It seems like forever ago that I was in Dresden with a bunch of complete strangers, drinking beers, shouting “Prost!” and declaring that I’d met ‘friends for life’ in them all. In retrospect, it’s only been a few weeks -during which I’ve met up with the crowd twice already -Dresden is certainly a city for making friends.
Despite me being fortunate to have travelled to a variety of different destinations around this little globe of ours, I’d never been to Germany before this trip -but had wanted to for years. But Dresden? Surely one of the bigger cities was the place to start?
I may have approached Dresden as a skeptic, but this beautiful, historic city well and truly blew my socks off. As my visual aid of a video diary demonstrates, it’s a city of two halves; the beauty and culture reside on one half and the vibrancy of a colourful nightlife reflects on the other. This means that Dresden appeals to the everyman, with those slightly more daring areas politely tucked away beyond arms reach from the family-friendly tame streets.
I quickly fell in love with Dresden for countless different reasons. Partly because our itinerary was more packed-to-bursting than my suitcase. Also, because the locals were so god-damned friendly. The main contributor though, was the content of the city in it’s aesthetics and all the history to compliment the visuals.
We stayed in the beautiful Innside by Melia hotel, which earns its 4* status with the help of a fantastically central location, a luxurious, spacious interior and excellent amenities.
With our hotel perched just outside the City Square, we made regular trips through the cobbled, meandering streets to various different sites. An absolute must-see is the utterly breathtaking Church of Our Lady which was only completed in 2005. Created as a juxtaposed jigsaw of different stones and finishes, the church is a symbol of how far this City has come since World War II. It was a prime target during the blitz and gave way to nearly 4,000 tonnes of explosives which were showered over its beautiful and historical architecture.
However, substantial loss often unleashes resilience and slowly but surely, this strong-spirited city has re-built a spectacular recreation of the original Dresden. The Church of Our Lady is a colossal structure; a flagship to the square. The interior rendered me speechless. I remembered myself saying whilst in Paris that no church’s architecture could ever out-do Notre Dame and believe it or not, the duck egg blues and piercing golds of The Church of Our Lady’s intricately painted walls well and truly knocked any other church out of the park.
During our visit we did a lot of walking round the city and soon grew accustomed to finding our way through the winding streets. A lovely alternative mode of travel, however, arrives on the river banks in the form of old paddle steamers, which Dresden are famous for. The boat we boarded had just celebrated it’s seventy-something birthday and was awash with sprit and charm. We five nestled around a table in the wood panelled dining cabin and ordered plates of German comfort food to enjoy whilst we slowly paddled down river, admiring the views, taking photographs and nibbling on schnitzel and dumplings.
The boat took us to Pillnitz Castle -a beautiful sprawling saxony palace in which many kings and queens resided during summers. It has acres of well-kept gardens, stunning interiors and impressive architecture. Keep an eye out for the huge flowered tree in the giant, specially made green house.
The Semperoper Opera House was a particular highlight of our time in Dresden for me. Having never seen a ballet which was worth writing home about, I’d reached the point a few years ago where I made a conscious decision to wait until the opportunity arose to really go and see a ballet properly. London’s Royal Opera House had tempted me a few times, but maybe I knew that eventually something breathtaking would pirouette into my life, because The Opera House never quite wooed me enough to warrant a visit. Dresden’s Semperoper Opera House, however, played host to my first real taste of professional ballet and the entire experience will be with me forever. From walking across the cobbled square towards the impressively imposing building during sun set, to taking in the jaw-dropping interior architecture. From being seated in fantastic seats with a perfect view of the stage, to witnessing the standards of an incredible ballet company, armed with dancers boasting flawless technique. If you only allow yourself one indulgence whilst away on a trip, let it be this -you won’t regret it.
From a refined evening at the ballet, to a more eclectic night out in Neustadt -the lively district of Dresden. We took a tram from the historical scene of the city to strips of bars, walls of graffiti, cheering locals and busy streets. Despite the chaos, I didn’t feel threatened in Neustadt, especially having been assured by our local guide that the area is very safe. We found a quirky little bar called Wohnzimmer bar which reminded me of my Grandma’s living room with sixties furniture, classic records and gin on tap.
Another worthwhile visit is the Meissen Museum -something which Germans hold very close to their hearts, seeing as Meissen were the first company to ever produce white porcelain. The museum is incredible and they have everything you can imagine made out of white porcelain. I’d like to introduce you to the Meissen game: think of an object/animal/anything and then try and locate its porcelain interpretation in the museum, because we got photos with some of the most random things ever -all made of this ‘white gold’, as it’s called. The process of making objects, painting objects and restoring objects is also demonstrated and it’s utterly fascinated. As I put it ‘who knew porcelain could be so damn interesting…’.
Saving the best until last, I’m now going to whole-heartedly recommend a visit to Dresden’s Military History Museum. The experience begins before you’ve even set foot over the threshold, as the architecture of the building is worth the visit alone. Designed by Daniel Libeskind -the architect who’s responsible for the soberingly beautiful One World Trade Centre building, the statement made is undeniable. As once it was an old military college, this regency building reflects its 135 year old design through columns and intricate detail. Daniel Libeskind came along and introduced ‘the wedge’ -a huge steel construction which cuts through the middle of the building like it’s been dropped on the original hall from above -a fitting idea for a military museum. The content of the museum is mesmerising and really tells the story of battle through the ages from many different angles. I strongly recommend getting a guided tour, as the information and knowledge gained from our guide made the experience all the more memorable. We all came away from the museum feeling dizzied and dumbfounded by the visit. For me, this qualifies the standard of the content and the stirring affect it had on us all.
I returned home from Dresden feeling home-sick -but I was yearning after my new German home as opposed to the East London one I’d come back to. What was only a few days away felt more like I’d spent months getting to know this utterly charming German city and the strong bond I’d formed with the lifestyle and locals is testament as to how worth visiting it really is. One day I’ll go back to Dresden but until I do, I’ll keep watching my video diary to refresh the memories made.