The historic core of Dresden is - simply put - impressive. An
impressive collection of richly decorated, beautiful buildings, mostly
in baroque or rococo styles. Most of these buildings have been
reconstructed after the WW II distruction and in some parts of Dresden
the reconstruction effort is still going on. This reconstruction effort
has been limited to the historic core area. In fact you can notice an
abrupt change between old and new in Dresden: outside the historic core
most buildings are either communist era buildings or modern buildings.
is a bit slower and less commercialised in Dresden, if compared to
cities in the west of Germany. This is positive because it for instance
means that it is relatively easy to find a free parking for the car not
far from the city centre.
Costs in Dresden are moderate if compared to other European cities. We
paid for instance only 67 Euro for a hotel room for the four of us -
compare that to the 110 Euro we paid in Florence for a hotel room in
2005 for a smaller room.
Nothing special to note here. We ate in a mix of restaurants and cafes,
sometimes eating food from street vendors.
was easy to find quite affordable and good accomodation (67 Euro for a
quadruple room, in a hotel only a few km from the city centre).
/ Exchange rate (June 2012)
1 Euro = 1.25 USD
ATMs are everywhere, so that you can easily get cash with a
Cirrus/Maestro ATM card. You won't need traveller cheques.
phones and prepaid cards
everywhere else it is possible to buy prepaid SIM cards to avoid
roaming surcharges. Germany has four operators of nationwide networks
and several discounters reselling airtime.
the hotel had no WLAN in the room I used the 3G phone as a mobile
hotspot to download my emails and surf the Internet. I can't remember
having seen many Internet cafes in Dresden, in fact I didn't notice any.
Mostly sunny, some clouds, no rain, max. temperatures around 23-24°C.
None required for Germany.
from developed countries can enter Germany without a visa or get a visa
on arrival. Visitors of other countries need to get a Schengen visa.
No issues here. Dresden is a very safe place.
We drove to Dresden by car and used
mostly the car to get
around. Public transportation is good. Some streets in Dresden are in a
pretty bad shape.
Hotel Andor Europa,
Dresden. 67 Euro
for a triple room (third bed is a sofa which can be converted to a
bed), suitable for
two adults and two kids (kids sleep in the sofa-bed). Big enough room,
with bathroom (shower) and a pre-room (double-door system to protect
against noise from corridor). Room is decently furnished and has phone,
TV, fridge (minibar), table+chairs. Good shower in the toilet. The only
big problem is the lack of A/C: we have 26°C in the room, quite hot to
sleep. The room is facing west, so in the late afternoon the sun shines
in. The hotel is conveniently located in a quiet area, 1km east of the
train station. 9 Euro/person for the breakfast (good buffet breakfast,
no fresh fruit however), kids don't pay.
Weather: sunny, blue sky
with some clouds, some very light rain, fresh
We manage to leave home at 4:20pm and drive to the A9 motorway. The
traffic jam starts shortly after we exit Munich and reach the motorway.
It is caused by the
huge number of people who are leaving Munich for the Whitsun holidays
or the long weekend.
It's stop-and-go until we complete
the first 30km, then suddenly it becomes smooth and we proceed quickly
until we hit the next traffic jam. Shortly before Regensburg there is a
new traffic jam, this time caused by a car accident. While we pass the
scene of the accident we have a quick look. A policeman is recording
A few seconds later we hear a crash-bang
noise. Another accident just happened, two, or perhaps even three cars
involved. Most likely these people were observing the accident scene
and didn't break when the car in front had to break or somebody tried
to change lanes without checking.
At 6:20pm we stop for the first time in a motorway station
near Regensburg. 70 cents for using the toilet, of which you get 50
back if you buy something in the shop or restaurant. Small picnic on a
bench near the car, then we get back into the traffic jam. After a
while the traffic jam dissolves and we pick up speed.
At 9pm we stop for the second time, this time in a motorway station in
Saxony. Half an hour spent there, then we continue driving, this time
quickly at normal motorway speeds. Finally at 11pm we reach the hotel.
Hotel Andor Europa, Dresden
Weather: sunny, blue sky
the whole day until the evening, when some clouds build up. Around
21°C, some light wind.
Surprise, surprise in the morning, when we discover that one suitcase
is missing. It's the small one of Alissia, with all her clothes, which
left in Munich. Small attempt of
Shirley to blame me for this. My line of defense is not bad however, as
point out that how I should have known that one suitcase had to be
loaded into the car if the suitcase was hidden somewhere.
