I know it’s been a handful of days since I last posted, but I was in Dresden all weekend and did not have my computer with me. That being said, I have done a lot since then, so prepare for a long post here.
Friday was just like any other day. It started with Unterricht, and then I had a break for lunch. There was an optional excursion in the afternoon, but since I had to catch a train to Dresden, I couldn’t attend. At 2:30, I met up with Adam, Claudio, and Jesse at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof. I bought some snacks from the Rewe (grocery store) inside the gas station before getting on the train. I got myself a bag of paprika chips, which are potato chips that have a heavenly, vaguely BBQ-y, delicious flavor, and a German classic, Haribo Smurfs. The train we were on was quite nice. The car was air conditioned, and there was even wifi! I was thrilled. Despite having two hours with unlimited access to the internet, I read my book for the majority of the trip.
Upon arriving in Dresden, we walked about 10 minutes to our hotel, where we checked in and went to our rooms. We had about 45 minutes until we had to meet for dinner, so I spent the time unpacking the small bag I had shoved all my things into. Around 6:30, we all met up and headed to the restaurant. The hotel we were staying at was in Neustadt, a.k.a. the newer parts of Dresden, and the restaurant was located in Altstadt, a.k.a. the older parts of Dresden. To get there, we had to walk through the shopping area, through a tunnel, past many beautiful, old buildings (I learned more about them the following day), and across the river. The restaurant was a Vietnamese place, with delicious pho (that’s what I ordered). The place was decorated with DDR-themed posters and what not. The worst of part dinner was that we accidentally ordered water mit Gas (with bubbles) instead of ohne Gas (without bubbles).
After dinner, we were free to do what we wanted, so Adam, Claudio, and I grabbed drinks from a Späti (basically a convenience store that is open nearly 24/7), and headed towards the river. A fun fact I learned from the tour we did on Saturday – the Elbe is only ever walled in on one side, meaning there is always, through all of Dresden, a grassy side of the river. So that’s where we went Friday evening. We took our drinks to the river, sat on the grass, and listened to the music playing in the Biergarten nearby. The temperature had dropped to a level where one could be outside for more than 5 minutes without sweating, so it was quite a pleasant evening. After a while, we walked back to the hotel and turned in for the night.
On Saturday, we took a train to Meissen, which is about 30 minutes away. This town is so quaint and still looks very much like a stereotypical old German town. The most famous thing in Meissen is the Porcelain Factory. Meissen was the first place in Germany (and likely western Europe) that produced procelain, which at the time was referred to as “white gold” because of the rarity of it. Unfortunately, we didn’t tour the Porcelain Factory, but we did get to tour Albrechtsburg, which is the castle in Meissen. The inside of the castle has been turned into a museum, which we got to walk through. We had little handheld speaker things that we would punch a number into and the corresponding information would be played for us in our language of choice (for me, naturally German).
After the tour in Meissen, we hopped on a train back to Dresden. Once back in Dresden, we had some free time for lunch before our walking tour at 2:30. Adam and I went to an Italian restaurant, which we originally thought was a local place, but it turns out it’s a chain. Either way, it was still the biggest pizza I’ve ever eaten and was quite delicious.
After lunch came the city tour, which was focused on the Aldtstadt. I learned about the architecture, the influences from Italy and Asia, the Duke who built the buildings, and how he managed to secretly build a Catholic church in the middle of Protestant Dresden. The main thing I remember from the tour is that many of the buildings may look old, but due to the destruction from WWII, many of the buildings have just been rebuilt to look old, but are, in reality, less than 20 years old.
One specific thing I do remember is about the rebuilding of the Frauenkirche. After WWII, the Frauenkirche was about 80% destroyed, with only one corner bit still standing. In order to rebuild it, there was a group of 7 people who took out an ad in the newspaper, asking for donations for the reconstruction of this building. This was not an official city movement, rather just one started by everyday people. The call for donations gathered soooo much money and support, much more than anticipated. There was still a ton of rubble around the area, with some stones still in tact. Some engineers were able to create a program that could determine exactly where in the buildings structure each stone came from, so they were able to reconstruct the Frauenkirche using some of the original stones. In the picture, all the darker stones are original.
Saturday night, we ate at a restaurant called Planwirtschaft (planned economy). This place was completely DDR themed, even down to the ingredients used in the food. I had a delicious schnitzel for dinner and a strange, strawberry and some other-kind-of-fruit-that-has-an-untranslatable-German-name sorbet for dessert. After dinner, I went with Adam and Jesse to a little Biergarten where a live band was playing. We tried some locally made white wine (which I personally didn’t care for), and then headed back to the hotel.
Sunday morning, we headed to the Zwinge (direct translation: kennel), which is the building in which August the Strong(the duke of Dresden at some point in history)’s personal porcelain collection is housed, along with a collection of science machine things.
Once we had looked at enough porcelain to sustain us for our entire lives, we headed back to the train station to wait for our train back to Berlin. On the way there, we stopped for Eis (ice cream) at a cafe.
I spent most of the train ride back reading my book again. Upon arriving home in Zehlendorf, I had dinner with my host father and headed to bed.
I learned a lot from the trip to Dresden. The city was very pretty, especially since the newly built buildings were modeled to match the buildings that were still standing. Dresden has a lot of charm. It’s both new and old, so it really does have the best of both worlds. I would really like to visit Dresden again and get to spend a bit more time soaking up all there is to see, learn, and do.