If you‘ve visited Görlitz and Bautzen in the East of Saxony and then go to Dresden by car, you should use the old Via Regia (now Bundesstrasse), it‘s preferable to the motorway, because you can see more of the landscape and pass small towns and villages which are also worth looking at (for example Bischofswerda, a nice marketplace!) and because you should enter Dresden via the Bautzener Strasse.
Why that? The reason is No. 79 on the right side of the street which houses ‘Pfunds Molkerei’ the most beautiful dairy shop of the world! It is indeed, you don’t have to look anywhere else, it can’t be surpassed. It was founded in 1880 and has been in use ever since. The floor, the ceiling, the walls are full of the most beautifully elaborated tiles depicting floral ornaments, landscapes and rural scenes , animals, wild and domestic ones. Erich Kästner, the well known author not only of children’s books, but also a sharp tongued satirist, lived nearby and used to go there with his mother. Today, after a very successful thorough restoration not only all kinds of dairy products are on offer, but also a wide range of fine wines from all over the world. Have you ever seen people leaning leisurely at high tables dangling a glass of milk? Have you ever heard a tourist asking a resident: "Where’s THE (not ‘a’!) milk shop?" (By the way the tourist got an immediate answer although THE milk shop was still miles away.)
Leave the car on the Königstrasse or in a side street and walk through the quarter. If you’ve asked yourselves where you could possibly spend all your money – this is the place! The last time I was there I saw only decrepit houses with grey facades, now one elegant and expensive boutique follows the other. No big shop windows, they are all tucked away, you have to look for them. Advertising would be too vulgar!
This is the Neustadt (New Town) which is also the centre of alternative Dresden. Ask young people where to go and they will soon direct you to a quarter where one pub follows the next. So everybody should find something according to their taste on this side of the Elbe.
Crossing the river you‘ll admire the cityscape. It has been immortalized by many painters, the most famous being Bernardo Belotto, a.k.a. Canaletto. And now it‘s complete again, meaning it looks the same as before the war. Some of the destroyed buildings, the ‘Zwinger’ for example, were rebuilt immediately after the war, a decision which many people couldn’t understand, because in those years people needed houses, flats, simply a room. The explanation was that without at least some of these buildings Dresden wouldn’t have any identity any more. By and by the many wonderful buildings, the Semper Opera House (to name just one), have been rebuilt. The prevailing style is Baroque.
If you like the Old Masters you should visit the Art Gallery in the Zwinger, whose most famous exhibit is the Sistine Madonna by Raffael. If you prefer Modern Art, it’s the Albertinum on the Brühl Terrace for you. For me it’s Caspar David Friedrich any time - if I’m not mistaken the Albertinum has 27 paintings of the most famous German Romantic painter. In the same museum is the so called Green Vault, a breath taking collection of jewellery and objects monarchs used to play with or give each other as presents. A definite must see!
The last historical building to be reconstructed was the ‘Frauenkirche’, a Baroque church, it was finished in 2006. It is the symbol of what connects the destiny of the German and the British people in the most tragic way possible. The German Luftwaffe bombed the city of Coventry and as a revenge act allied air raids practically erased the centre of Dresden three months before the end of the war. The city was full of refugees from the east and about 35 000 people died. The church was a gigantic heap of rubble and remained so for decades. Many people wanted it to remain so for ever as a kind of anti-war monument, but then some visionaries came along and talked of rebuilding the church. Nobody thought it possible, but where there is a will, there is a way. For about 50 years the traces of old and new will be visible, then oxidation and pollution will have done their due.
In 2002, on 13th February, the anniversary of the destruction of Dresden, the British friends of the Frauenkirche presented the Pinnacle Cross as a symbol of Reconciliation. It was flown in by the son of one of the bomber pilots who took part in the air raids! In 2004 the placing of the cross marked the completion of the exterior work.
Where did all the money come from? Only from donations! I also gave my share, I still have to make up my mind where to look for it. I bought a watch with a tiny bit of stone of the original church in it, 10 Euro of which went to the fund.
Which other souvenirs can you take back home? The world famous ‘Dresdner Christstollen’, of course, a heavy, rich cake for Christmas, but now baked and sold all the year round. Don’t take the cheapest variety, a good Stollen has its price.
After so much history, art and culture you need some rest and recreation! In case you are in Dresden in May you might go to the Dixieland Festival or you might just sit on the banks of the Elbe and watch the 'Weisse Flotte' (White Fleet) pass by, ships which look just like the ones on the Mississippi, ah, well, a bit smaller...