Stallhof above, once stabled royal horses; today the world’s 1st Christmas Market can still be found here.
The Saxons began to be mentioned in the early Middle Ages (5th-10th centuries). These early Germanic peoples are said to have originated near the North Sea coast of what is now Northern Germany. The word Dresden loosely means “people of the forest”.
Saxony today is located in eastern Germany, bordered by Poland to the east, the Czech Republic to the south and the city of Berlin, by car, is approximately 2½ hours north. Dresden is the capital of the Saxony state and has a long history as the capital and royal residence of the Electors and Kings of Saxony. We snapped this photo from the train as we were returning to the city one afternoon and although it is slightly blurry, it shows how photogenic the city can be, even on an overcast day and speeding train.
As seen just left of center in the photo above, one of Dresden’s most prominent buildings is the light beige colored Frauenkirche – Church of Our Lady, located in the Neumarkt square. The domed building on the farthest left, has been nicknamed the “lemon squeezer” building.
Originally built in the 11th century, Frauenkirche was a Catholic church up until the Reformation. Martin Luther and John Calvin were significant influencers and the church became a Protestant Church. The first Frauenkirche was torn down and replaced in 1727 by a larger Baroque Lutheran building with one of the largest domes in Europe and inside, with a far greater seating capacity. In 1736 a new organ was dedicated and in December that year, Johann Sebastian Bach gave a recital on the instrument.
Destroyed during the Allied intense firebombing of Dresden in 1945 the ruins were treated as a war memorial during the Russian occupation of what became known as East Germany. When Germany was reunified in late 1990 there was a resurgence of interest to rebuild the church. Groundbreaking began in 1993 and as many pieces as possible were incorporated from the original church into the new one. The new beautiful Lutheran Church was reconsecrated in late 2005, just in time for the 800th anniversary celebrations of the city of Dresden the following year.
Sharing Neumarkt square with the Frauenkirche is Dresden’s oldest building, the Johanneum, built between 1586 and 1590 and currently home to Dresden’s Transport Museum. Displayed inside we found a few full size but mostly varying sizes of model trains, model hot air balloons, airplanes and model ships. They had a significant collection of older cars and a interesting collection of bicycles and motorcycles.
We found this replica of Carl Benz’s legendary patented 1886 three-wheeled vehicle, the predecessor of modern cars. He developed the engine and vehicle as a single entity and had made each individual part himself. In July 1886 he took his Motorwagen which had less than 1 horsepower, on its first official trip. Benz is credited with inventing the automobile with an internal combustion engine.
Gottlieb Daimler in 1885, is credited with building the first internal combustion motorcycle, but it wasn’t until 1903 before the first motorcycle boom happened.
The first army bicycles were introduced at the end of the 19th century. During World War I, the German army had entire bicycle companies. Bicycles were an ideal means of transportation as they were fairly quiet compared to horses or motorized units, did not require fuel and were relatively easy to maintain. Paratrooper units were given modified folding bicycles in World War II. The bicycles had black-out headlamps, tow bars and neither pedal reflectors nor any chrome parts.
Kathedrale Sanctissimae Trinitatis
Referred to most often as Dresden Cathedral, this baroque style Cathedral is also known as The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, the Catholic Cathedral of Dresden and previously the Catholic Church of the Royal Court of Saxony. It was built between 1739-1755 and is the Cathedral of the diocese of Dresden-Meissen.
The general population of the city was Protestant and used the Frauenkirche. The Elector of Saxony had to convert to Catholicism in order to become King of Poland and therefore built the cathedral for his own use, connecting it directly to the Castle with an elevated walkway.
The cathedral features a carefully restored organ and this rather exuberant Rococo pulpit. The crypts hold the remains of nearly all the former Kings of Saxony and their families. Polish princes and princesses are also buried in the crypts.
There is an elevated terrace in Dresden that is ideal for a stroll anytime of the day or evening. Nicknamed “The Balcony of Europe”, the terrace stretches high above and along the shoreline of the river Elbe.
The views were magificent. We watched hot hair balloons life off from the opposite side of the river and lazily drift along on the wind currents. This red heart shaped balloon was particularly pretty against the baroque buildings and evening sky.
The terrace was the only place we found local artists out selling their original paintings. There are great views of Augustus Bridge. A bridge his crossed the river at the same location since at least the 12th century although the current bridge with its 9 curving arches was built between 1907 and 1910.
