Dresden Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
1989 was a historic year. The iron curtain opened and Eastern Europe became more accessible. This was my first trip to the former DDR after having visited east Berlin during the "cold war". I wondered if some change was already visible after the reunification of Germany 4 years ago.
As there were no direct flights from Amsterdam to Dresden, I flew via Frankfurt/Main, an important hub for European airtraffic. I stayed at the "Touristenhotel Haus der Kultur und Bildung" in the Maternistraße 17, undoubtedly a legacy from the communistic period. The building was a standard grey block with long corridors and no service. The rooms could be called minimalistic and a decent hotel restaurant was nowhere to be found.
When English and American airplanes dropped their bombs over Dresden in the night of 13/14 February 1945, they distroyed a history of almost 750 year. As I was walking in the Altstadt (old centre) the results of the bombing were still present. In front of the ruined Schloß I had a long conversation with an old inhabitant. He told me his story and emphasized how useless this "act of war" was. 35,000 persons were killed and 80,000 houses distroyed. The Russians were at Dresdens threshold, less than 3 months later war was over... After the war the city centre existed out of a bare area of 15 square km. Hard to imagine that this city was nick-named "Elbflorenz".
My first impression of Dresden was after arriving at the Hauptbahnhof. An empty Wiener Platz and dito shopping mall Prager Straße bordered by the standard east block flats and a matching drizzle gave me a depressing feeling. What a way to start a trip! So, fast to the Zwinger, the most impressive building complex in the city. One enters the complex by a bridge over the Zwingergraben and through the Kronentor, a magnificent crowned little gate which brings you to the big court-yard. The courd-yard is surrounded by some baroque pavillions with various functions. Between the Zwinger and the river Elbe stands the glorious Semper-Oper, like most of the buildings in the Altstadt, restored after 1951. At the other side of the Theaterplatz is the Hofkirche, one of the biggest churches in Saxony.
Dresden is a perfect spot to explore the south east of Saxony. I took the train to the old Sorbian town Bautzen. From the Friedensbrücke over the river Spree there's a nice view of the Reichenturm, Petridom, Wasserturm, Lauenturm the Ortenburg and the Alter Wasserkunst.
Further east lies the divided city of Görlitz. The city used to be on both sides of the river Neiße and it still is, but nowadays the east side is in Poland and that part of the city is called Zgorzelec. I visited both sides and neither of them made much impression on me. If you're there you could see the Postplatz, the Dicker Turm, and the Obermarkt with the Kaisertrutz and the Reichenbacher Turm. Both parts of the city were joined by the Altstadbrücke, but when I was there in 1993 the bridge was gone and the only possibility to cross the river was the Friedensbrücke, which was also a heavily guarded frontier crossing. The only nice building in Zgorzelec is the Mejski Dom Kultury.
From Dresden I followed the river Elbe upstream towards Czechia. Pirna is the gateway to the "Sächsische Schweiz" (Saxon Switzerland). I wanted to see Königstein, a fortress Napoleon never could reduce. It's a strong but nice walk from the ramshackled train station, situated along the river, up the hill. The view into the Elbe valley is great and so is the fortess with depots, casemates and barracks like the Georgenburg, Magdalenenburg, Brunnenhaus, Alte Kaserne and even a small church, the Garnisonkirche. Special is the Hungerturm. Bad Schandau is the tourist centre of the Sächsische Schweiz. There's a tramway from the beginning of the Kitnitz valley, which goes via a 8.
Last day I spent in Meißen, which is famous for its porcelain. The Dom area with the Albrechtsburg is worth to see.
Well, I have to mention one other story, something one shall not experience anymore. I was short of cash and only had giro cards, which was not of any use in former DDR. Luckily I got the idea to buy a train ticket with my last money to go to (West-) Berlin, where I eventually could get enough money. Long live ATMs!