Dresden, The Jewel Box of Europe

Living on mainland Europe the city break options are endless and many within driving distance.  For this week end getaway we visit Dresden, the Jewel Box of Europe.

Retracing the steps my granddad walked 75 or so years ago was the inspiration for this emotional rollercoaster of a trip!  I’m not here however to rehash my family history with you (I’m certain you’d prefer a nap) I’d far rather tell you what a glorious city Dresden & its surroundings are and tell you that it’s definitely worth a visit.

So, Why Visit?

Dresden sits on the Elbe river and was once known as the Jewel box slowly it is reclaiming its nickname.  Many of its magnificent buildings that were totally annihilated by bombings in WW2 are slowly being restored and lovingly rebuilt.   A largely baroque style of architecture dominates throughout the city, beautifully ornate structures with gold finishes continuously punctuating the skyline.

Now what’s a jewel box without treasure??  For the literal interpretation of jewels you need only head over to the Green Vault, where not only plethora of gems, precious stones & artefacts leave you in awe but the very chamber (historic green vault) that encases them demands attention in its own right!  For a slightly less literal translation the richness of culture that Dresden offers can be found in the opera, museums & churches delighting & feeding your soul leaving you perhaps a little more enlightened than when you first arrived!

The buildings lining the river as you walk along are gorgeous and lead you to the steps that take you down to an Archway where you can wonder into the Altstadt & explore. At the steps it’s interesting to witness the rebuilding in progress the painstaking process of restoring stone by stone to its original and rightful place!

Myth has it that during the bombings The Frauenkirche pillars stood tall whilst glowing bright red before finally succumbing & imploding to the ground – for years she lay in pieces serving only as a memorial to what had once stood before.  Finally in 1993 the long and arduous process of restoring her to former glory began and it would take another 12 years be completed – she now once again stands tall commanding her space whilst humbling you in yours!

Where to stay?

We chose to stay outside of Dresden itself in the small village of Maxen – I highly highly recommend looking up Franziska’s property on airB&B.  She has beautifully renovated the the apartment to a very high level.  High ceilings low doorways and the rooster crowing in the morning brought back childhood memories of growing up in South Africa and waking on my grandparents farm, the sun only just beginning to rise and it slowly creeping through the gaps in the blinds.

Dresden Surrounding Areas and things to do

The lanes & areas surrounding Dresden are well worth a drive (I’m talking avoiding the highways!) we made the customary stop in Meissen to find out all about the porcelain it’s famous for.  After careful consideration however, we chose to leave my parents to visit the factory alone as the fear of leaving liable for hundreds upon thousands of Euros damage if two little terrors (aka my gorgeous little boys) went rampant was a risk we just weren’t prepared to take!  We decided feeding said terrors was a far more sensible thing to do & found that the town square was absolutely delightful!

Now if WW2 history is something that really interests you we did visit the Stalag 4B site outside Mulberg and I found it was an incredibly emotional but worthwhile visit!  

The camp had a decisively eerie feel and the light that filtered through the trees was muted in a way that my brain couldn’t fully decipher or understand – the graves of fallen soldiers lay before me and I felt akin to an imposter being there and photographing it all!

We walked along the lanes, much of what was there all those years ago destroyed, only glimpses of the original structures left behind….people don’t always want to remember!  Suddenly through the quiet the rumble of a lone motorcycle engine filled the air, I turned and saw the machine heading towards us, the dust kicking up behind it – the sound and visual for some reason put me back so vividly, images I’d seen in books & television filling my head recreating the scene and making me feel as though I’d step back 70 years in history (imagination can be such strange phenomena)

Dresden educated me, thrilled me & left me wishing I had another day still to explore all it had to offer!

Where to next?  BerlinStrasbourg?