HistoryAndBeer Tour 2014: Dresden

Friday, April 25, 2014

Only halfway through our trip - when we were driving amoeba-like loops in the suburban cusp of Dresden - did we remember our friend KPow loaned us a GPS navigator and it was packed in a bag in the trunk. Phew!

Remembering the GPS a lot earlier would have saved us a chunk of hassle, but it also would have prevented us from seeing as much as we did of the "Jewel Box of Saxony", a city that was nearly completely obliterated in the final months of WWII. (Oh - and the Prussians did a number on it in the 18th century, as well.)

The vast majority of the tourists in the city were German, though international tourism there has increased. BW and I liked the place immensely.

Inside the Zwinger Palace. Built in the early 1700s, it served as a festival place for court events and exhibitions

The Zwinger's Glockenspielpavilion. Say that five times.
A stupefyingly gorgeous city; this is the Alstadt (old town)

My man Martin Luther! More on the church in the background below...

Inside Pfund's Dairy, where I bought blue cheese
"Procession of Princes" - a 334-ft-long ceramic mural depicting 35 noblemen of Saxony

"The Funnel Wall" in Neustadt (new town), Dresden's alternative neighborhood. It plays music when it rains.

The Brothers Grimm in German. So cute.

We had a lazy walk along the River Elbe - and ate our blue cheese

Tuckered out

For a country steeped in domestic beer, it was surprising to see so many Czech brands on offer. Still, BW had a solid Heffeweizen he described as "a cloudy glass of citrusy goodness" in the beer garden at Katy's Garage in the alternative Neustadt neighborhood.

Even J-dog begged for a tiny finger-dipped lick. Yes, she had water!

Our view from the beer garden
On Easter Sunday, we visited a trio of castles on a cliff overlooking the city. We'd have never known about them had our Air BnB host not tipped us off. One of the castles had a sunny terrace that lured us in with its roasting sausages and cold beverages. BW tried a German beer I can't spell (or pronounce, for that matter) there.

Schloss Albrechtsberg

Packed with Germans enjoying their Easter Sunday

Every groove in our brain matter was packed with historical info in Dresden. As in the other tour posts, we're focusing on WWII.

On Easter Sunday, we attended a German-language church service at the Frauenkirche, a cathedral that was blown to bits during the bombing of Dresden and painstakingly reconstructed after the reunification of Germany, to open back up in 2005. The original plans for the church from the 1720s were used, and as many of the original stones were used as possible - roughly 3,800. We didn't take any pictures during the service, but we noticed a charred, malformed cross to the right of the pulpit. We read later that it used to top the Frauenkirche, and the bombs had heated it to over 1,000 degrees.
The darker stones are the originals

An excavation was occurring near the church. Apparently, scads of Communist concrete block had been removed and archaeologists were doing a dig of the original cellars

The bombing of Dresden, in mid-February, 1945, created a horrific firestorm that covered over 13 square miles. The majority of the roughly 25,000 deaths were civilian. The protocol and casualties weren't any different than in cities like Cologne or Hamburg, but Dresden sticks out more... maybe because it wasn't a military stronghold, or maybe because it was a particularly beautiful cultural center that was reduced to rubble in the final weeks of the war.

I've long been a fan of Kurt Vonnegut and wanted to see the real Slaughterhouse 5 from his book with the same moniker. Vonnegut was an American POW doing forced labor in Dresden at the time of the bombing and survived by taking shelter in a meat locker. Interestingly enough, the slaughterhouse is nearly impossible to find. We patched together accounts we read on the internet and headed off into an area that is now a modern convention center of sorts, only accessible by one infrequent tram. Alas, the gates to the convention center area were locked, as it was a holiday weekend. Supposedly there's a sign or plaque inside. We wandered to nearby dilapidated buildings.

So it goes.

Cold steel-and-glass gates

Near where the slaughterhouses once stood

"32 children", on one of the old buildings
From the city of Dresden's website, www.dresden.de:
Founded on the site of a Slavonic fishing village as a merchants' settlement and the seat of the local rulers, Dresden was from the 15th century onwards residence of the Saxon dukes, electoral princes and later kings.
The city has experienced both splendid eras and times of tragedy. It was above all during the 18th century a magnificent centre of European politics, culture and economic development, only to become a synonym for apocalyptic destruction just two centuries later.


  1. Great post. Thanks for sharing. I visited Dresden in 1995 and photographed the early construction work on the Frauenkirche. It's quite a sight to see now and that you actually attended a service there (Easter no less!)...pretty amazing. I didn't know about the origins of "Slaughterhouse 5." Brilliant idea to seek out the location on an "infrequent tram." You have a great sense of adventure!

  2. Thanks, Mark! I wanted to post a pic of the inside of the Frauenkirche but thought it might be uncouth in the middle of the service ;) How cool that you shot the construction of it; it apparently took forever to rebuild.

  3. Whilst I've briefly been to Dresden a few times since moving to Prague, it's always been to play cricket, so I've never yet properly explored the city. Visiting the Frauenkirche is certainly on my 'bucket list' (to use a good American expression), because of its strong links with Coventry Cathedral in England, both suffering destruction during WW2. Coventry is my city of birth & where I spent the first eighteen years of my life.

    Great photos btw!

  4. Thanks, Chaplain! I read that once a month, an Anglican Evensong is held in English at the Frauenkirche. Never been to Coventry but would like to, someday!

  5. What you read is quite correct. One of the clergy from the Berlin Anglican Chaplaincy travels down to officiate.


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