Dresden, the birthplace of milk chocolate
Dresden, the birthplace of milk chocolate, is a city of art, history and culture. It’s also the city made famous by Slaughterhouse Five. The inner city, left mostly in ruins after 1945, has been rebuilt in the image of its past Baroque elegance.
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In 2002, we spent one afternoon in Dresden.
Lured by the Rembrandts and the Rubens, we added a huge detour into a Wiesbaden-to-Berlin train trip so that we could spend one afternoon in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Old Masters Gallery). The train schedule was tight, so we saw nothing of the city but the gallery, the train station and the street in-between.
For years, we’ve wanted to return to see more. Now, we finally have.
Stepping out of the main train station with our suitcases in tow, ambling down the pedestrian-only shopping district towards our hotel, it was hard to imagine that this was the same city that we had visited some 18 years ago. Walking along, admiring the modern storefronts, neither of us could remember the city looking this contemporary. It was also hard to imagine that this was the same city that had been destroyed near the end of WWII. Everything was so ~ shiny.
Once we got to the old inner city, the shine was replaced by buildings that had been built to look old but were clearly new. These new/old buildings are meant to coexist, to compliment, the restored, actual-old buildings of Old Dresden. After more than 45 years of neglect, those actual-old buildings have been lovingly and faithfully restored, using as many of the original stones and plans as possible, in hopes of reclaiming their pre-1945 grandeur.
Rebuild, Restore, Reclaim the history. We’ve seen this strategy used in Warsaw, Gdansk and elsewhere in this part of Europe.
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The bombings of February 1945 were a defining moment in Dresden’s history and still weigh heavily on the city, but there is much more to Dresden than those two days of destruction. Dresden has history, art, wine and chocolate. And resilience. Let’s begin with chocolate.
Food tour: begin with chocolate, end with wine
In 1839, Jordan & Timaeus, a chocolate company based in Dresden, used donkey milk to make the first known instance of milk chocolate. In 1875 the Swiss confectioner Daniel Peter developed a way to use Henri Nestlé’s invention, condensed milk, to make milk chocolate. This was fortunate for us because the condensed-milk version tastes much better.
Life in East Germany (GDR)
One of our guides has lived in eastern Germany since the mid-80s, back when it was the GDR (DDR in German). Born and raised in England, she came to the GDR to attend university and ended up staying. While eating our solyanka soup, she told us a bit about life in the GDR:
- she said that because her expenses were low ~ rent and basic food were cheap ~ and there was little to spend money on, her salary went a long way.
- If you wanted a luxury product or consumer goods, it was expensive and there would be a long wait.
- There weren’t many restaurants or entertainment, so it was quite dull.
We were sorry we didn’t have more time with our guides, as they were funny and full of interesting stories. A good reason to return to Dresden and arrange another tour…
Saxony wine region: tasting local wines
Our food tour ended at a wine shop that specialized in local wines. Local wines? We had no idea that there are vineyards in the southeastern part of Germany. This wine region, while small, is an up-and-coming wine producer.
We sampled three wines: a Goldriesling (created in 1893 by crossing Riesling with another grape variety), a sparkling white and a red varietal called Regent. All three were yummy. We had planned to return the next day to buy some to take home, but that didn’t work out. So, here’s another good reason to return to Dresden: to buy local wines.
Frauenkirche: exemplifying Dresden’s resilience
Dresden, like much of this part of Europe, is both enriched and burdened by a long history. The 20th century in particular was unkind to this city, one that had once been known as the “Florence of the North.” The Frauenkirche, a celebrated example of Protestant sacred architecture, exemplifies this better than perhaps any other building in the city.
In the 18th century, the baroque, domed version of the Frauenkirche replaced an 11th-c. church. The distinctive dome is an engineering feat that has been compared to the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. This unique dome also gave Dresden a distinctive skyline that many artists featured in their works. The reunification of Germany in 1990 provided the opportunity for the church to be rebuilt. The rebuilding process began in 1994 and was completed in 2005.
