Dresden | The City That Almost Wasn't
Travel Dates | July 20, 2017 to July 23, 2017
All this happened, more or less. – Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut
There’s nothing about Dresden that’s historically authentic. I don’t mean that in a bad way. I think it’s a phenomenal example of reinvention, it’s hopeful. During WWII the city was bombed mercilessly, to the point that prompted serious discussion to level the area of the former Florence of Germany.
Instead of further destruction, city planners reached a compromise to rebuild the downtown, and preserve the character of old-Dresden with a new outer city speckled with squares, broad streets, and green spaces.
And to be completely honest, prior to my stay I knew very little of Dresden’s history. My actual motivation for visiting was to pay homage to two of my pop culture loves: Slaughterhouse Five and The Grand Budapest Hotel. So I was excited to see the city through the vain of such opposing artistic styles.
Surprisingly, neither of the famous (for me anyway) attractions disappointed, but that’s not why I fell in love with Dresden – it’s how unexpected it was.
Everywhere we went Germans and travelers were enjoying the sprawling river view, peddling along on the scenic routes, or just strolling through the completely reconstructed downtown, together. And I think the only even smidgen of hostility I noticed from locals was when I said we were spending two days there.
So, the best piece of advice I received from a local was to not underestimate Dresden, extend your stay, and I wholeheartedly agree. It really is a must-see.
First and Foremost, Rent a Bike
Dresden is the perfect location to have a European bike tour (only second to Amsterdam). Streets are completely open to peddle up and down without a worry of cars. Also, the locals are seasoned with travelers zipping, making them quite forgiving to the wobbling tourist.
Get Lost In The Gardens
I found Dresden Botanical Gardens by complete chance. It’s nestled right behind the transparent factory, and honestly it’s lovely. It offered a quiet break from the noise of the city. Also, locals picnic in hidden pockets throughout the garden. If you’re lucky to find one free, I recommend snagging it for a secluded picnic of your own.
Dr. Seuss Was Here
And tucked away in a small courtyard, stood neighbor’s walls metal, and barred. But fastened along this brick façade, are flu flumkers, gar ginkers, and tar tinkers abound..!
But really, Dr. Suess would have been proud of the Kunsthofpassage. A group of neighbors banded together to transform the home’s exteriors into a water-driven system of musical pipes. When it rains, a gurgling, bubbly trumpet sounds. It’s quirky, not far out of the way, and a funny-little gem to be discovered.
If You’re In Need of a Drink or Two…
Fahrgarten Johannstadt is a biergarten right along the river. It’s low-key, and has an open grill in the middle of the seating area. The beer, brats, and pretzels were all worth a taste.
Weine mit Weitblick Winzer Lutz Müller is a small and cozy winery that overlooks the Elbe. It’s a short climb through the vines, and at the top there are only but 6 picnic tables, a bartender, and a woodfire oven serving crispy pizzas with fresh ingredients. It was a nice mini-break from all the heavy German beer.
Pop Culture Sights
Pay Respects To The Vonnegut Shrine
Slaughterhouse Five is real. And ironically Vonnegut attributes the former abattoir with saving Billy and his life during the Dresden bombing. So, if you’re a fan, a 2-hour tour is available. But if you’re the independent type, just take a quick peek in the building’s basement where there’s a shrine dedicated to the author and his novel.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Stroll Through Downtown to the Zwinger Museum
Here is where Deputy Kovacs escaped his stalker in the Kunstmuseum. The site is actually an art and porcelain museum, and is at the center of the city’s reconstructed historic square. Personally, I spent a full day wandering the Zwinger, Opera House, and Gardens. However, if you’re museumed out, there is a gorgeous view of the river where travelers and locals alike perch to take in the view.
Pfunds Molkerei, Sadly, Doesn’t Sell Mendl’s
However, the dairy shop from the movie holds the Guinness title of the most beautiful dairy shop in the world – a prestigious title, I’m sure. Anyway, it’s quite pricy, however I recommend at least swinging by to get a glimpse of the shop's wall-to-wall decorations of hand-painted tiles.
Skip the Ride, & Hike for the View
The Dresden Funicular Railway gave inspiration to the movie’s ride up to the mountain observatory. You can hop on for a round trip of about $10. However, I came to see the car, not the inside. So I skipped the ride and climbed the stairs along the cars path.