Boasting a riverine location, pleasantly mild climate, a magnificent historic center, as well as numerous renowned museums and art collections, Dresden – the capital city of the Free State of Saxony – is often called Elbflorenz, or “Florence on the Elbe”, reflecting its role as a center of art and architecture in Germany.
Situated in a valley of the Elbe River, near the Czech border, Dresden has a long history as the capital and royal residence of the Electors and Kings of Saxony. They furnished the city with cultural and artistic splendors. Unfortunately, Dresden was nearly burnt to the ground during the Second World War. Only the city’s oldest part can still retain the essence of the glorious time.
1. Dresden Old Town
Looking at the Baroque architecture, you probably think Dresden’s Old Town has existed for centuries. But in reality, it was reconstructed just a few decades ago. Between the 13th and 15th of February 1945, the entire historic center was leveled up by the Allied bombers. And thousands of Germans lost their lives in this firestorm. Historians used to discuss this unnecessary destruction. However, what has been done cannot be undone, and thus Dresden started to rebuild itself.
Much like Florence in Italy, Dresden’s Old Town is a center of art in Germany. The riverside city houses several key cultural institutions, including the Old Masters Gallery in Zwinger Palace, the Semper Opera House, and the Green Vault – one of Europe’s largest treasure collections. Its name actually comes from the most valuable exhibited item – the 41 carats “Dresden Green Diamond”.
1.1 Church of Our Lady
Dominating the skyline is Dresden’s most well-known symbol of, the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady). Completed in 1743 and rebuilt after the Second World War, this Baroque church was an outstanding example of Protestant sacred architecture. It features one of Europe’s grandest domes, measuring 24 meters in height and 26 meters in diameter.
The church’s façade is equally unique, with darker-colored stones scattering across the light surface. These stones are remains of the original structure which collapsed during the 1945 firestorm. Atop the bell-shaped dome is a viewing platform where visitors can enjoy a sweeping view over the Old Town and the Elbe River.
1.2 Dresden Zwinger
Constructed in 1709 at the behest of Saxon Elector Augustus the Strong, Zwinger is another masterpiece of Baroque architecture. This palace was initiated as an orangery and a simple venue for court games. But over time, it grew into a building complex that features richly ornate gates, pavilions, and galleries.
These days, Zwinger is home to multiple art museums, as well as a spectacular collection of Meissen porcelain. A stunning fountain, complete with sculptures and vases, can be found right next to the palace. It reminds me of the splendor of German Baroque art, which was at its height during the 17th and 18th centuries.
2. The Elbe River
Similar to the Arno in Florence, the Elbe River is the bloodline of Dresden. It rolls through the city, separating the Old Town on the western bank and the New City built in the 19th century on the opposite side. The river then flows out into the beautiful Saxon countryside, passing by meadows, cottages, and even vineyards.
The riverbank landscape was so extraordinary that UNESCO inscribed it as a World Heritage Site in 2004. Unfortunately, a four-lane bridge was constructed not long after that. It ruined the original scenery, forcing the international organization to delist the site in 2009. Nevertheless, the riverbank is a perfect place to take a stroll and admire Dresden’s beautiful skyline.
3. The Eierschecke
The Eierschecke is Dresden’s special cake and perhaps its most well-kept secret. As its name derives from a tripartite piece of clothing, the Eierschecke consists of three sheets. The upper layer is made of egg yolk which is creamy and stirred with butter. The middle layer is a kind of custard containing quark and vanilla flavoring.
Finally, the base is somewhat similar to a sponge cake. Despite its heavenly taste, the fame of this specialty strangely has never grown beyond the borders of Saxony. One good address to try this sweet treat is the Dresdner Kaffeestübchen on the Salzgasse, a short walking distance from the Church of Our Lady.
Die Eierschecke ist eine Kuchensorte, die zum Schaden der Menschheit auf dem Rest des Globus unbekannt geblieben ist.Erich Kätschne, German author
*Translation: The Eierschecke is a type of cake which to the detriment of humanity remained unknown to the rest of the world.