Europe Trip 2010: Day 2, Exploring Dresden

After a nice long night of sleep (which seems to have cleared up any Jet Lag we might have had), we woke up ready to begin our explorations of Dresden in earnest. So much to see, in so little time! This post will walk through day 2 of our journey, filled with architecture and artistry.

If you just want to see all the pictures for Day 2, here is the link to the photo gallery– but read on for explanations and interesting tidbits.

To start with, our hotel for the first few days, which we talked about yesterday, was situated right in the heart of the historic “Old Dresden” center. In fact, the view out of our window was looking directly at, a stones-throw away from, the most famous building in Dresden: Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady).
During World War II, Dresden was heavily firebombed, and the historic church was one of the greatest architectural casulties. All that was left was rubble. But beginning in the 1990s, Dresdeners started to rebuild Frauenkirche, using old photographs to perfectly recapture what was lost. Moreover, they tried to piece the rubble together– about 30% of the building is using the original stones (you can tell which ones because they are black and burned from the firebombing). The top dome couldn’t use the original stones because they wouldn’t be structurally strong enough, but they preserved the largest existing chunk of the dome:

Before I move on, let me give you a quick description of our little apartment. It was small but well furnished, and aside from the sweltering heat (no air conditioner during the hottest month in the city), it was just about perfect. Dresden doesn’t seem very used to large beds– in both of our hotels so far, a “double” is just two single beds pushed together. The bathroom was nice; it had a sit-down only shower. We even had a little kitchenette, although we didn’t get much chance to use it.

After our nice morning view, we headed over to the continental breakfast provided by our hotel, at the restaurant also owned by them, Gasthaus am Neumarkt (the Guesthouse by New Market). Germans really know their breakfasts, perhaps more than any other meal we’ve had. Here I am enjoying our delightful spread:

The food was all served buffet-style, but was of exceptional quality and freshness. The sliced meats and bread we exceptional (I’ve never had cold meat cuts for breakfast before, but it’s actually quite interesting– German meat, even salami, is incredibly non-greasy. It feels hearty, not fatty).

Rested, well-fed, and raring to go, we set out to explore the historic core of Dresden. First, we went outside our hotel and checked out the outside of Frauenkirche, although we didn’t make it inside until day 3, as it’s an active church and you have to sneak in between services.
We got a nice picture or two of Andrew in front of a statue of Martin Luther.

Next on the list was a visit to the Zwinger, an adjoining grounds to the Royal Palace that gradually got filled up with it’s own complex of museums, galleries, and gardens. It has a large central garden, which Teisha is modeling in.

Each side of the Zwinger has a different history. For instance, the Crown Gate is topped by a large black crown, with a smaller gold crown on top. This was built for Augustus the Strong (who we’ll hear lots about– he’s the big hero of Dresden)– we was both Elector of Saxony (the black crown) and King of Poland (the gold one).

Major restoration work is still underway at the Zwinger and, amusingly, they put up fake plastic/canvas fascades that match the “final look” to hide the construction (complete with fake graffiti, which you’ll see on day 3). In the zoomed out picture with Teisha, you can see the real Zwinger on the right and the fascade on the left.

Teisha wanted to point out a few other areas of the Zwinger, like a cute bird she saw, Andrew in front of the gardens, and two more gates– one of which is a bell tower.

Lastly, some of the sculpted decorations of the Zwinger were quite neat, including a statue of Augustus the Strong as Atlas, globe on his back, and some strange satyrs/devils on the columns near one gate.

In the Zwinger, we visited the Old Masters Gallery, a painting gallery with famous works of the Renaissance, Baroque, and Dutch masters. You can’t take any photos in there, but the most famous work is the Sistine Madonna by Raphael, with the famous cupids.

We left the Zwinger to head towards the Royal palace. In the courtyard between them, you can see the famous Semperoper Opera House and some beautiful flowers.

