When I arrived in Dresden, I had a sense of urgency, both due to a mental tic by which I was under the impression that Tristan and Isolde was to be performed that very night (whereas it proved to be the next night, so I really had plenty of time, but didn’t know it), and due to the usual WC need: all of which caused me to think I lost my parking ticket, and on top of that it was snowing, and there were no typical tourist signs pointing things out, so I went jigging around in the snow, fretting about the parking ticket, freezing, and not knowing north from left.
All’s well that ends well. And generally, it ends well sooner rather than later. So take heart, and start booking your travel arrangements!
Finally ensconsed in my hotel, warm, and with a map in hand, I was able to set out.
The large square dominated by the Frauenkirche is the first interest. The Frauenkirche is a fabulous design, as proven by the fact that you can stare at it and then just keep staring.
Hint: there is a Canadian restaurant next door where you can sit and drink coffee and eat a Kuchen: try to get a window seat, and continue to gawk out at the Frauenkirche while you nibble.
However, before you do, take note on the information board in front of the church of any organ recital that might be coming up. They block the doors promptly when it begins; I missed one by two minutes, and in fact, never made it into the Frauenkirche.
No matter; this gives an excuse to return to Dresden sooner rather than later.
Augustus the Strong was the Saxon Elector that built up many of the beautiful sites. However, for political reasons, he converted back to popery, in connection with conniving to be awarded the crown of Poland, and probably thinking, “Poland is worth a mass.” However, the population and the estates were so solidly Lutheran that he had to do his own thing religiously, and built a Catholic church across the river. Note the large statue of Luther planted in front of Frauenkirche, as if standing guard.
Nearby, don’t neglect the Transportation Museum. The name is boring, but it is chock full of trains, cars, and interesting machines.
Right on this main square is a worthy-looking hotel, with perfect location, the Steigenberger Hotel de Saxe. Check for rates before leaving home and if it is not too outrageous, consider staying there.
Walking south ten minutes, visit the Church of the Cross. The main thing to do here is pay a small fee then walk up to the top of the tower. You finally emerge on a catwalk the allows scanning the view 360 degrees.
Returning back toward the Elbe river, and going a bit west, downstream, you come to another cluster of buildings. There is a Porcelain Gallery. The Art Gallery is world class. I only had time to spend a couple hours — plan to spend at least twice that long, perhaps broken up by lunch at the attached cafe.
A good plan would be to drop the girls off at the Porcelain Museum, then the guys head over to the Transportation Museum. Plan to rendezvous at the Art Gallery after a couple hours.
The opera building is also part of this group. I was fortunate to have a ticket for Tristan with the celebrated Waltraud Meier doing Isolde. Just to show what a great coincidence this was– the fellow in the seat next to mine was an Englishman that had flown in just for this opera.
Unfortunately, the orchestra, though mostly wonderful, was degraded with a few instrumental blemishes in the horn section. It was also conducted too loud, and without sufficient dynamic. Too, the staging was such that Waltraud was put at the back of the stage for the Liebestod, so she could barely be heard.
Earlier, at the end of Act I they went abstract, so that T&I sang their duet from opposite sides of the stage. So you never really heard it as a duet.
Nevertheless, it was great to be there, and to drink wine and talk about it during intermissions.
When at length I exited the opera, I involuntarily gasped at the night-time beauty that struck the eyes. A woman nearby did the same.
In some ways, Dresden improves with darkness.
Be sure to walk along the path on the Elbe at night– say, up to the next bridge, then back. It would probably be worth crossing over and doing so from the other side as well, though time ran out this time for me to do so.
In general, Dresden is stately and beautiful in an “august” (pun intended) sort of way; it does not perhaps excel in Gemütlichkeit. This is not a criticism, however. It is just pointing out a subtle difference.
It is amazing to think that Dresden was once even more beautiful, especially in the manner of the beauteous residences expanding outward. More on that anon.
The parting shot is looking back through the opera hall from my seat.