After a long and stunning train trip we arrived in the city of Dresden. The city was heavily bombed in the war with over 18,000 people killed and much of the city destroyed. We were staying in a youth hostel in the area of Neustadt about ten minutes walk from the Elbe river and twenty minutes to the city centre. Our hostel was interesting with handmade quirky touches everywhere. Our double bed was situated on a platform decorated in mosaic tiles with a cave beneath for our bags. We arrived late and grabbed what we could for dinner before settling in.
Our first full day we spent exploring the area of Neustadt with a mix of rebuilt old buildings and new modern buildings it was a great mix of architectural styles. We dropped into the local train station and grabbed tickets for the upcoming legs of our trip and chilled in a coffee shop. Most of the afternoon we chilled out as we find we need some time every few weeks to do nothing.
Our second day we decided to explore the area around the Elbe river and the old town, Altstrudt. Most of the buildings in this area show smoke and fire damage from the war, but you can still see how stunning they were in their day. There are churches, opera houses, nymph baths and an amazing building which now houses a large museum surrounding a stunning garden. The mix of old and new is breathtaking and while some may hate it, we found it refreshing as old in New Zealand terms has nothing on old in Europe. After a well deserved sit down lunch we continued exploring further into the city finding more and more photo ops. We finally found the tournament arena where knights would joust and the maidens would swoon, looking rather new but still impressive. We finished our day perfectly with a divine piece of cake at a local cafe.
Our last day in Dresden we decided we needed to get out of the city and explore the country side. We took a train from the local train station to Sachsische Schweiz National park. An easy 45 minute trip. Our plan was to find a walk to a lookout or something but the lovely train attendant suggested the Konigstein castle. As we exited the train we could see the castle/fortress on the hill behind the village and started walking. Now most people would ask directions or get a map, but not us! We walked in the general direction – up – finding one or two signs but very little else. Before long we were following a well worn path through the forest hoping we were on the right one.
After a lot of ‘up’ we came to a sign that we read as “private” so we decided we needed to head back and try another way. Within a minute we came across a lovely German couple and with a lot of toing and frowing in pigeon English/German the man checked the sign for us. Apparently the houses were private but the path was public, yay! After a bit more up we were warmly greeted as we ascended out of the forest canopy by a brilliant blue sky and the magnificent stone wall of the fortress.
After a few minutes we found the ticket booth and purchased tickets to, who knows what? But at €8 each it better be good. The entrance we took was up a huge glass elevator attached to the side of the fortress, I bet invaders would have liked that 🙂
Upon exiting the elevator we found ourselves on the top of the wall with magnificent views over the forest far into the distance. We began our exploring following along the ten metre wide top of the wall. As we walked past a second elevator we were surprised as a van reversed out of it, wow a car lift how cool!
We continued around the wall getting more and more spectacular views as we got closer to the Elbe river. The area within the walls is huge and has many different buildings; churches, stables, castles, store houses for ales even a pump house. Many of the buildings have been turned into museums showing their different uses and the history of the fortress. So many battles were fought in and around the area it is lucky that it survived. There are also cafes, restaurants and even a hotel where you can have the full castle experience.
We spent hours exploring the amazing maze of buildings. It’s fascinating standing beside a huge oak barrel that would have once held huge quantities of beer in a room that would have kept is perfectly cool. The pump house well is a shockingly deep 152 meters and is still operational. The gardens and surrounds have been restored and maintained to work with both the old style and the new use of the buildings. What a truly stunning place and well worth the time and effort to get there.
Next stop Berlin.