The Adventures of Heidi and Amanda: Dresden

I have so many travel reports to catch up with!  That’s not really a terrible problem to have though, now is it?  I should also apologize for my general lack of posting over the past two weeks.  I left my computer cord in a hotel room and was powerless (See what I did there?) for a week.

If you remember from my last “Heidi and Amanda” post, we were Krakow, Poland.  You may also remember that I mixed up our travel dates and we had an extra day there, which neither of us regretted.  In any case, we had to get back to the Muzzahland.  I was super-clever and booked us a night train to Dresden.  We left Krakow around 11pm and had a six-hour ride to Breslau.  There was a two-hour wait in Breslau, and then at 7am, it was a three-hour trip to Dresden.  I love hanging around in train stations, and a morning layover would mean coffee and fresh baked goods.  I pictured us getting 6 hours of sleep, having a pleasant breakfast, and then a three-hour nap.  We would arrive in Dresden refreshed and ready for our one day there.

I was wrong.

When you book a train ticket to Breslau, someone at the ticket counter should ask, “Are you sure?”  Alternatively, there could be a warning printed on the ticket, something like “WARNING!  YOU ARE GOING TO BRESLAU.”  Maybe I am being unfair.  OK, I am absolutely being unfair.  I am sure that Breslau is a lovely city.  The train station, however, is not.  When we were there, it was undergoing renovations.  Not only was there no café, there were no seats.  No joke.  There wasn’t a single place to sit in the whole train station.  A dark cloud settled over both of us as we realized that we would spend the next two hours standing in a dark, unheated train station.

Worse than the lack of pastry was the fact that we both needed the bathroom.  We crossed the street to the bus station.  Seriously?  The train station will be really nice once it is finished, but the bus station was depressing, dark and mostly deserted.  It was 5am after all.  There were a few people sitting inside, who looked as upset as we were.  The bathroom doors were locked, but a sweet old Polish man explained to us with lots of hand motions that we could go around to the outside doors.  I am eternally grateful to that man.  Maybe commiseration is the key to bonding with strangers.  At any rate, we reset our expectations and were thrilled when the train to Dresden finally departed.

We arrived around 10am, ready for showers, coffees and a blitzschnell tour of Dresden.  Wrong again.  We could not check in early, so showers were out.  Expectation Reset # 2.  We left our luggage, got some coffee, and hit the town.

Since we were working with a truncated timetable, we had agreed to only one museum, the Grünes Gewölbe, or Green Vault.  We chose wisely.  The Grünes Gewölbe is a collection of objets d’art and curiosities from the treasure vault of August the Strong.  It is located in the Royal Palace.  There is the Historical Green Vault and the New Green Vault.  It was a tough decision, but we went with the New Green Vault.  It was incredible!  There were statues carved out of ivory, jewel encrusted boxes and cabinets, silverware with coral handles, and, what I think was the coolest item, a cherry pit with 185 faces carved on it!  Amazing!  The ticket also gave us access to the Turkish Chamber, which had armor, horse armor, old weaponry, and tents, all dating from between the 16th and 19th centuries.  We chose well.  Unfortunately, we could not take photos.

After the Grünes Gewölbe, we spent the day walking around.  We saw the Zwinger, which was the Dresden court palace.  Although it was under construction (see a theme?), it was still beautiful.  The Frauenkirche was striking.  It had destroyed in the firebombing during WWII, and the GDR government left the rubble pile as it was to serve as a memorial from the war.  After reunification, the church was rebuilt.  Again, we could not take photos, but trust me, it was lovely.  It had a lot of the typical murals and gilding one sees in the old German churches, but the pastel colors and light-colored bricks made it feel really huge.  After the church visit, it was more walking around, the Kaffee und Kuchen at Dresden 1900, a restaurant specializing in “museum gastronomy.”  I’ll admit that I don’t quite get the concept, but in this case it seemed to mean eating in a room that also house a tram car and having your cake served by a flaky French waitress.

After Kaffee und Kuchen, we decided that the showers couldn’t wait any longer.  We headed back to the hotel, showered, and enjoyed both the complimentary drink and the view from the hotel bar.  Despite not being able to check in early, I have to say that our hotel was great.  We went for Italian for dinner in a hip part of town called Neustadt.  We saw tons of bars and restaurants there, and our food was excellent.

So how did we like Dresden?  It’s hard to say.  Neither of us had ever been there, and it had been on my list of top destinations for the year after Hamburg and Bremen.  Dresden’s nickname is “Florence on the Elbe.”  Everyone says things like “Oh, you need at least a week to do Dresden.  It’s SO GREAT.”  Maybe I needed a break, maybe it was because we only had one day, or maybe it was because we hadn’t slept, but I have to say that I’m glad we had the extra day in Krakow instead of Dresden.  Dresden is gorgeous.  The firebombing had destroyed nearly everything within a 15 mile radius, so it all had to be rebuilt.  On the one hand, they took care to restore it well rather than just erecting buildings as quickly as possible.  On the other, it has an almost Disney-like artificial quality to it.  In the end, I guess my results are inconclusive.  There must be a second trial of the Dresden Experiment in store in my future.

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About heidihefeweizen

I am a 29 year-old American woman who has received a Fulbright scholarship to work as an English teaching assistant in a German high school.
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One Response to The Adventures of Heidi and Amanda: Dresden

  1. kathleen says:

    I’ve been to Dresden twice — once for a few days on the high-school choir trip I chaperoned during our year abroad, and then again in late 2009 as a quick overnight trip from Berlin to visit the Christmas market. I still don’t have a great sense of the city either, but it was really cool to go in ’03 when the Frauenkirche was still being rebuilt and then to return in 2009 after it had reopened and go to a service there. From my first trip I really enjoyed the tour of the Semperoper and a trip to the VW Glaserne Manufaktur, and there was some lovely park/museum along the river I’d have to look back at my itinerary to recall. The Christmas market (Germany’s oldest!) was pretty great on my second trip, and I and my travel buddy (quite randomly) went to the home of some locals my father-in-law knows from his yearlong sabbatical there for a glass of wine and some holiday cookies. That was definitely the best part.

    I love all the photos, and appreciate in particular the shots of the hilarious bathroom dispensers (in Ireland — I think — I came across a bathroom in a bar with a flat iron wall unit in it that you could use briefly for 1 euro… just in case you need a touch-up) and the Subway menu. Always fun to see how those American institutions translate.

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