Dresden in a day

Trip Start Sep 20, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Germany  , Saxony,
Sunday, February 7, 2010

Natalie and I are on the train home now, sitting across from each other in the window seats of a six person car, watching small country houses, snow-covered hills and the narrow Elbe river passing by outside. The rolling hills remind us both of driving through rural Quebec – just with more stone houses built into the cliffs, and a few more run-down industrial buildings with smokestacks jutting into the sky.  The intercom in the train just started leading with Czech, so I think we just passed the border. We should be back home soon. 

About 28 hours ago, as we sat down to eat Saturday lunch at our apartment, the idea of taking a day trip somewhere popped into our heads. An hour later, we were on a train to Dresden, Germany.  Two very comfortable hours after that, we were walking through the Dresden shopping promenade revelling in the excitement of being in a new country, and cursing the strength of the Euro.  We quickly got our bearings, changed some money, and found an internet cafe we could use to book ourselves a hotel room for the night. After a classic discussion between Natalie and a Dresden resident, ("NEIN! its FETSCHER STRASSE not FRIEDRA STRASSE!"), we learned what tram took us to our hotel, and went to check in and drop our bags.

After we relaxed for an hour or so at the hotel, and sampled the local Raderberger  brew, we were off to the city centre to have a look around. At Theatreplatz, we got off the tram and took a stroll through the different squares, snapping pictures of the palatial museums and theatres that make up the city's downtown. Though much of Dresden had to be rebuilt after the infamous allied bombing in WWII, it seems that some of the city’s oldest architectural treasures did survive. After walking aimlessly for a while, we stumbled across a true cultural gem. Smack dab in the middle of downtown Dresden is a two-story luxury restaurant and lounge called, “Ontario”. We couldn’t not go into the place. After sitting down, we asked our waiter what the story behind the place was. Turns out the owner just took a trip to Canada, thought there might be a market for a Canadian themed restaurant in Germany, came back and built it. Judging from the size of the crowd that was in there, it looks like the place is doing pretty well too. The owner really pulled out all the Canadiana stops though – bottles of maple syrup behind the bar, pictures of canoes on the walls, bison steak on the menu and bottles of Moosehead in the fridge. Natalie was overcome with nostalgia, and she couldn’t resist ordering one of those famous Canadian delicacies – the doughnut.

Now we thought that finding this restaurant would be our only serendipitous moment in such a short trip, but we were wrong. Earlier today (Sunday), after checking out of our hotel, we ventured back into the downtown and noticed a decently-sized crowd of people congregating on the banks of the Elbe. Our curiosity significantly piqued, we went to have a look.  We stood there for about 10 minutes trying to figure out what was going on. There were about a dozen ambulances parked on the shore beside a small stage that had been set up. Vendors were peddling hot wine and sausage – it looked like a party was about to start, but we couldn’t figure out why.  Out in the water, there were about a dozen small boats that seemed to be patrolling the water or searching for something. And then we saw what all the fuss was about. Out of the freezing-cold river, the first of the two dozen swimmers hopped out of the water, greeted with applause on the shore. We don’t know why people were swimming in the river in -2 degree weather, but it did make for some great pictures. It also made the presence of the ambulances and patrol boats make a lot more sense.

After having a laugh at the elderly guy who did the swim in a speedo and a santa hat, Nat and I had a quick German sausage, and headed back home. Another country down in the quest for 10 in 2010.

Auf Wiedersehen,

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