Before Dresden we stopped in the cute old town of Spreewald. Actually, I’m not certain if it’s the name of the town, or the name of the region. Anyway, it was a pretty canal side town, full of colourful old wooden buildings, and plenty of greenery to walk through in the forested canals.
Unsurprisingly, it reminded us of the Green Venice in France. Of course, the best way to experience a town like this would be on one of the many gondolas available to hire, but they were being packed up for the night.
In our quest to get as close to Dresden as possible last night, we’d completely forgotten about the Red Bull Air Race that was taking part quite near to Spreewald this weekend. If we’d payed more attention, we could have visited that this morning, and then carried on to Dresden in the afternoon/evening.
I came through Dresden back in 2003, when I backpacked through a little of Eastern Europe. I held really fond memories of the town, so was keen to revisit with Risa. It wasn’t a great day, but thankfully only minor showers were forecast.
We found a great free parking area only a short walk to the centre of town, and right by the river. I was surprised to see such a large and elaborate mosque here in Dresden – but by accident I learnt that it was actually just a factory/office for a tobacco company that imported from the middle east, and built their factory/office to resemble a mosque for advertising reasons.
We were going to join a ‘free’ walking tour later this afternoon, which only takes place on Saturdays. To kill some time before that, we wandered around on our own, taking any direction that took our fancy. I’d forgotten much of what the town looked like, and certainly didn’t remember how many blackened spires filled the skyline here.
I remembered the palace being beautiful, so we walked over to Zwinger for a peek at the gardens and inner courtyard. I’m pretty sure that they were still reconstructing this, too, so it was nice to see it nearly completed. It’s fantastically beautiful, with an almost over the top amount of decoration and detail.
The sculptures seemed to vary between different ranges of man/beast combination, making for some terrifying faces.
It was mid-September, and Oktoberfests were taking place all over the region. There was a small market set up in the centre of town. We skipped the beer, but tried some of the more interesting looking food – like this stewed kale with sausages. I liked it (but I do like kale/spinach), but spent the next week picking kale out of my teeth.
The walking tour started by the Our Mother church, which is one of the main sights of town. As many would know, Dresden was almost completely destroyed by intense firebombing during the closing stages of WW2, this church included. After WW2, it was part of East Germany, and continued to sit mostly ignored. Following reunification, renovations took place. When I visited in 2003, they were still busy at work. The amazing thing with this church is that they managed to reuse many of the existing blocks, which stand out with their darkened appearance. Our guide said that an amazing 43% was salvaged and reconstructed – the rest was new.
So, knowing that old Dresden was almost completely wiped out, what we see is a modern reconstruction. Thankfully it remained quite faithful to the original, as it’s a beautiful old town – even if it isn’t quite so ‘old’.
One thing that did manage to survive almost completely unscathed was the enormous porcelain mural chronicling the past kings and rulers of the town. It was beautiful to see the change in appearance over the many generations depicted.
After the walking tour, we made a quick pass through the ‘new’ town on the north of the river. I remember it being lively my last visit, so thought it would be fun to see again. We should have walked, or taken public transport, because it became a nightmare in our van! Narrow roads that suddenly ended due to road works, and not a parking option anywhere to be seen. It did however look really cool from what we saw during our drive-by, with large colourful murals covering buildings, and no shortage of cafes/restaurants.
I remember being enthralled by the VW Factory last time, too, so tried to see it again this time. But, the timing was wrong. It was 6PM on a Saturday, so not only was there no production taking place, but the entire building was closed – and the lights were turned off. It was awesome last time seeing the cars passing along a construction line in the glass-walled building.
We became too tired to do much else today. I didn’t have the energy to drive closer to Czech Republic, so instead we returned to the large car park by the river and had an early night in Dresden.