Golden statue on the edge of Dresden's Neustadt area.
Dresden - exactly what imagery does the very mention of the city's name conjure up? Well, on a negative note, wartime destruction for one, but on a more positive scale, try breathtaking building styles, positive energy, VW car production and a few other noteworthy reference points besides. Modern-day Dresden is easily the biggest tourist magnet in the entire region, and is evidence of just how much the city has come along in leaps and bounds since the fall of the iron curtain. Staying at a well-fitted hotel in the Neustadt (new town) area was a strategic move, as the whole area is well-supplied with a fair few restaurants, shops and entertainment options which give the entire place a student-oriented youthful feel, which is in itself a pleasant contrast from the relics-of-the-past strewn Altstadt (Old town).
The Frauenkirche, in all its elemental glory.
A few of the city's traditions have been somehow kept alive, happily so, and the sighting of a German Trabant car (not to mention a Trabant Safari option!), along with the centuries-old beer and ceramics production of the region suggests that traditions will hold their own as long as the city's identity does not cede to modernization, which characterizes a portion of the city anyway (for evidence, see the commercial area around Dresden's main station, or indeed the VW processing factory). In this heavily tram-laden city, getting around by public transport, or even on foot, is no great chore, and part of the fun for a newcomer to the city is to determine just how much of the urban terrain can be navigated without being too disorientated - possibly an easier task for a German speaker, or indeed anyone who has researched into the city's landmarks prior to their arrival.
The 'Yenidze' former tobacco factory has both Turkish and Indian style features - way cool!
Chief landmarks of Dresden are the Zwinger palace, Frauenkirche (church of our lady), the Schloss (castle), the Grosser garten (public park), and the crop of museums and (market) squares. A walk along the full length of the southern bank of the river Elbe will eventually bring you to a well-heeled suburb of Dresden known as Loschwitz, which contains one or two key reference points, namely the Blaues Wunder metal bridge, and the cable car / monorail which scales the hillside near the bank of the river. My constatation when visiting Dresden is that, somehow or other, everything seemed to interconnect, and there was not a great deal of lesser-interesting terrain which separated one major attraction from another. This goes quite some way towards explaining why photo opportunities abound, and why the words 'highly liveable' ran through my mind the more I got to grips with the urban terrain proper.
The trusty Trabant car - iconic of the days when they outnumbered all other cars on the road.
Whilst Berlin, Munich, the Black Forest or even perhaps the industrial zone of Western Germany might be more obvious tourist spots, my advice is, don't be put off by whatever negative pre-conception you might have of Dresden prior to your visit, as they city has a certain power of seduction which will soon make you glad you made the trek to get there. Coupled with the charm of the rural setting of 'Saxon Switzerland' in the surrounding area (which I only experienced from the train window), I am pretty confident that even those with an aversion to bustling cities would surely find something in the region to appeal to their senses.