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Dresden

A Karen Brown Recommendation
Dresden, a large, sprawling city, is not as well signposted as you would wish, so it is handy to have a city map in hand to navigate to the Altstadt (old city). Follow signs to the heart of the old city center. Dresden, the city with a great past, is well on its way to a great future. The famous skyline of palace domes and majestic church steeples on a bend of the Elbe River was razed by Allied bombers on February 13, 1945, and it is only since reunification that the city has experienced a rebirth. Many buildings have been cleaned, renovated, and restored to their former glory. An example of painstaking renovation is Taschenbergpalais (the Taschenberg Palace), a magnificent home commissioned in 1706 by August the Strong for his mistress, the Countess Cosel. Today, behind a painstakingly restored façade, the palace has been converted into an elegant, splendidly located hotel, the Kempinski Hotel Taschenbergpalais. Begin your Dresden sightseeing at the Catholic cathedral, Hofkirche, whose lacy spire faces Augustusbrücke. Just beside the cathedral is the Brühlsche Terrace, praised as the “balcony of Europe”—only members of the nobility were allowed to enjoy this riverside view until 1814, when the broad flight of stairs was built to allow everyone to enjoy it. If you wish to know why the city’s hero, August the Strong, was given his name, study the cast-iron railing of the terrace and find what is supposedly his thumb mark—a bit hard to believe since the rail was installed ten years after his death! Facing onto Brühlsche Terrace, which overlooks the river is the *Albertinum, an old arsenal that was converted into a museum in the 19th century. Inside, you will find the New Gallery (Gemäldegalerie Neuer Meister), a museum of 19th- and 20th-century painters, and the Green Vault Collection (Grünes Gewölbe). Of the two, be sure not to miss the Green Vault Collection with its breathtaking precious gems and treasures that belonged to the incredibly rich kings of Saxony. (10 am–6 pm, closed Thursdays.) After visiting the Albertinum, descend from the terrace in front and go back one block from the river to Auguststrasse, then follow the *Parade of Princes (Fürstenzug) , a mural made up of 24,000 Meissen porcelain tiles. The mural, which depicts a procession of 35 kings and princes on horseback, accompanied by their knights, stretches for almost a block on the wall of the building that used to house the stables. Nearby, you will see the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), which was destroyed by Allied bombing in 1945. Its reconstruction took many years to complete. Originally the church was to be left in ruins as a sad testimonial to the war, but this plan changed and the building that was once considered the most beautiful Protestant church in Europe has risen from the ashes. Next, turn behind the Residenzschloss (castle) and walk behind the Catholic cathedral to the beautiful Semperoper (Semper Opera House), where statues on the façade portray Shakespeare and Sophocles, and Goethe and Schiller flank the entrance. Saving the very best for last, enter Dresden’s greatest treasure, the *Zwinger Palace, where you will concentrate much of your sightseeing. Just to walk into the enormous courtyard, which seems the size of multiple football fields, is awesome. Surrounding this lovely garden courtyard is the palace, which contains a mind-boggling assortment of museums. The *Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Old Masters Gallery), full of magnificent paintings by Canaletto, Raphael, Rubens, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, and many other famous artists, is world renowned. (10 am–6 pm, closed Mondays.) Your gallery ticket gives you entrance to the adjacent Rüstkammer Museum with its displays of ancient military hardware. (10 am–6 pm, closed Mondays.) The Porzellansammlung (Porcelain Museum—entrance on Sophienstrasse) houses an important collection of Meissen, Japanese, and Chinese porcelain. (10 am–6 pm, closed Thursdays.) The Wallpavillion houses the Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon (Salon of Mathematics and Physics) with its collection of mathematical and measuring instruments (it has lots of barometers, thermometers, and clocks). (9:30 am–5 pm, closed Thursdays.) The Elbe River runs through the heart of Dresden and makes for a fun excursion that doesn’t take much energy. Steamer trips depart from the Terrassenufer, underneath the Brühlsche Terrasse. A 90-minute boat trip takes you upstream to Loschwitz and Blasewitz where the boat turns around and returns you to the city center. (Operates April to mid-November.) A longer trip takes you upstream past the Elbe palaces of Albrechtsburg, Lingner, and Eckberg to Pillnitz Palace, where you can leave the steamer and visit the park and palace before returning to the city center two hours later. (Operates all year, reduced rate program October to April. Sächsische Dampfschiffahrts, Hertha-Lindner-Str. 10, 01067 Dresden, tel: 0351 866090, fax: 0351 8660988, www.saechsische-dampfschiffahrt.de.) There are also steamer trips to Meissen, but because this is quite a long river trip, it is usually best to take a boat one way and the train the other to give you ample time for sightseeing. At the Terrassenufer boat dock in Dresden, or at the Dresden tourist office, you can pick up a schedule that shows the dates and departure times for all the various steamers
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