I thought that it was high time that I finally got around to posting about my trip to Dresden two weeks ago.
We arrived at the train station in Wittenberg very early on Saturday morning for our three-hour train ride to Dresden. When we arrived in Dresden we immediately set off for a city tour. Our tour guide, Susie, was full of interesting factoids about the many historic places in Dresden. Most of the city was destroyed in the air raids of 1945 and not reconstructed until reunification in 1989. This fact is much more impressive when you break through the long walkway of modern shops and hotels into the old town. It is nothing but beautiful buildings from every angle. We walked though the Residenzschloss, the royal palace for the Prince Elector of Saxony, and the Zwinger. I was fascinated by the Zwinger, which was built by Dresden’s most famous ruler, Augustus the Strong, for his son’s new wife Maria Josepha, the daughter of the Habsburg emperor. Much like the World Cup, the royal family in Dresden received four years notice that the princess from Austria was coming to live there. And, just like the World Cup, this marriage needed a stadium. This stadium was the Zwinger. Literally build as a massive, beautiful façade around a parade ground, it was never meant to serve any purpose other than to be visually stunning. I loved that about it. Over the years it was slated for destruction, but the funds to do so dried up. Later it was reconstructed in the 1930’s. Unfortunately, it was one of the buildings destroyed in 1945. Rebuilt again, it now stands in all of its former glory between the Residenzschloss and the Semperoper.
I could go on and on about the cool historical buildings, but that might bore some of y’all. There are so many places to see, including the Catholic Church built just for August the Strong, the Parade of Princes, and the Turkish palace. My other favorite building was the Frauenkirche, where we ended our tour. An absolutely stunning Lutheran Church originally built under the reign of Augustus the Strong in the 1700s, the church was built on the land of the earlier Lutheran church, which was much smaller. To accommodate most of the townspeople who would attend services in the small place of the church, the building is almost completely round and several stories tall with a 96 meter high dome. After its destruction in 1945, it was rebuilt in 1989, funded mostly through donations from around the world. The inside is breathtaking, all blue and gold with a massive organ. When I came back later in the afternoon they were having an organ concert, so I got to hear some of the music.
Later we got free time, so I went back to the Residenzschloss to see the museum housed there. While I couldn’t get a ticket for the famous Historic Green Vault, anyone with a regular admission ticket can go to the Neues Günes Gewölbe (New Green Vault). The New Green Vault holds almost exclusively expensive trinkets. Cups made from mother of pearl shells, coral, gold, and porcelain that you could never drink out of, giant sculptures made of ivory, tiny cherry pits with 158 faces carved in them, a huge diagram of a Turkish coronation, the world’s largest green diamond, and much more. It was another fantastic example of things that were beautiful for beauty’s sake. I spent over an hour wandering around in awe, trying to take in all of the things. Photographs were not allowed, but you can get a glimpse here. The museum also housed a portrait collection with a very friendly guard, a collection of Turkish armor and weapons, and a huge exhibit on jousting apparel. I spent a great few hours there.
Following a nice dinner outside a café, we wandered around to see the city at night. The views from the River Elbe were pretty spectacular, and we were pleasantly surprised by a fireworks show.
The next day we went on an excursion to Königstein, which is the literal cliff that I am going to leave you hanging on. I promise to post all about the fortress soon, so stay tuned!