Dresden and Saxon Switzerland

Trip Start Aug 11, 2009
Trip End Sep 30, 2010

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Flag of Germany  , Saxony,
Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Our hostel in Dresden was in the Neustadt (new town) the irony here, as in most of East Germany, being that the new town is actually older than the altstadt (old town) thanks to widespread destruction in WWII and lack of rebuilding funds until the wall fell.
In Dresden, the Neustadt is an entire suburb of hidden courtyards and street art that seems to both cover up and highlight the slightly dilapidated feel of the place.

The start of the Augustusbrucke bridge is marked by a gleaming gold statue of Augustus - seriously, you need sunglasses for this even on a typical grey-sky autumn day. Augustus being a 17th Century ruler of Dresden who built nearly the entire city, with the notable exception of said statue. The bridge leads straight into the historical centre of Dresden where we began our exploration at the Zwinger, an enormous four sided mansion surrounding the central courtyard. Maybe courtyard is not quite the right word for open space of an acreage that most cities would call at the very least a park, although it does hint at the scale of the place. It currently houses four museums with space left over, as well as the nymph bath fountain, popular with the younger male tourist demographic adorned as it is with statues seemingly dedicated to the beauty of the female form.

The main square makes up for all these stunning (rebuilt) baroque masterpieces with the centrally placed theater, a testament to the wonders of concrete. (there is nothing like some communist aesthetic treats to really test your vocabulary when it comes to adjectives).

The countryside East of Dresden all the way to the Czech border is known as Saxon Switzerland for its mountainous rock formations. Which, of course, wouldn't be Germany without a castle or two stuck precariously on top.
Our first trip into Saxon Switzerland was to the town of Bad Schandau where walking trails lead into the forest and through mossy rock formations resembling overgrown Lego stacks of giant proportions, to the Schrammstein viewpoint.

Our second train ride into Saxon Switzerland was, as it turned out, with the incorrect ticket. Thankfully German ticket inspectors are far more lenient than their Bulgarian counterparts and despite speaking no English (but excellent mime) showed mercy on poor foolish tourists. Our first stop was Konigstein castle, located on a hilltop (not on a precarious rock formation) within an easy if uphill walk from the station. The excellent, although ridiculously infrequent bus system conveniently delivered us to Lichtenhainer waterfall - a small waterfall conveniently located along a main road in the beer garden of a pub.
The main attraction of the day, via a hike through more rock formations and another bus, was the Bastei - a defensive castle / bastion, this one built right on top of a precarious and towering rock formation. The defense was never tested, since no one was ever foolish enough to try and invade the place (or possibly, no one else was all that keen to live right on top of a dirty great rock). The excessively priced hotel currently perched at the top possibly contradicting both previous statements. The views from the top were superb, and it was nice to look forward to a walk with no more uphill bits in it.

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