Travel diary: Dresden, after the flood

Dresden was heavily affected by the recent floods here in Europe, so the high water levels have been a hot topic of conversation, even though things are completely back to normal now. Well, I say normal but the weather has been acting a little strange — we had a heat wave, storms, and a cold snap too.

This is week four of IndieGermany, with German Rail Passes supplied by ACP Rail. And it’s so much fun!

Monday 17/6: We’d spent the weekend couchsurfing out in the suburbs, but since Carola and Stefan had to start work early on Monday morning, we’d said goodbye the night before. It took some time to get into the centre of Dresden and find our hotel, the Bülow Residenz, but we made it there before 11.30 to find that our room was ready for us — wonderful!

Our room at the Bülow.

Our room at the Bülow.

We quickly unpacked and changed, then made our way to the Sophienkellar restaurant on the Altstadt side of the River Elbe, where we met with Julia, our contact from the tourism board. We had a lovely lunch with her, and she gave us some useful tips about how we could spend our time in the city.

Unfortunately, Monday had to be a work day, so we headed back to the hotel and got down to it, with just a brief excursion out later in the day.

Tuesday 18/6: After a fantastic breakfast, we met with Jutta, one of the managers of the Bülow Residenz and its sister hotel, the Bülow Palais. She showed us around the two establishments and gave us teddy bears to accompany us on the rest of the journey — they’re cute!

We spent the morning working then had currywurst for lunch and hopped on a hop-on-hop-off bus trip to get our heads around Dresden’s geography. The tour was interesting but it was sweltering in the bus and the audio cut out occasionally, only to come back on AT TOP VOLUME. This was a little annoying.

Linda's birthday dinner.

Linda’s birthday dinner.

Since we’d been couchsurfing on my birthday (last Sunday) we hadn’t had our traditional dinner out… so we postponed it to Tuesday (it’s still Birthday Week until the 18th, after all). We chose a restaurant on the Neustadt Markt which was packed with locals and tourists, and had a delicious meal: fish for me, flammkuchen for Craig. The evening finished with delicious ice-cream and a birthday chat with my mum.

Wednesday 19/6: It was already very hot by the time we left the hotel at 11 to walk into the city. We’d hoped to join a mini-tour of the Frauenkirche that was included with out hop-on hop-off tickets but couldn’t find the meeting point; we had a brief look inside for ourselves then walked over to the Zwinger. This impressive building, arranged around a large courtyard, houses the Old Masters art gallery, the Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon and the Porcelain Museum. We checked them all out — I liked the Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon best and the Porcelain Museum least by a long way. Porcelain is boring.

The Zwinger.

The Zwinger.

Lunch was a €7.77 beer-and-a-schnitzel deal, after which we checked out the art on offer at the Albertinum — Craig appreciated the sculpture, I enjoyed the work of Wilhelm Hammershoi, and we both liked the modern art cube on the lower floor — and the feather dusters.

We stopped back at the Bülow to collect our bags, then made our way to Hostel Lollis, where we would be spending the next two nights. Our room was on the third floor, but the sight we got when we opened the door was worth the climb — we got the Trabi room! In other words, there was a car in there. It had mattress in it but there’s only room for one person, so we decided to both sleep on the platform above.

Woooo! Trabi!

Woooo! Trabi!

On Wednesdays, guests of the hostel get dinner for free, so we ate our (tasty) soup quickly before running out the door to our evening appointment: a Night Walk tour with Danilo. He showed us around the Neustadt area, explaining a bit about its history and present, showing us the street art (yay) and leading us into several excellent bars. The evening wound up at around 12.30am and we collapsed, exhausted, into bed.

Thursday 20/6: It was another hot day, and we spent it seeing more of Dresden. First, we tried to find the Neustadt Museum that Danilo had told us about; we failed miserably and caught a tram to the Royal Palace instead. There, we visited the Turkish Chamber, the New Green Vault, and a photography exhibition, then climbed up the Hausmannsturm for a great view over the city.

View from the tower.

View from the Hausmannsturm tower.

Lunch was currywurst with peanut sauce at Curry and Co, after which we had a short rest back at the hostel before venturing out for more sightseeing: first the Museum of Saxon Folk Art and Puppet Theatre Collection, and then the (surprisingly small) Ethnology Museum in the Japanese Palace.

Mmm currywurst.

Mmm currywurst.

We’d hoped to eat our kebab dinner in a park near the hostel, but a windstorm developed just as we were about to sit down; we decamped and ate inside. It was a good thing too — a real storm arrived just half an hour later!

Friday 21/6: An early start was on the cards if we wanted to catch our train on time; we succeeded but were sad to see that the onboard bistro was closed so we couldn’t dose ourselves on coffee. Craig spent most of the five-hour trip to Bremen dozing; I got a bit of work done then read my book.

We were met in Bremen by Johanna (an ex-student of mine) and her dad, who took us for a delicious sushi lunch then showed us around the city. We’d been there before but not for about six years, it was great to see it again with a local guide. Johanna’s dad also showed us a hidden gem: a paternoster elevator. This is basically a chain of compartments without doors that constantly moves in a circle — you jump in as it moves past your floor and jump out at the floor you want. We had a go and it was awesome!

Paternoster.

Paternoster.

After saying goodbye to Johanna and her dad, we hopped on another train, to Hamburg, where we were met at the station by our couchsurfing host Holger. We spent the evening back at his place, getting to know him and his girlfriend Maja.

Saturday 22/6: It’s always nice to have a lazy day, and that’s what Saturday was. We slept in, went for a short walk to the park and supermarket, then had Vietnamese summer rolls for dinner. At about 9.30pm, we headed into the city to see the Kiez, the area of Hamburg where the famous Reeperbahn is located.

We had a beer and explored a little — although the weather wasn’t great there were a lot of people around because of the Harley Davidson event that was going on in the city. As well as hundreds of bars and clubs, this area is also home to brothels and strip clubs — it was definitely an interesting place to visit.

In the Reeperbahn.

In the Reeperbahn.

Sunday 23/6: Since Hamburg is full of lakes, rivers, and canals, it seemed logical to go on a boat trip at least once during our stay — and when Holger suggested a paddleboat ride, we jumped at the chance. We cycled to the hire place (using city bikes — a trip of less than 30 minutes is free!) and spent a pleasant three hours exploring some of Hamburg’s waterways.

Back at Holger and Maja’s, we had a late lunch then said our goodbyes; Craig and I were crossing the city again to stay in the Superbude Hostel St Pauli. We knew it was going to be good from the website, but it’s awesome — the decoration alone is amazing, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of it. For the first evening though, we just stayed in, relaxed, and watered the strawberry plant on the windowsill.

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