I’m starting this post with a photo. It’s a photo that depicts one of the best aspects of travel. Anytime you can learn from an experience and meet good people, such as this group we met in Dresden, it’s a win.
A Simple Photo
It’s a simple photo but it says so much. From left to right you see the face of Iran, Libya, US, Germany, Poland and Switzerland. I love it. Six people, six countries represented. And, we came together as a group wanting to tour the historic center of Dresden and learn from our guide who was a wealth of knowledge. Claudia, our guide who is pictured in the middle, was sixteen-years-old when the wall came down. Take that in for a moment. Think of the transitions she has experienced in her life. Who better to guide us?
And, because we were such a small group we were able to ask questions and not only learn about Dresden, but briefly learn about each other. Unlike our tour of Berlin, all of us were keenly interested in the history of Dresden – and beyond.
The History of Dresden
We knew nothing about Dresden, Germany before arriving other than it was supposed to be a charming historic city set on the River Elbe; a good destination to continue our route through Germany on our way to Austria. What a treasure we found. It’s a modern day reconstruction of a city devastated by war – the city was firebombed on the night of February 13, 1945 – and under soviet occupation for 45 years. That’s a lot to overcome in such a short period of history.
Where Fairy Tales are Told
When one first crosses the river walking toward the historic center, it’s as if one if walking in to the land where fairy tales are told to small children; of castles and great clock towers that reach to the sky. Pass through the arched walkway of the castle, and again, it’s like finding oneself surrounded by old world charm. Only, it’s not. Dresden’s historic center is a vast reconstruction project intentionally designed to look old. And, as Claudia explained to us, in another 50 years, all of the new … will look old again.
The Reconstruction of Dresden
Sometimes, photos can say so much more than words, don’t you agree? I find this to be especially true with the reconstruction of Dresden. The first two black and white photos were shown to us by Claudia, the third photo we took today. Standing there in the plaza with our small group and looking at the photos while Claudia shared the history, was a moment to appreciate. It’s humbling to say the least.
Europe’s Jewel Box
While in Dresden we toured the Green Vault Museum, which is considered to be Europe’s Jewel Box, mostly because Rick Steve’s highlighted it in his video of Dresden. Again, we knew nothing about the treasures that lurked behind the double glass security doors of the Green Vault, which is housed in the reconstruction of Augustus the Strong’s Castle.
Nothing can be carried in to the museum, no bags, no purses, no cameras, nada. So obviously, I have no photos to share with you but you’ll just have to take my word for it. It was phenomenal. Ten rooms with treasures like you’ve never seen, nor can I describe. But you can watch Rick Steves’ video, cuz you know, he’s Rick Steves and they let him take in his cameras.
The Red Army
How did the treasures survive the devastation of the war? The powers to be at the time foresaw what was coming and they relocated all of the treasures to a fortress outside of the city. The treasures were then confiscated (stolen?) and taken to Russia by the Red Army, but were returned to Dresden in 1958 and put on public display in 2004. It’s really quite the story and if you find yourself in Dresden, tour the Green Vault. You’ll love it, I promise.
Dresden’s Catholic Cathedral
We didn’t take our walking tour with Claudia until our 4th day in Dresden, so we had already visited most of the highlights. But, walking with our group we gleaned all sorts of information, such as the story of this pipe organ in Dresden’s Catholic Cathedral. When we explored the cathedral on our own, we were in awe. But, when we visited the cathedral with the group, we learned the pipe organ had been removed for safe keeping and thus survived the bombing. Stunning. I don’t know how they managed that, but man it is impressive.
As our visit to this beautiful city, a city of which we knew nothing, comes to a close we are grateful we pinned Dresden on the map and chose it as part of our time riding the rails with Eurail. I don’t think it’s possible to visit the city and not come away a bit humbled with a strong appreciation for the people of Dresden.
I love walking tours and Dresden sounds like an incredible place for one, full of history. From your photos it does indeed look authentically old, I can’t believe it’s all reconstructed!
Amy recently posted…Pigs, Portugal, house sits and veganism
It’s really quite extraordinary, Amy!
Absolutely amazing. Being I’m not a city person I really enjoy seeing this through your eyes and story. Sounds like a wonderful tour.
Gaelyn recently posted…Time flies in July at Grand Canyon
Dresden was not overly “city” and I think you’d love the history of it. It’s not a city like Berlin or Vienna is a city.
I love your symbolic introduction of your multi-national walking tour that shows how much more alike we are than different. And Dresden as a symbol has much to say too with the deaths of thousands of civilians in one night of concentrated terror for no other purpose than to show off the Allies might. WWII was undoubtedly a “good” war but it’s a stark example that the war atrocities were not all on one side. We only have to look at Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Dresden to see that …
Anita @ No Particular Place To Go recently posted…Konopiste Castle, The Heir to the Austro-Hungarian Throne and The Great War
The war to end all wars, Anita.
Wow. Dresden is now on my list. I haven’t done enough of Germany, so that should be lots of fun.
And yes, meeting and talking to people from other parts of the world is one of the best parts of traveling.
You would enjoy, Dresden, there is SO much history associated with the city and they have over the top museums. And, they have a lot of places to just sit and watch the world go by. And, pastry.
Patti it is often the people we meet on our travels that became the best memories. I am glad your walking tour turned out to be so informative Dresden sounds like a very interesting place, I have not heard of it before. Fascinating history
Gilda Baxter recently posted…Thoughts On Early Retirement
It’s true, Gilda, and this little group just came together and made for a lovely afternoon. As I wrote in the post, we didn’t know a thing about Dresden other than it was supposed to be a pretty historic town. It’s that and so much more.
Walking tours are the best! The guide and other participants can make or break the experience though. Sounds like you got the best of both during this tour. Nice photos!
They are! We almost always try to take a walking tour of a new city. It’s a great way to get our bearrings. Although our Berlin tour was not exactly informative, we still enjoyed it because it took us to the spots we wanted to see and we didn’t have to get lost in the process. 🙂 Our Dresden tour through was excellent.
Dresden is such a beautiful city! Glad that you liked it! I still remember Dresden without the cathedral. I still think it is amazing that they rebuilt it! Hope you tried the Dresdner Eierschecke?
Natascha (WESTWARDS) recently posted…Our personal Top Five in Copenhagen
Dresden has proven to be a fascinating surprise. We truly had no idea what we’d find, and it was far more than we could have imagined. We are both history nerds, so that doubled the experience. Yes! We did enjoy a slice of Eierschecke. Yum!
“Charming historic city by the river” is definitely a good enough reason to stop and pay a visit. And how much more you found! The old photos are really interesting and as for that organ! Oh my!! Did you get to hear it played? Must be magnificent sound! Seems a wprthehile stop along your adventures!
Peta (& Ben)
We did not get to hear this picture organ played, but we were lucky enough to step into the Church of the Holy Cross and a violin/organ rehearsal and it was wonderful! You can find our quick video and listen to the music on our YouTube Channel – One Road at a Time.