Originally published April 8, 2010
I can’t say too much about this beautiful little German town, as we were only there briefly, but the time I did spend in Dresden was amazing.
We left Berlin early in the morning and arrived in Dresden around noon. I was starving, my brother Chris was hung over and our travel buddy Jill wanted tea, so our first mission was to find a place to have brunch.
We wandered around and found a lovely café in an equally lovely little square. We sat down, and quickly realized the menu was in German and the server was ignoring us. This was the first time we were being blatantly overlooked, and I became very frustrated very quickly. I have a short attention span and low tolerance for everything when I’m hungry, so I’m sure I wasn’t pleasant to be around.
Somehow, Chris managed to flag down the server, and she brought us English menus. We all ordered waffles with whipped cream and Belgian chocolate. To be honest, I don’t even remember what I drank. The waffles were that good. I could have ordered a dozen, and trust me, I would have found a way to eat them all.
Here’s a little bit of history to put the city into perspective…
Dresden is the capital of the state of Saxony. It sits on a section of the Elbe River that has been inhabited since approximately 600 B.C.
Old Town – the city centre where most of the tourist attractions are located – truly looks like a medieval village. All of the streets are cobblestone. Every building has spires, arches, peaks and is made of stone. Horse-drawn carriages pass by every few minutes, and buskers line the squares. Much of Old Town was damaged by bombings during the Second World War, but the city is working on restoring the historic buildings to their former elegance.
We weren’t sure if there was enough time to fully explore the entire city, so we decided to stay in Old Town. There were so many buildings to look at, but here are the most significant (to me, anyway):
The Frauenkirche (“Church of Our Lady”) was built as a Lutheran cathedral between 1726 and 1743. It is the main focal point in Dresden, and is known for its large domed roof and baroque architecture. The dome is 314 feet tall, and was constructed of sandstone.
The Zwinger used to be a palace, and now it is a historical museum. There are lots of cool things to look at inside, including guns, cannons, artillery – that kind of stuff.
Semper’s Opera House is absolutely beautiful, and there is a large statue out front you can sit on. The Opera House stands at one corner of Theaterplatz, one of Dresden’s most famous squares.
I also enjoyed walking along the river bank before it was time to board our bus and travel to Prague. Having a picnic and watching boats pass by seemed like the perfect way to spend an afternoon, and I was jealous of all the relaxed people I passed. I loved my Contiki tour, but the downside of travelling through many countries in a short period of time is that often it’s difficult to take a moment and enjoy the scenery. Only now, as I am look back at the photographs I took of Dresden, do I realize how absolutely beautiful it was.
A last note I would like to make is that Dresden had the absolute WORST public bathrooms I have ever experienced. Throughout Germany, I encountered nothing but clean, pristine, well-maintained bathrooms with available attendants and LOTS of toilet paper. In Dresden, the WC was located underneath a bridge, by the river. It was necessary to run a gauntlet of automated door and bar mechanisms to get inside, all of which did not work properly. There was no toilet paper, barely any running water, one lone light bulb in the ceiling and no mirrors. It was gross.
I was grateful to have had the opportunity to visit Dresden, even if it was just for a moment. There were tons of tourists, and it looked like the city was a popular weekend getaway. If I could have gone back in time and changed my trip, I would have wanted two full days to explore this medieval city. I would have fallen asleep on the riverbank, climbed to the top of the Frauenkirche, and gone on a long carriage ride. But you can’t always get exactly what you want, and my afternoon in Dresden was magical.
Just stay away from the public bathrooms… Seriously…