More interestingly, you can see a Catholic Cathedral, the Hofkirche (the only big catholic church in town; only about 5% of Dresdeners are Catholic), which was built by Augustus III (son of Augustus the Strong). The Kings had converted to Catholicism, even though most of the population was protestant, and felt that they needed a Catholic Church to counterbalance the protestant influence. But none of their protestant workers would build it! So Augustus III had to import Italian laborers to get the job done– in the photo you can see the Hofkirche on the right, and the Italian villa that was built for the imported laborers on the left.

At the Royal Palace, we visited the Historic Green Vault, a repository of gold, silver, and other treasures from the kings of Saxony, considered the most impressive sight in Dresden (we had to get our tickets 2 months in advance, and they keep the exhibit isolated with an airlock). It was neat, but for all that build up, perhaps a little underwhelming. Again, no photography allowed. Basically, picture a series of rooms with mirrored walls, each with hundreds of wall sconces adorned with silver and gold drinking cups, statuettes, and jewelry.

After all that, we were felling a little over-museumed, and so it was wonderful that we got a chance to meet up with Mike Tipsword, an old colleague of Teisha’s boss Dennis Clegg (Mike worked for Dennis as an undergrad back in 1992-1994). Mike, who now works at the Max Planck Institute, was incredibly nice, and showed us around Dresden’s “New Town”, which ironically is the area that survived the bombing in World War II, making most of it’s buildings older. It’s the part of the town that isn’t full of tourists, and is where the life of the city takes place. We were so caught up talking to Mike that we didn’t take a lot of pictures, but we got a nice picture of Teisha and Mike at the Durum joint where Mike generously treated us to lunch (Turkish shwarma and falafel, the most common fast food in Dresden).

When we left New Town, we finally got a chance to visit our first Beer Garden, and to explore the Elbe river. Here’s some nice pictures of the riverbank (with Frauenkirche and the palace on the other side), along with the Augustus bridge that crosses it.

Meandering back through the Old Town, we ran across a model boat demonstration, which actually had quite a crowd–including Brat vendors, Beer, and a news crew. Germans must like their model boats!

As promised on day 1, we then returned to the “Parade of Nobles”, a gigantic porcelain fixture on the side of the royal palace. It depicts all the Wettin Saxon kings. For scale, here is Andrew admiring it up close:
The parade (backwards to forwards) ends with the artist himself (who made the mural in 1907), who is wearing a hat and looking out at the audience.
The last Wettin Kings come next:
And here’s Augustus the Strong, whose horse is shown stomping a rose (a symbol of Martin Luther and protestantism, which Augustus renounced for Catholicism in order to become King of Poland).
There’s a whole sequence we took (available in the whole gallery), which are fascinating because the artist strove to accurately capture the attire and weaponry of each era. One that was interesting to us was the first inclusion of hunting dogs and black servants.
Strangely, the parade begins with a generic “band leader” and minstrils, rather than anyone famous.

As night started settling in, we headed down to the Prager Strasse (Prague Street), which is becoming a major shopping area, but used to be the site of many blocky, soviet-era construction projects (many of the huge apartment buildings survive).

Just wanted to point out the Turkish influence: Durum fast food restaurants are everywhere, and there’s lots of Turkish street performers, like this girl playing accordian.

By now, we were exhausted, and headed “home” to Munzgasse and Frauenkirche. We were lucky enough to catch a some fire-jugglers performing for the crowd on the rampart overlooking the Elbe.

And while Germany didn’t get to the finals of the World Cup (drat, that would have been fun), they were certainly still excited by the runner-up match. There was a whole soccer-watching stadium set up across the riverbank, and when Germany won, the town set off fireworks.

And so, with fireworks booming in the distance and cheap ice cream in our bellies, we ended day 2 of our exciting adventure. Thanks for reading!

3 Responses to “Europe Trip 2010: Day 2, Exploring Dresden”

omg you two look like you’re having such fun! I guess it would be hard not to!

sheila - July 12th, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Mike Tipsword is my brother. I just happened to google his name and found your site. What a great surprise! He is an incrediable, wonderful person, and I miss him. I loved seeing his picture and a glimps into his life. Thank you for posting, it made my day.

Carol - April 5th, 2011 at 1:07 pm

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