August 15th-17th my wife and I took a road trip to Dresden along with Hobbit. This was my first visit to the former East Germany (sometimes referred to as the DDR), so I was pretty excited about going. This was my wife's first trip to East Germany since Germany was reunited.
Our first "official" stop was in Erfurt. Erfurt is located in German federal state of Thüringen (also known as Thuringia). I live in the German federal state of Hessen, which borders Thüringen. Erfurt is home of the German kiddie television network Kika, that I became familiar with through my kids. I didn't get see their studio, but I did drive by it and saw some statues of some of their characters around town. I took a lot of pictures in Erfurt and have placed many of them in a folder Erfurt 2009 pictures @ Flickr. I climbed the wodden stairs in the tower at the Methodist church in the Klaemer Bridge (you'll notice the United Methodist Banner hanging on one of its entrances below along with a few other pictures that I took from the tower and of the famous bridge) and had a really awesome view of Erfurt. If you look in the picture of the Kraemer Bridge you might notice a horse hanging above a shop window, the sign reminded me of the "Prancing Pony" in Lord of the Rings. At various restuarants and little fast food stands throughout Germany you can buy a bratwurst, it will often be referred to as "the original Thüringen" so I had one at lunch along with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes at a nice outdoor cafe that was somewhat secluded from the main traffic of the city (picture of my lunch located further down in this post). I was really impressed by what is sometimes billed as the "only inhabited bridge North of the Alps".
A View from the tower in the Kraemerbruecke
Another View from the tower in the Kraemerbruecke
A view the Kraemerbruecke from the ground level
My Lunch (a specialty of the region)
Dresden Day One
Balloons over the Elbe
After checking into our hotel we drove to the outskirts of the city and had dinner at a brauhaus overlooking the Elbe river. I enjoyed drinking one of the beers that was brewed there and we enjoyed our view. There was also some kind of hot air balloon event and we saw seven different balloons go by. It turns out that we drove by this brewery on a tour that we took the next day.
Dresden Day Two
Market place view of the Dresden's famous Frauenkirche
It wasn't long after arriving at in Dresden that we realized that they were having their annual city festival and that the downtown area would be packed. We took the strassenbahn near out hotel into the downtown area and immediately saw all the stands that were waiting for the big festival later on that day. It was nice to walk the bank of the Elbe and see all the empty little food stands that would be bustling with people eating later in the day waiting for their day to begin. We walked to the Frauenkirche before it opened and returned after it opened to go inside.
A piece of the remains of the Frauenkirche after the bombing
Inside the Frauenkirche
The Frauenkirche (translated loosely as the Womens' church) is one of the most famous landmarks of Dresden. It was bombed almost to oblivion during World War II and there was a huge campaign to try to restore it to it's former glory. I read in "THE DRESDEN FRAUENKIRCHE: The original building - The destruction The reconstruction" (Schoning Verlag), which I bought at the church gift shop that there was apparently some controversy about the restoration and some surviving pieces of the church were used in the church that stands there today. There was a huge rock that stands outside of the Frauenkirche which survived the bombing and was placed outside of the church as a memorial. The church looks quite a bit different than most that I've seen and I was amazed at how light it was inside, as I've seen so many churches that are very dark inside. The inside also reminded me of the way that fancy opera houses are often portrayed with deluxe luxury boxes for the patrons. Because we didn't believe that we could bring Hobbit into the church we took turns going inside the church with the other enjoying a nice piece of cake at the Coselpalais Grand Cafe & Restuarant, which is close to the Frauenkirche and has a great view of the church. The cafe has quite a story to it (like many of the buildings in Dresden, I imagine). My wife had seen a story about the cafe on a television show she had watched that showed all the nice cakes they served and so on. She was amazed to find the waitress interviewed in the story was working there and she got to talk to her for a few minutes. There was also some kind of event that day where a hundred people or so were dressed up as Aristocracy (I was able to get a few pictures before the crowd got too big for me to move around) and they hung out at the cafe before there event kicked off. Seeing all those people dressed up made you think that we were time travelers or something.
Coselpalais Grand Cafe & Restaurant- Wouldn't you like to have cake and coffee here?
