Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Quick Week in Saxony

This week I had the opportunity to visit Dresden on a work assignment for a few days. I chose to fly into Berlin, hire a car and drive the two hours on the autobahn (A13 and A4) to Dresden in an effort to save time (no direct flights available to Dresden from London) and to see a bit of Germany that I haven’t seen before. This was my fourth trip to Germany and Dresden my sixth major German city, but my first time in the Saxony region.

Dresden is located in the far eastern quadrant of Saxony within the former East Germany, not far from the Polish and Czech borders, and the architecture reflects this, reminiscent of some of the Baroque styles I saw in Prague as well as some remnants of Soviet-inspired structures I saw on my recent trip to Russia. Most of what comprises central Dresden is divided into either the Neustadt or the Altstadt, the new city and old city respectively and separated by the Elbe River. Unfortunately Dresden was almost entirely destroyed by Allied bombing towards the end of the Second World War, but there are enough structures remaining and some even subsequently rebuilt after German reunification that make this little city on the Elbe beautiful enough to warrant a visit if you happen to be in Saxony. Unlike its more popular Saxon counterpart Leipzig, about an hour west, Dresden maintains its small village atmosphere with fewer imposing modern structures distracting from the overwhelming Baroque landmarks.

We stayed in the Altstadt, or old city, which is where the main sights are located such as the Zwinger and Frauenkirche. Because it is winter and brutally cold, this area was eerily quiet with mostly only business travelers like ourselves wandering around. The week was extremely busy, so unfortunately we never saw the Altstadt during daylight hours, but these are a few snapshots I was able to take around the main square that we stayed. While I’m not sure the photos turned out too well, the darkness and emptiness you see actually capture the mood and feeling of being in Dresden in the dead of winter. I can imagine that in the spring this same place transforms into a vibrant square spilling over with outdoor cafes and crowds of people, thereby living up to its title as the “Florence on the Elbe”.

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