Dresden, Germany – May 3 to 4, 2017
I took the overnight bus to Dresden and arrived a little over 6 where everyone was still at home, everything was empty, and peaceful, and quiet. It was kind of interesting to see a rather empty city. I don’t think I’ve been up early enough in any of the other cities I’ve visited to notice anything.
Anyway, I took a tram from the Hauptbanhof to my hostel which was a good 20 minute tram ride there. The tram stopped at the end of the street where my hostel was and I had to walk a good three or so blocks to get to my hostel, but that wasn’t an issue. I was enjoying the fact that there was sun, for once. You see, almost every day I’ve been traveling in Germany it’s been either cloudy or raining, so it was a real nice change to see some sun!
I stayed at this hostel called Hostel Mondpalast. I chose it because it was only a 30 minute walk away from the Altstadt (or Old Town) where all the biggest things to visit were. When I arrived at the Hostel it was still closed. Apparently there is a side entrance for guests of the hostel who were already checked in but alas, I was not. However, with a stroke of luck (one of a very few during this trip let me tell you that), one of the receptionists was opening the door a few minutes after I arrived and she let me in. She even let me check in early (check in was not until 11:00) to my hostel because she could probably tell I was pooped from my overnight bus ride (the sleep was a real struggle, let me tell you).
Once I quietly got in to my hostel room, which was a dorm for 10 people after struggling with the key and the lock for a little bit, I plopped my stuff by a bed and just fell asleep until 9:30ish.
I woke up, got showered, dressed, and headed out around 10:30 to find breakfast. I feel like breakfast is the easiest meal to get in Germany since there are more than a dozen bakeries at almost every corner. I actually wandered into the Neudstadtplatz, or the New City Square, where there were a whole bunch of stores and found me a Markthalle (Market Hall) and found a bakery there. I had what looked like a donut. Okay it was basically a donut with a fruit filling. I had that and some hot chocolate then I first headed to the nearest spot on my map: Dreikönigskirche, or Church of the Three Kings…or what was left of it.
The current church lays within a new building topped with the spire of the old church. You see, Dresden was firebombed badly during World War II. By that I mean most of it was destroyed, which is why the effort to restore much of the city post-war was astounding to say the least, and you will see soon what I mean.
After Dreikönigskirche, I headed to the Altstadt on foot, passing the bridge and wow, even the view from the bridge, seeing the Altstadt from across the river Elbe, was phenomenal.
As mentioned earlier, Dresden’s Altstadt was restored to its former glory and wow, I was very impressed with the attention to every single detail. It looks and feels like the Baroque wonder it probably felt prior to its destruction during the war.
The first thing I went for was the Zwinger Palace. The Zwinger Palace is one of many palaces within the vicinity. There is also the Residential Palace, the Japanese Palace, the Palace in the Garden, and a little ways away there is the Pillnitz Palace…the royalty of Saxony sure loved their palaces.
One of the cool things about the Zwinger Palace, though, as well as the Residential Palace, is that during the 17th and 18th centuries, the kings of Saxony decided they’d fall in love with Asian art and started collecting pieces from various parts of China and Japan, particularly that of ceramic work noting that Asian ceramic art is far superior to that of Europe. Frederick Augustus, or more commonly known as Augustus the Strong, was very fond of Asian artwork that his palaces held so many pieces of ceramic art from the Far East. Other museums in the Zwinger Palace is a gallery of paintings collected by the Saxon kings as well as this cool museum of scientific instruments used by court scientists and mathematicians of the day.
The next stop for me was the Residential Palace. Inside was a museum that hosted a lot of Turkish, Indian, as well as local artwork and other fine pieces that have been collected. It is also home to “Green Vault”, which housed a collection of priceless royal artifacts. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the Green Vault though, sadly.
The next stop was Theaterplatz, or Theater Square, which is exactly by the Residential Palace and Zwinger Palace. The biggest site there was the Semperoper, Dresden’s premiere Opera House. It is one of the buildings that was restored to its former glory from the rubble it was reduced to during the war.
Next I visited the Frauenkirche of Dresden, or the Church of Our Lady. Now this building is astounding. When it was completed in the 1740s it was regarded as among the most beautiful baroque churches in all of Europe. But, like majority of Dresden, it was destroyed and reduced to rubble. After the reunification of Germany in 1990, plans were immediately made to restore this church and restored it they did. They even incorporated about 4000 pieces from the original church and it was opened once again to the public in 2005. Both the outside and the inside of the church are stunning.
I spent the rest of the day just walking around and taking in the sights. I headed back to my hostel around 7 PM and decided to just watch Netflix and listen to podcasts to fall asleep.
Solo travel can be fun but sometimes it would be more fun with someone else to share all of it with. Tonight was one fo those nights where you kinda just feel lonely at the end of the day.
The next day I decided to head up and take the hour trip to past the outskirts of Dresden to the Pillnitz Palaces. The Palace served as one of the summer homes of Saxony’s royalty. The palace grounds were massive. It took a good 10-15-minute walk to get through the first part of the gardens to the Palace grounds. The Palace itself is gorgeous and it sits right by the Elbe River, which makes it a more picturesque palatial complex. Sadly, it was cloudy once again in great Germany (okay I mentioned before that I like rainy and cloudy weather but give this guy a break. I need sun for more than a day once in a while).
You can tour almost every part of the interior of the palaces which have been turned into museums that housed the collections of the royalty that resided there as well as displays of more modern art.
The latte end of the day saw me strolling the central park area of Dresden on my way to the German Hygiene Museum, which has to be one of my most favorite museums in Germany to date. Don’t let the name fool you. The Hygiene Museum was first opened in 1912 to promote, you guessed it, good health and hygiene. But, what the museum is really is a dedication and homage to the human body. Inside is a permanent exhibit of the human body from body parts to senses to food and drink to life and death and so on. One of my favorites was this multistage look at the development of the human fetus. It was kind of unnerving to see how we came from one tiny cell to form what we are now: humans.
There were two special exhibitions happening too. Neither of the special exhibits allowed photography so there are no photos about this. Sorry! They were interesting nonetheless.
One was 100 Reasons We Blush, which was a fascinating look at 100 reasons we feel shame. Inside were displays upon displays of reasons humanity feels shame and therefore turn red, from losing face, to lying and being caught, to losing honor, to nudity, to just about every reason why we feel guilt and shame. It was a sobering look at ourselves as humans because hey, who has not felt guilt and shame before?
The other special exhibit was dedicated to one of my favorite topics: language. The Sprache Exhibit showcased the neurological aspects of language as well as the importance of language and gestures in the human experience. Language, after all, is one of the things that sets humanity apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. It can also be one of our deadliest weapons.
The tour around the Pillnitz Platz really took it out of me. I had intended to see the Transparent Museum, which apparently is a place you can see Volkswagen cars being built, but I was exhausted and sore from the walking I did the day before combined with today.
Instead I strolled the giant inner-city garden and visited the palace there and then went back to the old town to have dinner and then headed to my hostel.
Dresden was a great city, beautiful with a lot of history. I wish I could stay longer to see more but I am now headed to Berlin for a week!