Germany

Germany: Dresden and Saxon Switzerland

Dresdon has a long history of being a cultural centreDresdon has a long history of being a cultural centre

Germany is a large country with a varied landscape and a seemingly endless number of cities, towns and hamlets, with each region offering up its own unique history. The country has experienced a multitude of changes throughout history, the most recent big one of course being the division of east and west, and the subsequent reunification. Since then, many parts of the country have transformed significantly, with eastern Germany specifically blossoming into something special that is well worth a visit for both its historical interest and natural beauty. Dresden, the capitol of Saxony, has a long history of being a cultural centre, though it was mostly destroyed during WWII bombing. The major buildings of historical interest have been rebuilt, however - a feat in itself - and the city has been reformed to its traditional glory. Some of the biggest pleasures here are to wander the streets and town centre, or enjoy a quaint horse and carriage ride, as you enjoy the grandeur and take in the view from the Elb River.

The predominant buildings are the Zwinger Palace, the Semper Opera House and the Frauenkirche which was painstakingly rebuilt after reunification, using some of the original stones where possible. One way of enjoying the interior of the church is to attend a concert; both tickets and information are inside. Visitors can also climb to the top of the dome for a birds-eye view of Dresden. Dresden market daysCrossing over the bridge to Neustadt (New Town) will give you a nice view back to the city skyline as you walk or cycle along the nice grassy bank and have your fill of shopping and cafes. If after all of your shopping and sightseeing you find yourself a bit peckish, you needn't worry; there are many places here to grab a bite. The main eating places are around the main square near the Frauenkirche and along the waterfront promenade. The various places offer up everything from German favourites to sushi, so finding something you like shouldn't be a problem. 

A number of boats leave the port and provide tours of varying lengths up and down the Elb River, stopping at various points along the way. In fact, boat is a fun way to access the nearby Saxon Switzerland national park. Steamships stop at various villages along the way and give you access to some nice walks in the area. Doing the trip return by steamship wI'll take pretty much the whole day, however, which will not allow for much time on land unless you choose to stay overnight.

Saxon Switzerland, so named in the 18th century by a visiting Swiss artist who was reminded of home by the rocky peaks, is a hikers and climbers paradise, but has activities for all levels of fitness. There are some well marked trails in the area for walking, and this is a popular place so you'll likely never be on your own. And if even if you're not into hiking, the views alone are worth the effort and a day trip; just viewing the sharp needle formations that the rocks produce from the river is stunning in itself. Even an overnight stay in the area is a nice change from city life.

If you want enough time to do some real hiking in the park, your best option is to take the train from Dresden to Bad Schandau, a major village in the area with good access to some nice walking trails. If you’re sticking to the main trails, you'll see there are good signs throughout and a map won’t be necessary; otherwise pick up a map from tourist information. A very slow moving tram will get you to the trail heads and then you can set off with other eager hikers. There isn’t much in the way of shops or restaurants in the area, so pack plenty of water and a picnic.

Floating along the ElbClimbers also frequent the area to ascend the jagged peaks. This is strictly for the experts, however, and should only be attempted if you have your own equipment and know what you’re doing. Certain areas are also protected so don’t touch if you don’t know! Just enjoy watching the crazy climbers hanging on hundreds of metres above you.

From Bad Schandau it’s possible to take the steam ship back to Dresden, but pre-book your ticket as on a nice day many boat rides are booked out. If you’re not keen on hiking but would still like a view, you can ascend the purpose built elevator in Bad Schandau which takes you up a cliff-face and gives a good overview of the park area. Another popular village to get a good view of Saxon Switzerland is nearby Bastei. The place is home to a bridge that runs along the rocky peaks and is clearly visible from the water. It is one of the most popular places for tourists in the area.

About the Author

Megan tries to make travelling a part of life. She has lived in six different countries and hopes her job as an English teacher will take her on one long working holiday around the world. As a nature lover she tries to find natural beauty wherever she goes, but also enjoys experiencing the local culture of the people.

Related Articles:


Add comment


Security code
Refresh

profileback2

 Full name: Federal Republic of Germany

 Population: 81.31 million (CIA, 2012)

 Capital: Berlin

 Largest city: Berlin

 Area: 357,022 sq.km. (137,846 sq. mi.)

 Major languages: German

 Major religions: Protestant, Roman Catholic,  Muslim, Other

 Monetary unit: Euro

 GDP per capita: US $37,900

 Internet domain: .de

 International dialling code: +49

 Source: CIA World Factbook