Dresden: A Proud Legacy
Germany Travel Mart 2018, hosted in the beautiful capital of the free state of Saxony, effectively showcased the many attractions of Dresden, which is famous for its architectural and music heritage
Dresden has virtually risen from the ashes to take its rightful place among the most beautiful cities in Europe. The city had suffered significant destruction during World War II bombing in 1945, and following the reunification of Germany most of its architectural heritage was restored to its former glory. A cruise along the Elbe offers stunning views of it’s many palaces and historic structures, that line up both sides of the river. Elbe itself is very important to the city.
Dresden has an 800 year old history. The city itself is a delight to explore on foot, as every corner turns up a visual delight. Most tours of the old town start from the Theaterplatz Square. The Semperoper is one of the world’s most famous opera houses and and icon of Dresden’s pride as a cultural capital. From soloist concerts to ballet performances, the opera house is a hub of many activities, including the popular Dresden Opera Ball (SemperOperaball). The Dresden State Orchestra under chief conductor Christian Thielemann is known globally. The building’s striking architectural features make it one of first stops for visitors to the city. Architectural tours and other thematic tours are available upon request.
The Church of Our Lady, which was destroyed during the WWII bombing, was rebuilt and consecrated in 2005. The cathedral today is a testament to the resilience of the city and its ethos. If you are staying in Dresden for a few days, there is no way you can avoid passing the Fürstenzug – the Procession of Princes (the rulers of Saxony), a few times everyday. It is the largest porcelain mural in the world made of Meissen porcelain tiles. The Brühl’s Terrace nearby popularly known as the ‘Balcony of Europe’ is one of the favourite places for visitors and locals alike. The terrace gets its name from Count Heinrich von Brühl, who was given the terrace as a gift by the then Saxon elector. The impressive and expansive museum complex of Zwinger includes the Old Masters Picture Gallery, the Dresden Porcelain Collection and the Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments.
Residenzschloss, Dresden’s royal palace, which had been completely burnt out has now one of the most eclectic collections in the world in its 15 museums, including the Green Vault, the Cabinet of Prints, Drawings and Photographs, the Armoury, the Coin Cabinet, and others. The pride of the Green Vault is the Dresden Green Diamond. With a history that dates back to 1722, the extraordinary Dresden Green is believed to be from Kollur mine in Andhra Pradesh, India. For visitors from India, another exhibit of much interest is the Throne of the Grand Mughal Aurangzeb designed by Johann Melchior Dinglinger one of Europe’s renowned goldsmiths. The exhibit is a stunning display of opulence and wealth in celebration of the Mughal Emperor’s birthday in the palace courtyard, with 132 intricately crafted figurines of men and animals. Regarded as the greatest work of European jewellery art ((created from 1701 – 1708), it is encrusted with 5120 diamonds, 160 rubies, 164 emeralds, one sapphire, 16 pearls, and more.
Another astounding display of the goldsmith’s craft is the Golden Coffee Service, an elaborate setup fit for royalty. While the Weapons Gallery showcases the tools of warcraft, The Electoral Wardrobe gives every visitor an insight into the royal wardrobe centuries ago.
The Albertinum is another important building. It was an armoury, and was later converted into a museum in the beginning of the 19th century, now it is a gallery of new masters, showcasing art from the Romantic period to the present. Currently the building is being reconstructed. The Transport Museum, which is one of the oldest buildings in the city, showcases an interesting collection of vehicles across various modes of transportation – from the bicycle to the train, tracing the history of each. Among the newest addition to the city’s vibrant music and events scene is the Dresdner Kulturpalast, the concert and events venue, which reopened in 2017. Another modern landmark is Kraftwerk Mitte Dresden, an erstwhile industrial site which is now a hub for arts and creativity.
A short drive from Dresden is the picturesque town of Pirna, located near the Sandstone Mountains in the Elbe valley. A town of 39,000 inhabitants, Pirna is a perfect destination for any vacation and the gateway to Saxon-Switzerland. Its location is another advantage – just about 90 minutes from Prague, and a few hours away from Berlin and Poland. The city was the inspiration for several works of the famous painter Bernardo Bellotto, which now occupy a place of pride in Dresden’s Old Masters Picture Gallery. Today if you visit the Castle Sunstone, which is currently hosting an exhibition by famous German sculpture Hans Scheib, you can get some of the best panoramic views of Pirna city from the terrace. And yes, visitors can also get a unique opportunity to sculpt a sandstone brick and take it home.
Sandstone is the source of life in Pirna, there was a time when one-third of its population worked in the sandstone industry. Among the most important structures is The Church of St Mary in Pirna, which is also built with sandstone and a late Gothic church. The other highlights of the stunning interiors are – the exquisitely painted net-vault ceiling, the ornate sandstone altar from 1614 and a five centuries old stunning babtismal font. The church is also used as a venue for classical concerts.
The Town Hall is centrally located and another striking building, which dates back to the first half of the 16th century. Another important building is the Tetzelhaus, the home of Dominican friar Johann Tetzel, an opponent of Martin Luther. The city is famous for its gates, which are in various styles – Renaissance, Gothic, Baroque.
The Elbe Sandstone Mountains covers an area of 710 square kilometres and attracts seven million tourists annually. The highlight of Elbe Sandstone Mountains is Bastei rocks and the famous Bastei bridge from where visitors can get breathtaking views of the surrounding area, including the meandering Elbe river.
There are several walking trails, and the popular activities include mountain biking, trekking, riding, cross country skiing, etc. The area has been the site of many film shoots like The Chronicles of Narnia, Inglourious Basterds, The Reader, Hansel & Gretel, and many more. There are many accommodation options here including hotels, guest houses and camp sites. The exclusive spas and health resorts in these idyllic natural surroundings are also popular with visitors.