Happy German Reunification Day!
We have had a great two days exploring Dresden, including today which is German Reunification Day.
We weren't sure what to expect in Dresden. In our planning, Dresden seemed a good place to go as we moved from the Middle Rhine to Prague, but our guidebook "friend," Rick Steves doesn't pay much attention to Dresden. He advises an afternoon, maybe an overnight. (For the record, we saw none of the Rick blue books during our time here). And we had booked three nights and two full days.
Well, Dresden has been a wonderfully pleasant surprise. Here's a shot of the old Schloss, substantially reconstructed since reunification — and indeed, still under major reconstruction work:
The museums and sights (except for one; see below) have been great. The transit system is sophisticated and easy to use. And the people (most of them) have been friendly and helpful. Despite the fact that Dresdeners seem utterly perplexed by an American family exploring their city, they have been very nice, although many do not speak much English. In fact, several have asked if we are British! We have been getting by pretty well with Joseph's grad school German, lots of smiling, and interesting hand motions. We trust that we haven't offended anyone!
For a small city that was fire-bombed in 1945 and part of East Germany, Dresden has a lot of interesting things to see. The museum complex, several different kinds of museums in an enormous building, has a lot to offer. The "Old Masters" part has a couple of Vermeers, a few Rembrandts, and that wretched Raffael with those two angels at the bottom.
Yesterday, we headed first for the "Historic Green Vault." The Vault is a popular tourist destination, holding most of the precious treasures gathered by Augustus the Strong in the 1700s, and his descendants. Tickets must be booked months in advance, although 200 tickets are held each day for those who wait in line. We managed to get tickets, after waiting in line for about thirty minutes.
Before visiting the "Historic Green Vault," we visited the "New Green Vault"-- more priceless treasures, just not as priceless as the "Historic" ones. We all came to some consensus that the "new" part was better than the "historic" part. The HGV provides an audioguide that seems to want to tell you how to think and feel about the display-- this part is "overwhelming," that part is "sumptuous," etc. It got annoying after awhile.
After that, it was off to the Zwinger, where the kids particularly enjoyed the exhibit of ancient weaponry. Here they are enjoying the fun of jousting, without the unpleasantness of getting skewered in a high-speed collision):
Here's another shot of Susan standing outside the Zwinger:
Today, we woke up to German Reunification Day. I had stumbled upon this fact in our planning, but, again, we didn't really know what to expect. Well, about every business (except restaurants) closes down for the day. Museums were open, so we took advantage of that. We also climbed a tower, visited the old fortifications, and stood in line to see the recently rebuilt and reopened Frauenkirche. The Frauenkirche initially survived the firebombing of 1945, only to collapse two days later. For years, the rubble stood as a reminder of the war. In the 1990s a group decided to try to rebuild. The money was raised and the church, a Lutheran church, was rebuilt (between 1992 and 2005) using the relatively few stones that had survived the firebombing (you can clearly see some of the stones are different than the others).
Here's a shot of Susan with her "idol" Martin Luther, with the Frauenkirche in the background:
After visiting the church, we decided to indulge Joseph in one of his requests-- to visit "The Blue Wonder." It's a bridge that was a marvel when it was built and opened (a long time ago) and, for some unexplained reason, painted "blue." Well, the bridge isn't much a marvel anymore. And, though it claims to be "blue," it really isn't. It looks like a plain greenish bridge. Just like in Maine!!!
[For the record, we had an unlimited travel card anyway, and there's a tram line that goes right there. It was an excuse to take a ride through a part of Dresden that we might not otherwise have seen -- and there are, indeed, parts that have not recovered either from the Allies or from the Communists. Still, I agree that the bridge could have been bluer. — ed.]
But, and we'll give some points to Joseph, on the way back we somehow found our way into a street fair. We are assuming that it was linked to German Reunification Day. Although Margaret was very doubtful about spending any time there, we convinced her to give it a try. Here she is, warming up to her surroundings:
For the record, the off-brand Sprite Margaret is drinking here cost as much as the beers did (2.50 Euros). We also had to pay a 2 Euro deposit on each of the plastic cups we were using — we think, probably to limit the mess, though we're not sure. Also, since Joseph didn't know the word for "deposit," it took him quite a while to figure out why he had to pay extra to get the first drinks!
At the fair, we found some good food (bread with cheese and other stuff on it; pasta; sausage on a bun; sausage in a spicy sauce), some okay beer, a nice man who helped us find some forks, and "good" music — how else would you celebrate German Reunification Day, but with hits from the late 80s?? For dessert, we sprung for some crepes with Nutella. A great way to wrap up a great day!
Now, it's time to pack. We're off to Prague tomorrow!