-the world as I see it
The advantage of staying in a land-locked country like the Czech Republic is that it is a great place to travel from. Surrounded by Germany, Poland, Austria and Slovakia, one has a number of options to plan a trip to. After a hectic two months at University, my friend Lindsay and I decided to use the extended weekend to make a quick getaway to Dresden, a German city located on the valley of the River Elbe and very close to Prague. To tell you frankly, I had never known that a place called Dresden existed until I heard about it during my coursework in Prague. Dresden is famous as the city that had been bombed in the year 1945, following which, most of its structures had to be rebuilt from scratch. All you photographers out there will be interested to know that the world’s first SLR camera was manufactured in Dresden in 1936. Dresden is also famous for the invention of porcelain and for producing Germany’s first locomotive.
We hardly made any progress on our assignment that afternoon and spent our time excitedly making our bookings for accommodation and travel over the internet. The website http://www.hostelworld.com gives you a good idea about the available hostels and hotels in a particular city as it also publishes the reviews of people who’ve stayed there on previous trips. After going through a list of them, we finalized our bookings at the Kangaroo-Stop located in Erna-Berger-Strauss. The place met our requirements in terms of price and had a good rating, with nice reviews from previous travelers. We then booked our tickets to Dresden on the student agency website. The Student Agency is a Czech travel agency and has a number of buses connecting Prague with other cities in and around the Czech Republic. Contrary to what its name suggests, it is not exclusively for students, although students below the age of 26 and possessing an ISIC card get a discount of 15% on the ticket. With this, a round trip for the Prague-Dresden journey came to about 29 euros. These buses are comfortable and reasonably priced. You can be entertained during the journey by watching sitcoms or movies (available in English and Czech) on their T.V screens or by listening to music on different channels. They also offer you a nice hot drink of either coffee, tea or chocolate. We also made online bookings for the Transparent Factory (Gläserne Manufaktur in German) on their website http://www.glaesernemanufaktur.de/en/visitors-service. Owned by Volkswagen, the place is the assembly plant of the luxury Sedan, the Phaeton.
On November 18th, we took the 7:30 am bus to Dresden and got there at 9:50 am. Hailing from India, it amazed me that within a span of a little more than two hours, I had landed in a new country and that too, by bus! As the city is small, we had booked our return tickets for Saturday evening (4:30 pm). We decided that we wouldn’t use public transport within the city, to cut costs (typical student mentality ;)). This was a great idea, as there are two plus points – you get to know the city better and walking is, of course, a very good exercise. The city was beautiful but what caught our fancy was the Ampelmädchen, the traffic light girl (some of the signals had traffic light boys too) – gender equality, yayyy!!! Both Lindsay and I, being feminists, took a liking to the city instantly.
We made our way to the hostel, and put in our stuff, picked up a map of the city and headed out after freshening up. True to its reviews, the place was cozy and lively and we were both happy with it. We picked up a bratwurst for lunch (there’s no food more German than that). The whole place was getting prepped for Christmas as we had gone there in the latter half of November. We saw the beginnings of the Christmas market and were most upset by the thought that we wouldn’t get to see it once it was completely ready. The Christmas Market at Dresden is supposed to be one of the most famous in Europe and is the oldest one in Germany. Most Christmas Markets open in the last week of November and run until sometime around the eve of Christmas.
Anyway, the main purpose of going to Dresden was to see the famous Frauenkirche (the Church of our Lady) – which had been destroyed by bombing during World War II. This impressive building which had once defined the skyline of Dresden was reduced to nothing but rubble and a heap of blackened stones. Reconstruction of the church began only in 1993 and lasted until 2005, and was a carried out by a team of engineers, architects, historians and conservation experts. The old stones were meticulously numbered, measured and their positions in the original structure were documented. A digital model of the Church was created with the aid of photographs, memories of the local people and other written information available .The structure was rebuilt by incorporating the old stones in their original positions into the new structure. I couldn’t help but marvel at the effort taken to reconstruct this structure. The exterior was incredible, but it was the interior of the church that blew my mind.
Our tour at the Transparent Factory had been scheduled for 3 p:m with an entry fee of 5 euros. The tour was enjoyable and lasted about an hour and a half. The guide took us through the various stages of assembly of the Phaeton, after which we were allowed to take a seat in the car on display and also try out its various features. It is recommended that you book your tour in advance as on some days the factory isn’t open to visitors and the English tours are available only at certain times. There is also an architectural tour of the building that is only offered on Sundays at 4 p: m. By the time we got out of there, it was already dark because of the quick sunset during winter.
We had an early dinner and went back to our hostel. We decided to go to the Neustadt area at around 11 pm as it is the scene of Dresden’s night life. There are a number of bars, pubs and cafes in this locality and it is frequented by students at night. After walking around the place, we finally sat down in a café, whose pastries looked extremely mouth-watering. We had some good old chocolate cake, ditched our plans of having a long night out and turned in early as we were tired from all the walking around in the 60C weather.
The next day, we visited the Dresden castle, the Zwinger Palace complex and the Semper Opera house. I am not getting into the details of any of them because the pictures say it all. Dresden is also known for a number of its museums, but we weren’t in the mood to go into any of them and their entrance fees put us off 😛
After seeing almost the entire city, we had lunch at 12 pm and then went ….shopping..Haha.. I needed a pair of boots to brave the fierce Prague winter and Lindsay, armed with her Canadian experience helped me pick a pair of nice warm boots. The boots are so warm, I guess I could even travel to Alaska with them ;D After some window shopping, we headed back to the bus stop, our moods lifted with what had been an amazing trip.