Boasting a riverine location, pleasantly mild climate, a magnificent historic centre, 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 centre 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 splendours. 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.
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 centre was levelled 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 done cannot be undone, and thus Dresden started to rebuild itself.
Much like Florence in Italy, Dresden’s Old Town is a centre of art in Germany. It’s home to several key cultural institutions, including the Old Masters Gallery in the Versailles-inspired Zwinger Palace, the Semper Opera House, and the world-renowned Green Vault containing the largest collection of treasures in Europe. The name Green Vault comes from its most valuable exhibited item – the 41 carats “Dresden Green Diamond”.
Church of Our Lady
The most well-known symbol of the city is the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady). Completed in 1743 and rebuilt after the Second World War, the Baroque formal church is famed for its magnificent grand dome, which dominates the skyline of Dresden. It is considered an outstanding example of Protestant sacred architecture, featuring one of the largest domes in Europe.
The Elbe River
Similar to the Arno River in Florence, the Elbe is the bloodline of Dresden. It passes 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. One of Dresden’s pleasures is its proximity to open fields. Just a tram ride from the city centre, you’ll find meadows, farms and even vineyards.
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 stirred with butter. The middle layer is a kind of custard containing quark and vanilla flavouring. Finally, the base is somewhat similar to a sponge cake. Despite its heavenly taste, the fame of this speciality strangely has never grown beyond the borders of Saxony. Like the famous German author Erich Kätschner once said:
Die Eierschecke ist eine Kuchensorte, die zum Schaden der Menschheit auf dem Rest des Globus unbekannt geblieben ist.
*Translation: The Eierschecke is a type of cake which to the detriment of humanity remained unknown to the rest of the world.
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.