Brule’s Terrace was one of our favourite places to walk, blend in and people watch. Near the gardens at one end of the terrace was a large temporary art installation by the Czech artist Michal Gabriel (born 1960). The sculptures are most interesting. In the photo below on the left, the artist combined the shapes of a leopard, a cougar, a jaguar and a lioness and called his creations a “Smeçka” or “Pack”. Gabriel experiments with 3D printing and creating digital sculpture, so we assume these sculptures may have been 3D printed. In another part of the garden is an even more unique figure he called “Buddha Rider”.
During our stay in Dresden the city festival called “CANALETTO” took place. Despite the heavy rains we got out and enjoyed the festival. They were celebrating their 810th festival year! Additionally they also marked the 180th year of the Saxon Steamship Company, 125 years since the Dresden City Museum opened and, most importantly, 800 years of Dresdner Kreuzchor – the boys’ choir of the Kreuzkirche (Holy Cross Church) in Dresden. The choir has a seven-century history and a world renowned reputation. Today, the choir has about 150 members between the ages of 9 and 19, all from Dresden and the surrounding region.
At the festival, we saw live theater programs, multiple music venues, shows, family activities, sports, lots of street food and drinks, a medieval show, carnival-like fun, games and rides for all. There was a traditional Steamship Festival with a big steamship parade on the river and topped off with a fireworks display on Sunday evening.
This bohemian artist’s corner is made up of 5 charming individual courtyards. A dedicated group of artists have combined art and architecture and the result is that each courtyard and facade has its own magical design theme and name.
The Courtyard of the Elements has one building with a blue-colored facade with rain pipes (water element) across from a yellow facade with aluminum sheets (light element) on the west side of the courtyard.
The Court of Light uses lights and metal mirrors to bounce light around its courtyard.
The facade in the “Court of Animals” is green in color and decorated with a giraffe, monkeys and cranes.
The “Court of Mythical Creatures” is a combination of sgraffito and mosaic with mythical creatures.
The Court of Metamorphoses is characterized by the “harmonizing aesthetics through contrasting opposites”.
While out exploring one morning we came across the brilliant Golden Rider equestrian statue. The Saxon Elector and Polish King August the Strong is dressed as a Roman Caesar riding a Lipizzaner stallion. Considered to be one of the most famous monuments in Dresden, this dazzling statue is covered in gold leaf.
The statue was cast in copper and originally fire-gilded between 1732 and 1734. The sculpture was restored in 1884 and the inscription at the base was added. During World War II the sculpture was dismantled and stored. Between 1953 and 56 the sculpture was reassembled and restored and in 1965 it was covered in gold leaf once more.
The Golden Rider also adorns a seal of quality for our favorite holiday dessert, Dresden’s Christmas Stollen.
In case you haven’t heard of or tried Stollen, it originated in Dresden and is a cake-like fruit bread made with yeast, water and flour, orange or lemon zest, candied orange peel or citrus peel, raisins, almonds, cardamom, cinnamon, milk, sugar, butter, salt, rum, eggs, vanilla and marzipan are all common ingredients. The bread is slathered with melted unsalted butter and rolled in powdered sugar as soon as it comes out of the oven.
Dresden Stollen, originally called Striezel, was first mentioned in an official document in 1474 and that it could be found at the Dresden Christmas market, the Striezelmarkt.
Each year ‘Stollenfest’ takes place in Dresden.
A giant cake, weighing between 3 and 4 tonnes is paraded through the city along with the bakers and pastry makers. They are joined by marching bands, actors in historical costumes and regiments of soldiers, and making a festive and colorful parade that is cheered on by tens of thousands of spectators.
When the cake arrives at the Christmas markets at the Stallhof, a special 5.2 foot long (1.60 m) silver-plated knife, the Grand Dresden Stollen Knife, weighing 26 pounds, (12 kilograms) is used to festively cut the oversize Stollen into pieces, which are then sold to the waiting crowds.
Although it is difficult to find off-season, (Stollen season runs November 1st – December 31st), we did manage to locate and enjoy some fresh and delicious Dresden stollen.
We hope you are able to find or make some wonderful Dresden Stollen for your holiday celebrations this year.
Prost from these Dresdnerin,
Ted + Julia