And of course, there is Art
Art lured us to Dresden first in ’02 and then again in ’20. We revisited the Rembrandts and Rubens, plus discovered many more artists. In addition to those two, Dresden is the home to works by Raphael, Lucas Cranach the Elder and many others. Wikipedia has a fine list of the artists and their works in the Old Masters Gallery and the New Masters Gallery (Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Kirchner).
Our recommendation: visit Dresden
If you’re at all interested in art, history or just like to visit beautiful cities, visit Dresden. Dresden is a perfect stopover between Berlin and Prague. Berlin, Dresden, Prague ~ these three are part of an itinerary of the great cities of Europe.
As for us, I think we’ll be back. After all, we have more local wines to try and we want to hear more good stories from our food tour guides.
What else has changed about traveling?
This was our second trip since COVID restrictions have been relaxed. On our first trip, I talked about what had changed about travel. During this trip, had anything else changed?
Traveling by bus and train was the same this time as last; everybody wearing masks, social distancing, etc. The hotel check-in process was the same, too: everyone wearing masks and a plexiglass screen between the hotel clerk and us.
This time, breakfast was not served on a cling-wrapped tray, I’m happy to say. Breakfast was buffet style with two significant changes: we had to make a reservation and the kitchen staff served the food to us ~ we weren’t allowed to help ourselves. All in all, it was a good breakfast experience.
Another difference was that when we ate at a restaurant we didn’t have to provide our contact information (names, address and a phone number). Providing contact information is mandatory where we live and we have gotten used to it even in this short time frame, so the absence was notable.
Odd and ends that don’t fit neatly elsewhere but that are ready for sharing.
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(1) File:RAFAEL – Madonna Sixtina (Gemäldegalerie Alter Meister, Dresden, 1513–14. Óleo sobre lienzo, 265 x 196 cm).jpg
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:RAFAEL_-_Madonna_Sixtina_(Gemäldegalerie_Alter_Meister,_Dresden,_1513-14._Óleo_sobre_lienzo,_265_x_196_cm).jpg; Sistine Madonna, 1513-14, Peter Paul Rubens. This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or fewer. You must also include a United States public domain tag to indicate why this work is in the public domain in the United States.
(2) File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-60015-0002, Dresden, Denkmal Martin Luther, Frauenkirche, Ruine.jpg
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-60015-0002,_Dresden,_Denkmal_Martin_Luther,_Frauenkirche,_Ruine.jpg; Dresden, Luther-Denkmal, Ruine der Frauenkirche, November 1958. (https://www.bild.bundesarchiv.de/dba/de/search/?query=Bild+183-60015-0002) This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license. Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-60015-0002 / Giso Löwe / CC-BY-SA 3.0
(3)File:Dresden Opera – panoramio.jpg
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dresden_Opera_-_panoramio.jpg; photo by Art Anderson; 29 September 2016; This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license
(4) File:Canaletto – Dresden seen from the Right Bank of the Elbe, beneath the Augusts Bridge – Google Art Project.jpg
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Canaletto_-_Dresden_seen_from_the_Right_Bank_of_the_Elbe,_beneath_the_Augusts_Bridge_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg. “Dresden seen from the Right Bank of the Elbe, beneath the Augusts Bridge,” 1748. Bernardo Belloto (1722-1780). Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden The author died in 1780, so this work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or fewer. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1925.
(5) File:Dresden Brühlsche Terrasse Belvedere 1860s.jpg
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dresden_Brühlsche_Terrasse_Belvedere_1860s.jpg Dresden, Germany, Brühlsche Terrasse, Palais Belvedere, on the background far right first building of Semperoper between 1860 and 1869; Unknown author; This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 70 years or fewer. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1925.
(6) File:Dresden Elbe Terrassenufer.jpg
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dresden_Elbe_Terrassenufer.jpg “Dresden (Saxony, Germany) – view from Carolabrücke to Terrassenufer” between 1890 and 1905; Unknown author; This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1925.
(7) File:Dresden. Zwinger & Sophienkirche. – Detroit Publishing Co.jpg
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dresden._Zwinger_%26_Sophienkirche._-_Detroit_Publishing_Co.jpg between circa 1890 and circa 1900 Unknown author; This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1925.