I first heard of Dresden, Germany about a year ago while reading Kurt Vonnegot’s “Slaughterhouse Five.” Though the novel tells at times a largely exaggerated and unrealistic story of a man’s experience in Dresden during the Second World War, much of it was actually historically accurate in the description of just how devastated the city was by the allied forces in the 1940s. The book impacted me in a way that I didn’t really expect. As americans, we of course learn about WWII mainly from the allies perspective, so to be honest, it’s not often we consider the plight of the German side- we’re kind of trained into thinking of them as the villains of this war. However, Vonnegot’s telling of just how ravaged Dresden was by the war (exaggerated as it may have been) made me sympathize with the German experience. From that point on, I decided I wanted to see what had become to the city that was known as the “Florence of the Danube.”
So when I realized that Dresden was only a short (albeit not so cheap) bus ride away from Prague, I hastily booked a trip there in a moment of panic….. Later I rationalized leaving Prague since I had two whole days alone in city until my sister arrived, AND was by chance already so close to this city I’d been curious about seeing anyways!
And so it goes. (If you’ve read “Slaughterhouse Five” that should sound very familiar 😉 ). I arrived to the bus station the next day excited to explore a new city and visit one more country than I had originally planned. I had the luck of sitting next to the sweetest Taiwanese girl on the bus who was visiting Dresden for two days with two other Turkish friends. We chatted for most of the bus ride and by the time we arrived in Dresden, she invited me to join the three of them in exploring the city.
Our first stop in Dresden was the Kuntsthofpassage in the new town of the city. The Kuntsthofpassage is comprised of passageways with some super artsy walls decorating the walk along various hole-in-the-wall type shops. Pretty easy to discern that it was the hipster side of the city- there was mainly bohemian/coffee shops (they even sold a green tea chai in one of them!) I wish I had had more time there, but I was on a mission to see as much as possible in one day so we continued our way southwards towards the old town. Along the way we strolled through a Christmas market, saw the famous golden rider, and walked across the bridge where the views of the city were quite picturesque. We walked along the bridge as the sun was setting (which made for some beautiful views), so by the time we reached the other side of the city night had fallen.
Once in the old town district, we saw the main touristy things which were nice, but to be honest what impressed me the most about Dresden was its Christmas markets. Two specifically stood out to me, the one in the town square and one that was in Stallhof. The first one was probably the biggest Christmas market I’ve ever seen. There were so many people, so many vendors, so much gluwein and sausages- it was really the Mecca of Christmas markets (I later found out that the Dresden Christmas markets are actually known to be some of the best).
The second one was really cool because it was medieval themed. All the vendors were dressed to impress in medieval themed clothing, the food was “medieval” as well (i.e. Lots and lots of meat), the stands were medieval style (think brick ovens and wooden counters etc), it even -no joke- SOUNDED medieval. You could hear throaty laughter, what sounded like swords clattering in the background, meat sizzling in the fire (if you’ve ever seen “Ever After” or any movie that is set in medieval times I think it might be easy to picture this market). I really felt like I’d stepped back in time as we strolled past the various vendors- it such a unique experience!
But alas, my day in Dresden had to come to an end, and by 8 ish it was time for me to head back to the bus station. I headed back to the Prague tired but excited to see my sister the next day!
– Sinceramente, Gigi