I tell Shirley not to dramatise and that we'll buy some cheap clothes
for Alissia, so that she'll have something to wear. We decide to have a
breakfast in the hotel, also because since the kids don't pay, 18 Euro
breakfast for all of us is not too bad. Also, a buffet breakfast allows
you to eat a lot and almost skip lunch.
After breakfast, with the smartphone we locate the nearest Kik retail
outlet. Kik is a chain of retail outlets specialising on cheap clothes
for children and other cheap stuff. We drive there. Shirley spends
the next 40 minutes there buying clothes for Alissia and Natasha.
Forgot to mention, we easily find a free parking space for the car.
Quite surprising, because we are quite close to the train station. In
Munich such a parking space would not be free.
At 12 something pm we drive to the first touristic highlight of
Dresden, the Zwinger. This is a beautiful palace in baroque/rokoko
style in the historic centre of Dresden, located near the Semper opera
and the other touristic highlights, south of the Elbe river.
for a while by car around it, to get an idea where the best spot to
leave the car would be. Most parking areas are not free, but almost by
coincidence we find a free parking place not far away from the Zwinger.
I get the impression that people in Dresden are not as
money-oriented as people in Munich and Paris for instance, because in
Munich it would be impossible to find a free parking space near a
touristic highlight. I'm also surprised by the lack of traffic and
activity in Dresden. In Munich on a shopping Saturday there are large
numbers of people everywhere, huge traffic on the streets, but here in
Dresden everything is so quiet today. Compared to Munich, Dresden is
almost a ghost town.
Everywhere you can see the remnants of the communist era. You would
think that 20 years after the reunification and huge yearly funds
transfers from western to eastern Germany, the east would have
top-notch infrastructure everywhere, modern buildings, streets etc. But
no, the infrastructure improvement has happened only in certain spots,
not in the whole of Dresden.
I remember when I travelled to Dresden and eastern Germany at the
beginning of the 1990s, a year or two after the wall fell, I found
roads and motorways which hadn't been fixed since World War II. The
cool thing now is that some of these pre-WW II roads still exist in
Dresden, really interesting.
Part of the Zwinger is undergoing renovation when we visit it, but
otherwise the Zwinger is really stunning, one of the gems of Dresden.
Inside the Zwinger there is a porcelain museum with beautiful exhibits,
but we don't visit it because Shirley is not
Instead at 12:30pm we walk out of the Zwinger to the next place which
must be the castle or royal palace. Again, beautiful and stunning 18th
century architecture, tourists everywhere, souvenir shops, restaurants
etc. Dresden is really a gem.
However almost everything we are seeing
was destroyed by British and US bombs during WW II and was
reconstructed after the war. It's a pity the original buildings were
10 Euro/person to get inside the castle. We skip that, since
Shirley is not too interested and it would probably be 30-40 Euro for
the four of us, and I guess that photography inside is not allowed
However it has to be noted that if you visit Dresden and decide to
visit the interior of the buildings (and there are lots of interesting
museums in Dresden), the 1-2 days which would otherwise suffice to see
highlights of Dresden would quickly become 3-4 days.
Lots of street artists on the street. Alissia and Natasha gladly will
give some money to these people and pose for photos.
The historic area of Dresden around the Elbe river is mostly a
pedestrian area, although it's criss-crossed by several streets where
cars, taxis and public transportation circulates.
I'm busy trying out the new camera and have to say it's a cool piece of
equipment. Almost all shots are sharp, very few shots are blurred. The
AF excels and identifying the subject and getting it precisely into
focus. Loads of detail in the photos.
Shortly before 3pm we make a stop in a roadside cafe near the
Frauenkirche for some small lunch (a sandwich, some brezel and
Finally, at 3:30pm we reach the Frauenkirche. The Frauenkirche is a
famous church with a pretty special shape with a circular base,
resembling sort of a wine bottle. This church was destroyed during WW
II and was a pile of rubble until the 1990s, when it was decided
to rebuild it. The reconstruction was completed in 2006 and all
original stones were reused in the process. However they did not only
reconstruct the Frauenkirche, they also rebuilt the buildings around
it, and these buildings all look a bit fake. Stylish and nice, but
fake. These buildings host a number of luxury hotels and shops and shop
By now Shirley and especially the kids are really tired. Lots of
walking and sightseeing after a tiring drive yesterday. They rest a bit
inside the Frauenkirche (entry is free), then shortly after 4pm we
start walking back to the car. It takes a while to reach the car,
especially if you are walking with a tired 4 year old kid and after
some time I tell Shirley to wait in a place while I walk to the
car and come and pick her up.
