Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fall Break Part I: Dresden

Photos to accompany this blog post can be found by clicking HERE.

After the obligatory 6-day after-trip waiting period (and after procrastinating by cleaning out the fridge and making an apple pie) I think I am finally ready to tackle Part I of this most-likely four part blog saga.

This year's fall break started off, as usual, with us refusing to plan anything. At roughly 10pm on Thursday night I made a it a point to make sure Michael at least booked our hostel for the next night, forcing us to at least figure out where we were heading the next day.
Friday morning, we hopped on a 8:45 train out of Metz and made our way (via 4 different trains) to Frankfurt by lunch time and to Dresden by 7pm. We were a little freaked out when we arrived in Dresden and realized that no-where in the train station did they give out or sell maps, making it pretty impossible to find our hostel. We did eventually find an info desk with free maps but it wasn't very helpful with fairly poor graphics and no street listings. As we walked out of the train station, we were absolutely shocked at the immense area of neon-lit stores and restaurants as we walked towards town. When we were invisioning Dresden (without much knowledge of the city's horrifying history), we thought of a beautiful old germanic town with old buildings and narrow streets so you can imagine our shock when we were, instead, greeted by streets wide enough to play a regulation football game in and a huge TJMaxx (TKMaxx in Germany) store. We walked, in the dark, in the general direction of downtown and eventually found a mall with a newspaper stand that sold maps. There was a comical few minutes where Michael and I struggled to find the street on the new map (which still had not street index but was more detailed than the free one). We had no luck locating it so we asked the german-speaking cashier (essentially in mime since neither of us has the slightest clue how to speak German) how to get to the street...she had no clue, but we eventually found the street with another map she pulled out with the streets indexed. Ok, so with that first disaster averted, we headed off in the direction of our hostel. We got to walk by a few notable historic buildings on the way including the Roman Catholic Church (pictured above) which sits right on the edge of the river. We managed to get lost a few times...they really didn't portray the confusion of Dresden's streets onto the map very well, but eventually we found our way. The hostel turned out to be very nice. We had booked our room through www.hostelworld.com but apparently there was a computer malfunction and too many rooms had been booked, so instead of staying in the 8-bed dorm we had booked, we ended up getting a free upgrade to a private triple room (two twin beds and a sleeper couch). After getting settled and slightly warmed up, we asked the girl at the desk to direct us to a good Italian place for pizza. Toscano's was the name of the place and the pizza was absolutly awesome; we shared one with ham, mushrooms, salami and red peppers. After dinner we walked back to the hostel and pretty much passed out from exhaustion from that long day of traveling.

Friday morning we woke up to a damp and foggy day (pretty much the entire trip was like this) which was nice for not having to wear sunglasses, but not so nice for taking pretty pictures. We packed up our bags (we only brought one backpack each which fellow travelers found amazing) and headed into the city. Breakfast was found at a café/market type place; Michael had a strudel and coffee while I had my customary apple turnover and tea. They were good but not great, by we were starved by this point and didn't want to take the time to find a quaint little place to eat at.

On our walk into town, we were able to get more of a feel for what communism must have looked like when Dresden was under the command of the USSR. After almost every building in Dresden was destroyed by the British and American bombs during WWII, the communists rebuilt much of the city in their typical architectural style of square cement buildings.
We continued our walk through Dresden, passing over the same bridge and walking by the same Roman Catholic Church as we had the night before. We weren't quite sure what to do at this point. At this point, it was about 11am and we were planning to catch a 1:30 train into Prague which didn't leave us much time for a tour. So we spent the next couple of hours just wandering around the city and figuring out what we could of the city.
The church shown above is the rebuilt Dresdner Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady). The church withstood the bombings of Feb 13, 1945 for 2 full days before catching on fire and collapsing, leaving the rubble blackened. The church was later rebuilt (completed in 2004) and the black stones in the exterior were recovered from the rubble and re-used in the new building.Anyone who has read this blog knows how much we love all of the interesting and delicious sausages that can be found in abundance in France, so it was only right that we have our first German sausages on this trip. We bought these babies after working up an appetite on our romp around the city at the market square in Dresden from the most crowded vendor there. I may not know much German but I can at least say "roastbrautwurst", hold up two fingers, then point to the mustard; it seemed to get the idea across well enough. While these sausages were the first of many enjoyed on our week-long journey, they were easily the best of the trip and quite possibly the best of our European lives.

Stay tuned for the next episode: Fall Break Part II: Prague.

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