We really enjoyed visiting Dresden. It is the capitol city of the German state of Saxony and it’s complex history remains a focus of it’s incredible city center. We decided to drive to Dresden from Würzburg. It is 370km on the Autobahn, about a 3-hr drive.
History of Dresden
For centuries Dresden was royal ground. Augustus der Starke “Augustus II the Strong” and his son developed Dresden from a medieval city to a regal one — their legacy is mainly art, architecture, opera, and porcelain — the defining elements that we see today. Saxony became a free state in 1918.
WWII: It is the unfortunate events of the 20thC that are most familiar. Near the end of the war Dresden was the target of a two-day saturation bombing by US/British bombers and was nearly reduced to ash. Criticism remains, in regard to the intensity of explosives used and devastating impact to a civilian population, without (at the time) a military presence.
GDR era: Dresden was a strong industrial city in the GDR (former East Germany) and the city recovered and reconstructed during this time— some with the original building plans. To de-emphasize the city’s bourgeois history, leaders elected to bulldoze a portion of destroyed palaces and churches– We passed through a corridor of GDR era infrastructure on the way to the hotel.
Since Reunification, revitalization has picked up. Frauenkirche was completed in 2005. Restoration of the Neumarkt and Zwinger Orangerie are currently underway.
Innere Altstadt “Inner Old Town”
Our first stop in Dresden was the Innere Altstadt, a 10-minute walk from our hotel. We stopped for lunch at Cafe Aha and shared a table with an Austrian college student on spring break. She suggested that we walk the city at night. We (Derek and I) both agreed that day-or-night Dresden’s Altstadt, with it’s dark Baroque-style buildings along the Elbe River, was especially beautiful. It is not easy to translate the sensory experience of Dresden, but I will say that there is equally a liveliness to this part of the city and a quiet depth — which may be why it is so compelling.
We stepped into Frauenkirche “Church of our Lady”. Missing from the Dresden skyline for 60-years, the rebuilding of this 18th century cathedral was community driven, and holds a special meaning to many residents. Afterwards, we spent an hour in the late afternoon soaking up the Zwinger. You can see those posts here and here.
Inner Neustadt “Inner New Town”
At the end of the day, we crossed the river into the Inner Neustadt (meaning Inner New Town) neighborhood. We stopped to snap a pic of Goldener Reiter (below) and headed toward the Aussere Neustadt (meaning outer New Town), just as the nightlife in the area was picking up–
Äußere Neustadt “Outer New Town”
The first thing we noticed was the contrast to the ornamental Altstadt. Aussere Nuestadt was a punk-style paradise. We stopped at the cross of Louisenstrasse and Alaunstrasse where people were sitting on curbs, drinking, smoking, and partying (in the chill way that most Germans do). Aussere Neustadt had an attitude that felt authentic. While areas around the center have become the focus of urban renewal, this neighborhood is mostly alternative: A high concentration of bars, street food, layers of graffiti– and off the main streets, boarded up buildings.
We found our first craft beer store in Germany! And decided to walk the neighborhood for a while (actually I had a really gross blackberry cider, bad choice). Then we grabbed a late dinner at Curry & Co. customized curry wurst! They won the national currywurst competition a couple years ago. We stopped in a couple more bars and made our way home. I learned a new term from Derek: “Ostalgie”, nostalgic symbols of the GDR, The crosswalk light above is an example!
Next post: Dresden, Cont..
“Ostalgie”, Symbols of Nostalgia for East Germany
Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut’s semi-autobiographical account of the Dresden Bombings, for the readers
(Click to enlarge)