Traveling to Dresden, Germany began like a dream, a fairy tale really. Arriving in the main square, I was greeted by blue skies, charming structures, and a woman producing lots of large, beautiful bubbles. My first impression, viewing the city center through these bubbles, made me instantly fall in love with this quaint city. Seeing Dresden through these bubbles allowed for a skewed reality, which is appropriate for what the city is according to its history.
One's perception of Dresden is a city comprised of ancient, historical buildings. But in reality, these buildings are all remodels of what they used to be. Because Dresden was badly bombed in World War II, none of the historical structures still stand. But instead of being rebuilt as a modern city, the state of Saxony decided to preserve the old charm and intricate architecture from hundreds of years ago. Everything was deliberately rebuilt as old and aged. This perception versus the reality fascinates me. If you see it through bubbles like I did when I arrived, it adds another layer of fantasy and altered reality.
Dresden has so much to offer. From its beautiful opera house (called The Semperoper) to the residential Dresden Castle in the heart of the city that holds an impressive art collection, the city has something pleasing to the eye at every turn. Dresden is also situated along the Elbe River, one European river cruise option, giving both locals and travelers a place to relax on its beautiful grassy areas for miles along its path. Taking a boat ride down the river provides a relaxing, scenic view of the city and beyond.
It’s an inviting place, a city with a population of 500,000 people, but gives off a humble and comfortable vibe. It’s located in the eastern part of Germany, just a 2-hour train ride from Berlin and an hour and a half car ride from Prague, Czech Republic.
There’s a lot of great excursions just beyond the city. One of my favorite experiences on this trip was the town of Meissen. Only 16 miles from Dresden, it is famous and renowned for its porcelain manufacturing. You can sign up for a private tour in the museum to see firsthand what the intricate process entails. It makes you appreciate all the fine detail and artistry that goes into this craft. The training and apprentice process to become a porcelain artist is intense, competitive, and takes years to master. That’s how they are able to produce these high quality pieces. I was in awe, just blown away by what they do and the amazing art they create.
Taking a wine tour at the Schloss Proschwitz Winery in Meissen, which grows 13 varietals, was another unforgettable experience. It was interesting to hear about the challenges this winery faces in terms of which grapes grow better than others. There are so many factors that contribute to a successful harvest. This particular in-demand winery produces about half a million bottles of wine a year. They sell to bars and restaurants throughout Germany as well as internationally. Afterwards, I noticed every bottle of wine ordered at meals was from this winery! Because I saw firsthand the winemaking process and pride that goes into this craft, It made me appreciate drinking the wine all the more.
As much as I appreciated the manmade beauty of this area of Germany, I was taken aback by all of the natural beauty as well, with its lush, rolling hills, clear blue skies, and fields of wildflowers. About an hour's drive from Dresden, hiking and walking trails lead you to the Bastei Rocks. These rock formations are so impressive: you stare into the wilderness and wonder how such magnificence was ever created. It makes you happy to be alive and see what this world has to offer.
A trip to Germany would not be complete without AT LEAST one visit to a castle (or Schloss). These castles exude a royal decadence one would only expect. Yet each castle has its own story, its own unique designs according to the tastes and interests of their owners. At Schloss Moritzburg, Augustus II the Strong requested a master bedroom with tapestries and bedspreads made of bird’s feathers. The number and kinds of birds used for this ambitious project are unknown, but over one million feathers were used to complete it. Remarkably, they have been restored and are now displayed behind a glass wall in the castle. This unique element plays to the overall theme of the castle, which was used as a hunting lodge of electors and kings of Saxony.
And what would a city be without excellent cuisine? From a traditional Bavarian Schnitzel to an elegantly prepared filet of cod, Dresden offers something for everyone. With complexflavors and generous portions, I was impressed with every single meal I ate during my trip. Indulging with food while traveling is almost a rite of passage, one must never leave the table without a full belly. The dessert is irresistible as well. I saw many people walking the squares with ice cream cones in hand, and I had my eyes on a decadent ice cream sundae that was being offered at the outdoor café right next to my hotel. I went for it with no regrets. It was worth every calorie!
My previous travels in Europe have been to the major cities. While the energy and endless activities in big cities appeal to me, I fell in love with the charm, class, and elegance of Dresden and the surrounding area. It’s a place that makes you feel at home, a place that you could see yourself living in. Like every travel experience I’ve ever had, I’m grateful that Dresden has opened my eyes to a new way of life. I will forever have a soft spot in my heart for Dresden.
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