorated in light colours giving it an open feel even though the whole building is large and open anyway.
Emily was on the platform to meet us as her train had arrived in a bit before ours. This made making the connection easier. Not that we wouldn’t have recognised her but rather that the station is vast and it would be easy to be in the wrong place when you are not sure of the layout.
Emily had a plan to guide us around the main sights and a great place for lunch too. More about that later.
The area we walked through from the station to the old part of the city was modern with a pedestrian mall that was wide and open and continued on the light and airy theme that we experienced in the railway station.
Gretchen was tempted to
do some browsing but we are here for the sights first and if there is any time left over at the end of the day, well, the shops will still be there.
Next in line on our walk was the Kreuzkirche, a Lutheran church. It has a tall and unmistakeable tower and unlike the Frauenkirche which we would get to next, we were able to take photos and video inside.
The ‘modern’ Kreuzkirche,a was built around 1790 and was almost totally destroyed by Allied bombing in 1945.There has actually been a church on the site since the 1100’s but various things such as wars and fires had seen different structures erected in replacement. The interior has a more modern look about it but the exterior where as much stone as could be found after the bombing, has been used in its reconstruction giving it an ‘aged’ look.Emily, who has a degree in archeologoy, mentioned that one of her professors who comes from Dresden and had seen the reconstruction in part and had said that it was reported that some of the stones had been painted black to ‘look ‘much older than they were. You would have to do
some research with reliable sources to see how true this was. To us, standing back from the building it looked pretty genuine.
Whether the stones were painted or not still gives further support that buildings such as this can be faithfully reconstructed and so too should the Christchurch Cathedral which has been heavily damaged by earthquakes but not to the extent of this destruction in Dresden.
We then strolled on to the Dresden Frauenkirche, probably the best known of all the buildings rebuilt in Dresden after being destroyed in the Allied bombing of 1945.
The first church built on the site in the 1100’s was Catholic but after the reformation changed to Lutheran.
The building that was destroyed by bombing was actually relatively modern being built in the 18th
century and had one of the largest domes added to a church in Europe and was a principal focal point in the city.
The reconstruction happened over a fairly long period of time after the bombing and was only fully completed in 2005.Interestingly the ruins of the church remained that way for most of the Communist rule as a ‘memorial against war’.
Like the earlier
Lutheran church we entered the Frauenkirche also has the aged look on the exterior but a modern look inside.
This is the city’s biggest tourist attraction and there were plenty of people inside the church when we visited but surprisingly compared to the visit we had to the Basilica on Lake Orto where the tour groups were so noisy this place was serene, well almost.
The crypt of the church was left reasonably intact after the bombing and what had been affected has also been restored and was an interesting place to wander around and feel the history.
We then headed up to what had been part of the city’s ramparts and is now a terraced promenade with lovely views out over the River Elbe and across to the newer part of the city.
It was lunchtime and Emily had a place she liked to take people when visiting Dresden. It was just off the ramparts and was quite an amazing cafe/restaurant with a multitude of colourful lightshades hanging from the ceiling (not all lit up) and tables with sofas and chairs to relax in while having lunch.
I had the back pudding (what else!)with
sauerkraut and potatoe, all very German while Gretchen had a large slice of bread with pork and mustard and pickles which she said was very tasty. She also sneaked in an apple strudel as it was one German speciality she hadn’t tasted in Germany as yet. In fact she asked the waiter when should order it and thought he had replied after she had finished her main course.However,even though she was feeling full after the pork on bread with pickles, the strudel just arrived without any further ado and I did have to help her a bit. Emily had the crumbed deep fried camembert which looked very tasty as well.
Our appetites satisfied we continued on our tour of the old city passing by the very grand Semper Opera House another building that had been faithfully reconstructed after the WW2 bombing.
This bought us to the rather majestic Procession of Princes which is the largest mural made from porcelain mosaics in the world and depicts the stately rulers of Saxony from 1127 to 1918.It was undergoing some maintenance at one end but was still a very impressive sight.
With the sky starting to look a little more
threatening we made it to the Zwinger which is a complex of buildings constructed between 1710 and 1732 and is located across the road from where the Dresden Castle stood and was used for tournaments and court activities. Today is houses museums and a ceramic exhibition.
Unfortunately the fountains were being cleaned so we didn’t get to see them all working. However the intricacy of the way the grass edges had been formed like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle were intriguing and made an excellent sight when viewed from above on the terraces of the buildings.
It was now mid afternoon and we were all starting to feel a bit tired and having covered the principal places in the centre of the city we decided to call it a day and head back to the station. As we rode a tram back to the station rain started to fall o it seemed like we had made the best option to call it a day.
It had been wonderful to have Emily show us around ensuring we had a trail to follow and making sure we didn’t miss any of the essential things to see in the city.
We saw her onto her train to Cottbus while we went and caught our suburban train back to Radebeul.
By the time we got home the rain had cleared but we were ready to put our feet up and reflect back on the visit to Dresden.
Tomorrow we start a dash across Germany virtually from east to west that will take two days travel for a five night stop on the Moselle River.
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