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Wandering the World

Stories and tips from around the world.

Germany Day 4

Dresden

After the marathon yesterday, I wasn’t sure how much running or walking I’d want to do today. I decided if I got up at 07:00 I could get a run in early, shower, and go for the breakfast I’d booked for 08:00. This would still leave me plenty of time to finish packing for the train journey.

This train would take me into Saxony, to Dresden. It’s a city that is sometimes best known for the extreme bombing it experienced from Allied forces during the second world war. Afterwards, it was part of East Germany in the German Democratic Republic (DDR). So, until I got there, I didn’t really know what to expect. I wondered if it may resemble Zagreb, a city that had also been rebuilt during Communism.

My morning run was a very easy one mile to Alexanderplatz and back, but having to find ways to add extra distance in - I’d not realised just how close it was. I then had breakfast at the hotel - the same continental one I’d had a couple of days ago, and then started the process of packing. This time I was doing so with the intention of having quick access to what I’d want today and tomorrow, whilst also making sure that I’d be able to take as little as possible with me to Bastion Bridge when I dropped my luggage off at the hotel.

Maze of escalators in Berlin Hauptbahnhof

Considering that the trains here can be confusing at times, I decided I’d give myself plenty of time to find the platform at Berlin Hauptbahnhof. I could have walked there in 30 minutes, but it’s only a 5 minute rail journey from Hackescher Markt. So when it’s included in the ticket price, and you’ve only just run a marathon, why walk? This gave me over an hour in the station, so I got a cup of tea and made my way around the maze of escalators and platforms to the correct one. Considering how many there are, this was actually very easy to find. I could now make myself comfortable on the double-decker ICE 2175 train for the next couple of hours.

The time passed quickly; most of the journey was through countryside except for when stopping at the occasional town along the way. Upon my arrival in Dresden I needed to get my luggage stowed at the hotel I’d be staying at for the night. It was almost 20 minutes away, and I’d given myself 45 minutes to get there, drop it off, and head out to see some sights on the way to the Dresden Mitte station for a trip to Kurort-Rathen where I’d be able to see Bastion Bridge on the other side of the River Elbe. My legs may have been tired from running a marathon, but I figured the hike there would be worth it, and should be possible. Fortunately, even though I’d not yet bought a ticket, I knew which platform I’d need, the train, and the direction it’d be heading in. This makes it a lot easier!

Hotel room with a bunkbed over a double

The hotel room was ready early, so I was able to drop off my luggage, and empty anything heavy from my backpack that I wouldn’t need for the rest of the day. Upon leaving the hotel, my first stop was Dresden Frauenkirche, which I decided warranted paying for access to the dome. Two cities so far, and two domes I’d climbed up to - it wasn’t too different to all those church towers I’d climbed in Croatia! I wondered if that was a streak which would continue on into Leipzig and Munich at least.

Pipes flow along the street

I found the courtyard in front of the Frauenkirche to be a large open space, and felt it looked a lot like ones I’d seen in Zurich. So far Dresden was not what I was expecting at all. Considering the city had been flattened during the second world war, I thought it’s time as part of East Germany would have meant it to be utilitarian, and drab - but everything was shiny and new. It’s possibly one of the brightest and cleanest city centres I’ve visited. There’s still a lot of old buildings around - meticulously reconstructed after the war.

Large square surrounded by colourful buildings

For entry into the church it was a queue as they controlled the numbers going in. At the entrance you need to check-in using Germany’s Luca application which unfortunately doesn’t have an English translation. I did my best, and it seemed to work, and was let inside. In some ways, this one reminded me of the Berliner Dom, but brighter. It has a large dome you can see up into, and from another entrance around the back (with another queue) you can get access to it. The dome access is through quite a lot of passageways and steps, but eventually you make it out into the dome where you can get a panoramic view in all directions. This costs around €8.00 to go up, and again requires you to check-in using Luca.

Inside the Frauenkirche

View from the Frauenkirche

Looking in one direction I could see the River Elbe, and in other directions I could see so many red roofing tiles. That reminded me more of Dubrovnik, or maybe parts of Geneva. It was certainly a very different vision to Berlin. They give you thirty minutes to reach the top, have a look around, and get back down. I’d made it up and down in 15 minutes, and was ahead of my planned schedule.

Fürstenzug

Semperoper

Maybe a lot of sights on my trip are planned, but the route between them tends to be fairly flexible, and this meant passing the Fürstenzug - a porcelain mosaic of Saxon rulers. This led me to a Roman Catholic Church that has an archway to Hausmannsturm - the oldest surviving part of Dresden Castle. I’d not expected to see either of these. I didn’t even know they were there until I walked past them. It led me to the Semperoper, which I feel would have been more impressive if it hadn’t been for the mobile stage they were assembling in front of it. Still, it was possible to tell how impressive the building is, and to the side of it are the palace gardens - Zwinger.

Zwinger

I walked through the archway to find that a lot of work was going on in these gardens, with parts of it fenced off. I walked around one lap, and then up some stairs onto the terrace. Time was short though, so I walked quickly, photographed what I could, and then started walking in the direction of the Yenidze. This building is tall with a dome, and what looks like a number of minarets, yet it’s not a place of worship. The minarets are actually chimneys, and it was once a cigarette factory started by a Jewish businessman selling tobacco from Yindze in Thrace. One other notable part of its history might be that the architect was the husband of Adolf Hitler’s elder half-sister. An unfortunate connection for them there.

