Timeline: August 25h – 28th
The drive down to Dresden took a little under three hours, almost all of it on high-speed autobahn and we arrived at Campground Dresden-Mockritz later in the day. Located in a suburb, it is surrounded by a residential neighborhood without many services. The restaurant at the campground was closed (we would eat there later in our stay) and so we purchased some supplies at the reception/store and ate a simple meal in camp.
It is a nice place to stay with good facilities; quite good and reasonably priced pay Wi-Fi but lacking any indoor space to spend time at in the evening, so we would do what we’ve done in circumstances like this, that is enjoy having a car to escape to. We finally made a go at using the backseat to watch a movie on the in-car DVD player. It worked quite well and didn’t drain the battery and so we would use this feature a couple of times more to help break the somewhat monotonous routine we follow in camp.
There was a covered table next to our tent that was monopolized by the group next to us; two or more German couples who’d traveled there by motorcycle. We’d later get friendly with them and use the table as well, helping to make mealtimes a little easier.
It was gloomy and overcast the next day in town, with a threat of rain. We purchased all day passes on the bus and made an afternoon of the walking tour from the Steves guide. Dresden’s major sights are all located inside a pedestrian zone next to the Elbe River, making for a very manageable afternoon.
Having gotten a late start that morning, we were hungry when we stepped off the bus at the Hauptbahnhof so before stopping in for a map at the TI, we got a bite to eat at a the Marché type main eatery, enjoying a hearty bowl of goulash soup and a slice of Dresdner Eierschecke, an egg like cheesecake with raisins, and almond shavings. Our tanks full we started the walk near the Theaterplatz, facing the Saxon State Opera House. To our left was the next destination, the Baroque Zwinger palace complex; once the pride and joy of the Wettin dynasty, rulers of Saxony for more than 800 years up until the end of the First World War.
We’d not tour the inside, instead concentrating our efforts on the grounds, moving along onto the rest of the walking tour. The large sqaure outside the palace contains four landmarks, the Rampart Pavilion, the Crown Gate (Kronentor), the Glockenspielpavillon, and the Semper Gallery. Exiting the palace grounds we passed the Palace of Culture (Kulturpalast), built by the communist government in 1969 and used today for concerts.
From there we walked to the Parade of Nobles (Fürstenzug), a mural painted on 24,000 tiles of Meissen porcelain. Over 100 yards long, it portrays 700 years of Saxon royalty. The artist carefully studied armor and clothing from the ages depicted, enabling the viewer to trace the evolution of weaponry and fashions for seven centuries.
On the way to our next destination, the Neumarkt (New Market), we stopped at the large square known as the Altmarkt. A flea market was set up there and we spent some time wandering its aisles. Of interest was the stall selling various meats grilled over coals (not often found here in Europe), a beer stand next to it and three vendors pitching their wares (fruits and vegetables, sausages, and cheese) from their specially outfitted trucks, each with a microphone and speakers to amplify their infomercial like spiels.
We enjoyed a Radler (beer and lemonade) from the beer stall, exited the Altmarkt and soon landed at the Neumarkt. Once a central square ringed by rich merchants’ homes, it has prospered post communism. A statue of Martin Luther shows him holding not just any Bible, but the German version he translated, the primary act that led to the Protestant Reformation.
Anchoring a corner of the Neumarkt is the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), the symbol and soul of the city. Completed in 1743, it was Germany’s tallest Protestant church (310 feet high) at the time. It is famous for its WWII history and re-birth.
On the night of February 13, 1945, during the firestorm that swept Dresden after it’s bombing (if you’ve not seen Slaughterhouse Five or read the book it is a must) the Frauenkirche was smoldering the next morning but still standing. It burned for two more days before finally collapsing. Left as a pile of rubble and turned into a peace monument, it was painstakingly rebuilt after reunification and reopened to the public in 2005.
We wandered around after seeing the church, trying to make a decision about what sights we might take in the next day, not really making up our mind given the cost of some and the timing of visits for others. We’d stopped at the VW plant on the way into town and booked a tour for the next day at noon, which limited our options for sightseeing that day.
We made our way over to the river and took in the view from the Brühlsche Terrasse, a promenade that overlooks the Elbe and was once a defensive rampart. We decided to hike across the Augustus Bridge to visit the New Town for dinner at a recommended restaurant, the Wenzel Prager Bierstuben. It serves country Bohemian cuisine and three varieties of the Czech Staropramen (we’d drink gallons of it in Prague) beer on tap.
We enjoyed a fine meal that included the special of the day; a pork roast rolled around a rabbit based stuffing that included one dark beer for about 12 Euros, a real deal. Joanna had the pork knuckle, delicious ham like meat that pulls off the bone easily. The one disappointment was the inclusion of what is known as a Böhmische Knödel (Bohemian Dumplings) an almost bread like side dish without much character, primarily used to soak up the savory gravy that accompanied both of our dishes.
Winding our way back to camp we settled in for the evening, reading and working on the blog. The next day would bring us our tour of the VW plant. We were looking forward to visiting this state of the art facility and learning more about how modern day cars are assembled. Who knows, it might even convince us to buy a VW the next time around.
Campground Dresden-Mockritz: http://www.camping-dresden.de/index_en.htm
Dresdner Eierschecke: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eierschecke
Parade of Nobles: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F%C3%BCrstenzug
Brühlsche Terrasse: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Br%C3%BChl’s_Terrace
Augustus Bridge: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustus_Bridge
Wenzel Prager Bierstuben: http://www.wenzel-bierstuben.de/start/index.php?menuid=5
Böhmische Knödel: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%B6hmische_Kn%C3%B6del