The first thing that has to be said about Dresden, is that this city is just ludicrously beautiful. I mean, if Dresden were a person, it would be Zoolander – it’s that really, really ridiculously good-looking. I can’t remember the last time I was this wowed by a city; I basically spent two days walking around grinning idiotically at how lovely everything was. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
This time round, I actually made my bus on the intended day. I boarded and unfortunately sat opposite a woman with the mother of all colds, who had no qualms about blowing her nose at a window-shattering decibel level. I was rather relieved when we pulled into Dresden a couple of hours later and I got to leave Foghorn Helghorn behind.
I’d managed to find a room online for just €50 for two nights so I headed off in the direction I expected it to be in. After a couple of wrong turns and a few helpful Germans, I eventually arrived. At a yoga studio. Hmm. I called the number on the booking form and was told that yes, I was in the right place but that the owner wasn’t home right now. Why hadn’t I answered her text?
What text? I cast my mind back and remembered an odd message from the night before. “Lindau. When you will arrive my flat?” I’d just assumed that I’d given my number to some randomer in a bar and made some plan that I had no intention of keeping. For once, I hadn’t. This was of small comfort to me now though, as I had to wait for half an hour for the lady of the house to get back.
So, I did what any self-respecting German would do – grabbed a beer and drank it while I waited outside the building. A classy start to the weekend. Finally, a little slip of a woman of about 70 showed up and let me in. With a steely look in her eye, she non-jokingly told me she’d prefer it if I took my shoes off. Great, I was going to be staying with the female equivalent of Hermann for two days…
But the room was lovely, with its own balcony, and as nobody else was there that weekend, I’d have the bathroom and kitchenette to myself. There was even a comforting picture of a bear who’d ripped a young girl to pieces to help me settle in.
I freshened up a bit, and went out in search of sausage. I found it in the lovely Gänsedieb, a restaurant located right in front of Kreuzkirche, where the booming of the bells made my head throb. I opened the menu and the first thing that caught my eye was “Cup of goose fat to go” – what new sort of German madness was this? I decided against cups of fat, and went for some Merlot and a sausage – this had never let me down before, and it didn’t now.
After a second cheeky glass of Merlot – for the cold – I set off in search of a bar. My original plan had been to stick to the old part of the city for the first night, but it was more restaurant-y so I hopped across a bridge to the new part of town. This actually took quite a while as I kept on stopping to look back at the view.
I hit a couple of bars on Alaun Straße, but the ease with which I get talking to people in Berlin was nowhere to be found. People nodded or smiled politely, but there was no more contact than that. So, in keeping with the theme of sausage, I decided to visit the gay bar, where at least I knew the music they were playing.
I sat at the bar and almost immediately got chatting to a friendly Dresdener who asked me if I knew this was a gay bar. I glanced around at the guys gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes and the drag queens starting an impromptu karaoke session on stage, and said that yes, I had an inkling. It turned out my new buddy worked for a brewery so we had plenty to talk about. He gave me some pointers for the next night as well, and it was 7am by the time I got back to my room.
I was up at the crack of eleven, feeling a little groggy, but otherwise not too bad. I grabbed a cheese roll and a cup of tea on the way into town and then headed for the old part of the city. As it turned out, I’d unwittingly chosen the 70th anniversary of the Dresden bombings so the police were out in droves, obviously expecting trouble. Putting a slight feeling of unease to one side, I walked on – and then repeatedly stopped to pick my jaw up off the ground.
It was a stunning day, and I made very slow progress as I walked around, stopping every few seconds to take yet another photo. I eventually made my way to Zwinger Palace, which instantly took my breath away. The truly incredible thing is that 70 years ago, all of this was razed to the ground – 15 square kilometres were wiped out in Allied bombing raids, the city burned for five days and between 20,000 and 25,000 people lost their lives. Zwinger Palace was among the first buildings to be reconstructed and I think the Germans did rather a fine job of it.
Of course, some people were easily distracted by other things…
I was soon, however, distracted by the most miserable-looking bride on earth. The weather was perfect, her husband looked alright, she was having her photo taken in the middle of a fairy tale – what on earth was the matter? Ah, she was Russian. Her husband should probably get used to that face.
Stay tuned for part two…