Time to get all dressed up
We walked around the Zwinger Place, which reminded me somewhat of the Louvre and Versailles. The grounds had a manicured look with a lot of green grass and lots of statues. We also walked by the Semperoper, another famous landmark of Dresden. The historic opera once opened operas from Strauss and Wagner and is still in use today. The opera is featured in many commercials and advertisements of Radeberger Pilsner. There are various tour companies conducting tours of the Dresden, we took one and saw the city on a double-decker bus. Our tour was an hour and a half long and we boarded just outside of the Zwinger Place. We could have hopped on and off at various points throughout the tour but we stay on to be able to see the whole tour in one go. At several points during the tour I was totally amazed at the scenery and wished that I'd have the opportunity to come back at look at this or that at my own pace but our visit didn't allow this. I know that this bus tours are very "touristic" but it does give you a chance to see many things that we might not otherwise have seen and they tend to offer various language selections (if your German isn't up to snuff). I took a lot of picture and have place them in the following folder Dresden 2009 pictures @ Flickr. Dresden is a wonderful city, definitely worth checking out if you get the chance.
A view of Dresden on the banks of the Elbe from the bus
The sight-seeing tour company we used
Meissen (Famous European porcelain China and more)
Meissen around the center of the village
Meissen around the center of the village
Meissen, Germany is known for the porcelain china company bearing the same name. We didn't even try to tour the museum because we didn't believe that Hobbit would be welcome on such a tour. There is a castle that is shown in various tour books but we weren't able to park near it due to treacherous mountainous and one-way streets that conspired to keep us away! After driving around for a while trying to reach the castle, we decided to go to the village center. Since we were hungry, we looked for a restaurant and were surprised to see most of the few that we could find open were all offering basically the same mushroom dish. We did finally decide on a place but weren't too impressed with the food or the service. I tend to be more forgiving about restaurant service, since I did a stint waiting tables, but as I sometimes say in these situations, we don't know what situation was like for the people working at the restaurant. I didn't take so many pictures of Meissen because we weren't there that long and it was dark after we had dinner but I did put a few pictures in the following folder Erfurt 2009 pictures @ Flickr. I'd like to have seen the museum and castle, maybe some other time.
Goethe and Schiller, two of Weimar's famous residents
Weimar was recommended to us by a family doctor as a place that we should visit, so I was glad to see that we could easily accommodate a visit to this city on our trip. I noticed that many of the buildings were painted yellow (both Schiller and Goethe had houses there painted in yellow), I'm not exactly sure why. Friedrich Nietzsche lived the last few years of his life there under the care of his sister according to "Weimar Centre of European culture" (Schoning Verlag) that I bought there. When we were walking around Hobbit wanted to have a look at the Pushkin statue (I have a picture of him standing by the statue). Since Weimar was a stop for us on the way home, we only had a few hours to look around but we saw enough to be impressed and enjoy a nice lunch at the Ratskeller. On our way out we walked through Goethe's garden. I took several pictures of Wiemar and have put them in the following folder Erfurt 2009 pictures @ Flickr
View from the Weimar market
Another view from the Weimar market
After leaving Weimar we hit construction right away and ran into some traffic problems. I believe at one point that we had one traffic jam of over 12 kilometers! Times like that make me wish that I had an automatic transmission in our cars!
All in all we had a wonderful and memorable trip to Dresden, Erfurt, Meissen, and Weimar. I'm glad to have finally gotten a chance to venture into the former East Germany. Erfurt appears to be about two to two and half hours by car for us (depending upon traffic and construction of course), so it doesn't seem as far away as we had once thought.
I've created two different slide shows from the trip. Both of them have music and because I don't wish to have the music removed or that they get yanked, I haven't placed them on Youtube. All of the pictures from the slideshows are posted in the two folders mentioned earlier in this post. I plan to Blip all the songs, so that you can try to recreate these on your own (if you'd like) in the next few days. Feel free to check out my Blip profile to see what songs I used, or I will also put up something here indicating that I have blipped the songs.
Here are some links to further information that I thought might be of interest to you.
- Dresden at wikitravel.org
- Dresden city entry at wikipedia
- Bombing of Dresden during WWII at wikipedia
- Frauenkirche official website (in German only?)
- Dresden at the Library of Congress
- Society for the Rebuilding of the Historical Neumarkt Dresden
- Frauenkirche entry at wikipedia
- Meissen porcelain entry at wikipedia
- Meissen city website
- Diocese of Meissen
- Meissen Porclain Museum
- Meissen city entry at wikipedia
- Discussion about hyper-inflation and Weimar, Germany
- Weimar, Germany and tourist attractions at planetware.com
- Weimar entry at wikipedia