Graffiti saying 'Express Yourself'

Yenidze

This gave me plenty of time to find the Dresden Mitte station, and the platform I needed. It was as easy as walking in, seeing the sign for the platform saying ‘Bad Schandau’, and walking up the stairs onto the platform where a ticket machine can be used. The ticket machine gave two options as a ‘via’ - something I could only tell it was doing by using Google Translate. I went for the cheaper €6.80 option as that matched what I’d expected, and waited.

This was another double-decker train and the journey lasted for around 40 minutes. I found that as it travelled further out of central Dresden, the more the building styles changed. In places it looked more like the Communist-era design I’d expected, but there were also older buildings too - these smaller settlements must have mostly escaped the bombing.

Train station at Kuror-Rathen

Kurort-Rathen is a small village that sits on both sides of the River Elbe. Once off the train I could see it was so different to Dresden. The station building was made from stone with a coat of plaster over most of it, and down by the river and across it were more white and cream buildings with red roofing tiles. On the other side of the river I could see cliff faces and trees, and knew somewhere amongst them was the Bastei. I’d started looking out for it ever since they’d first started to appear during the train journey, but at the minute I was clueless.

Countryside with the river Elbe flowing through

Down the hill I found the ferry was already loading passengers so I jogged to join the queue. This was €2.50 for a return trip, and was underway moments later. This crossing is done through the use of cables and the flow of the stream which means it’s a clean way to make as many crossings throughout the day as they need to. I understood now why you can’t prebook this. They also give you a ticket that you can use for the return journey.

The crossing took around 5 minutes, and on the other side I started walking quickly, following the signs for the Bastei. The climb would be 194 metres along a winding path that varied in steepness. I didn’t let that slow me down, and I kept on moving; only stopping for the viewpoints I encountered. Doing this reminded me at times of climbing one of the longer hikes at Yosemite in the US, but as I had nobody to talk to on the way up I just kept going until it was done.

View of the river Elbe

Eventually the path started to weave between rock pillars that were like needles protruding up from the mountain. This was the start of more durable steps, and eventually the entrance to some viewing platforms and where you can see signs of an old fortress. This was €2.50 to enter, and it didn't take too long. It gives a good view of the Bastion Bridge as well, so it seemed worth it.

Writing carved into the rock face

I finally reached the Bastion Bridge which is a narrow crossing across the top of some of the rock columns. I waited there for some time, thinking that maybe I’d get a photograph of the bridge with nobody on it - but there’s a constant stream of people in both directions, so there’s never really an opportunity.

Bastion Bridge

On the other side the path continues up to facilities such as a restaurant, and also around to a viewpoint. There was also a road on that side which suggests it’s possible to drive up to the summit from somewhere else such as Rathewalde. For people driving up it would have been a very short hike for them to see the bridge.

My legs, despite the marathon in them, had made it to the top without any trouble, and at speed too. Once I was happy I’d got the photographs I wanted, and that there was no more to see, I contemplated an ice cream, but decided it’d be better to get some food from a restaurant in town instead. So I headed back down, far faster than I’d ascended. It’d taken just under an hour to see it all with plenty of long stops for photographs. I think for those moving slower than me it wouldn’t have taken more than another thirty or so minutes.

Kurort-Rathen

Back at the level of the town I looked for restaurants along the way, but didn’t spot anything I felt like. I wanted something distinctly German. I figured maybe if I crossed to the other side of the river there’d be more. Again, I got to the ferry just in time, and 5 minutes later was out the other side looking for restaurants - but these ones were all closed. I imagined it must have been due to the pandemic, or it being the tail-end of the season. It was now 17:07, and I knew a train would be passing at 17:25 and 17:55, so I decided I may as well catch the earlier of the two, and find somewhere to eat in Dresden.

I had to wait to cross at the level crossing, and once on the other side it dawned on me that the platform I wanted was back where I’d come from, but I had to wait again. Fortunately there’s a ticket machine in the station, and I found a tunnel underneath the tracks that leads between the two platforms.

I left the train at Dresden Hauptbahnhof, and walked through the main shopping area. I’d decided that before choosing where to eat I’d look around the Dresden Markt I’d seen earlier. This was just like being at home around Christmas time - when all the German markets start springing up in towns. The smells from this one was not just the brätwursts, but all sorts of German foods I’d not seen before. For the sausage and fries it costs around €7, and they give you a euro back for returning the plate to them once you’re done. That’s a good way to make sure people aren’t lazy! It was something else to tick on my checklist of German foods to try.

Bratwurst and fries

After some more wandering around, and visiting the nearby Rewe supermarket, I’d got enough supplies for €6.77 to last for another two days of lunches. It was when I was back in the hotel at the end of the day I realised that I may not get the best night’s sleep. The Monbijou in Berlin had been so quiet due to its soundproofing, but here I could hear traffic and trams already. I knew this meant it’d be a long night. At least I was back early so I could relax for a while before I’d need to sleep.

Running: 1.24 miles, Walking: 9.36 miles, Train: 150.29 miles

Tags: dresden germany travel trips

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© David G. Paul