When I'm finally there with the car, Natasha is already sleeping in the
arms of Shirley. The idea would be to drive to a grocery store and buy
some drinks and food. We drive towards the train station and at one
point spot a REAL (German supermarket chain) sign stating "REAL in
7km". We continue driving on the road, trying to find the REAL, but end
up instead on the motorway towards Prague. It takes a while to get out
the motorway and U-turn.
Anyway, we drive back towards the centre of Dresden, stopping at a
Russian orthodox church on the way. Then we continue to a
(well, sort of) near the train station. After buying the groceries in
the Rewe supermarket, we have a not so impressive dinner in the Marché
restaurant in the train station.
It's 6:40pm when I bring back Shirley and the kids to the hotel. Then I
drive back into town for some evening photos of the old town of
At 7:30pm I get up on the tower of the Frauenkirche. The ticket costs 8
you take an elevator, then walk up for quite a while. They could charge
less considering that you have to walk so much. On top I notice that
the sun is in the wrong position - in the west, where the things I
wanted to photograph are located. Should have gone up in the morning,
not in the evening.
After 10 minutes on the top I walk down again (to get down you take the
stairs, not the elevator). then walk briefly on the other side of the
river. After 10pm I get back to the hotel.
Hotel Andor Europa, Dresden
Weather: a mix of sunny
and cloudy. Mostly overcast in the afternoon, no rain, temperatures
around 22°C, some light wind.
We get up late and have breakfast after 10am. Shortly before 12pm noon
we are at the Frauenkirche square. To minimise the walking distance we
are now parking the car in the car park right below the Frauenkirche
square, 2.40 Euro/hour.
The idea is to climb up again the Frauenkirche
tower to capture some shots with the sun in a different position. Turns
out that today it's only possible to get on top after 12:30pm - still
more than half an hour to wait.
So, to kill the time, I walk with Alissia to the nearby market square
facing the Kulturpalast, the Striezelmarkt.
Dresden is a strange mix of old and new. In
the city centre you'll find reconstructed old buildings and communist
era buildings which were built on the site of older buildings. A
mix of zones. A bit artificial, as if somebody rebuilt the entire town
from scratch and decided where to put old buildings and where new ones.
Turns out that this market square is quite interesting, so I ask
Shirley to come here. At 12:30pm I then walk back to the Frauenkirche,
only to discover that now there is a very long queue who all want to
get on top of the tower.
I just walk back to the market square. There I notice a church with a
tower overlooking the market square, the Kreuzkirche. I manage to get
on top of this tower (3 Euro fee, no elevator, you have to walk all the
way up the
Nice views of Dresden. I spend some time on
the top of the tower, then shortly after 1pm I walk down again. I meet
and we have lunch in the nearby Mandarin Chinese restaurant, found with
the help of the smartphone.
After lunch we drive to the Pillnitz castle. The smartphone navigation
system chooses a route south of the Elbe river which uses a car ferry
(4.70 Euro) to cross the Elbe in the last section. We reach the
destination quickly without problems.
progress. Previously you had to struggle with maps, ask people etc.,
now you just key in a destination and arrive without effort.
The roads by the way are in some sections in a pretty poor state.
Cobble stone streets, flagstone streets, holes everywhere. No fun
driving on these streets.
Castle Pillnitz is, well, nothing so special if compared to Dresden.
although the setting on the Elbe river is very nice. Nice park around
the castle, suitable for relaxing with kids. The castle
itself probably has some museum or some exposition and is perhaps not
that uninteresting, it's just that we are spoiled by having seen so
many great places in the last days and couple of weeks.
It's a pity we can't stay longer, but all of a sudden Shirley has some
stomach ache, so we drive back to the hotel. This time we drive north
of the Elbe and understand why the car navigation system chose the
southern route. Basically we are stuck for a while in a traffic jam,
while driving through narrow roads and small towns. Finally after
crossing the next bridge over the Elbe the situation improves.
We are back by 5 something pm, then take a rest. In the evening we go
out again for some dinner in town. In the process we "discover" Prager
Strasse, which seems to be the main shopping street of Dresden. Broad
pedestrian area with fountains, greenery, lots of shops, restaurants