Stories from my life and travels as an American expat in Germany!

Dresden, Germany: City of Rebirth

Dresden, Germany: City of Rebirth

Dresden, like many cities in Germany, was rebuilt after the Second World War. Instead of being rebuilt in a more modern style, it was reconstructed with an eye on its storied past. Although the Altstadt looks, well, old, nearly all of the buildings are new. Newer, in fact, than many other reconstructed German cities, such as Nuremberg. Most of the restoration work took place after the reunification of West and East Germany.

I visited Dresden this January for a two-week intensive German course at the Goethe Institut. Just like my two weeks in Vienna, they were easily two of the best weeks of my life. I have a soft spot in my heart for all things East German; in fact, Leipzig used to be my favorite German city. Now, it’s Dresden.

Dresden Cathedral
A statue overlooking the Catholic Cathedral in Dresden.

My newfound love for Dresden is in no small part thanks to their local Goethe Institut. I learned more in two weeks from my teacher at the Dresden Goethe Institut than I did in months-long courses. The cultural program was also superb; they had so much to offer, from pronunciation classes and movie nights, to tours of the city and a day trip outside of Dresden.

If you’re learning German, I can’t recommend the Dresden Goethe Institut enough. Not just because of the Institut itself, but because the city has so much to offer.

Museums

Even though some of the museums I wanted to visit were closed for maintenance, I never felt like I was missing out.

My favorite museum was the City Museum (Stadtmuseum Dresden). They have objects and paintings spanning from before the city was officially founded, up through the reunification of East and West Germany. They also had two special exhibits; one with paintings and art from the GDR (German Democratic Republic) and the other with plastic toys made both during and after the soviet era. I particularly enjoyed seeing the objects made by East German citizens, like this homemade computer.

Another excellent museum in Dresden is the Military History Museum (Militärhistorisches Museum der Bundeswehr). They place a very heavy emphasis on the human cost of war, which I think is very important. Not only do they take visitors through the history of war in Germany, they also have an extensive collection of propaganda materials like posters, movies, wartime music, and even toys.

Reproduction of a GDR classroom with authentic textbooks.

Visiting The World of the GDR museum (Die Welt der DDR) was like going to an overstuffed, yet well-organized antique shop. As someone who loves museums, antique shops, and all things GDR, it was like it was made for me. You can get right up close to most of the exhibits and they even have some authentic magazines and books you can read. It’s a very small museum inside of a shopping center, but I easily spent two hours looking at everything.

Of the four GDR museums I’ve visited in Germany, this one was the best!

Tours

Semperoper Dresden
The Night Watchmen Tour begins in front of the opera house (Semperoper Dresden) pictured above. It will be a bit darker when you do your tour, of course…

I booked the Night Watchmen Tour through Get Your Guide and had an absolute blast even though I went by myself. Our guide, a Watchlady, was so funny and informative. I had already went on two tours through the Goethe Institut, and while they were very informative, I learned even more from the Watchlady. If you’re interested in this tour, keep in mind that it’s only available in German.

Sights to See

Even if you never go inside a single building, you can still spend several hours taking in the sights in Dresden. There are so many beautiful buildings, statues, and places of worship to admire.

A good thing for me, since so many of them were closed for renovations during my visit.

Frauenkirche DresdenMy favorite structure was the stunning Frauenkirche, above. This church was destroyed during the bombing of Dresden in 1945 and the remains were left as a memorial for 50 years. Restoration work began in 1994 and was completed in 2004. The old materials and plans were utilized as much as possible. The black stones you see in the photo are the original stonework.

The Procession of Princes (Fürstenzug), a porcelain mosaic depicting the rulers of Saxony, survived the bombing of Dresden with very little damage. According to my tour guide, this was because the strong winds that blow through the area had kept it just cool enough to prevent it from melting.

The Zwinger is also a must-see; both the outside and the immense courtyard. Although all of the museums in the Zwinger were closed during my visit to Dresden, I still spend a full half-hour looking around. You can get up close to most of the statues and even climb up to the roof for fantastic views of the surrounding area.

Carvings on the Zwinger over the steps leading up to the Nymphenbad.

Things to Eat

Since I hate eating at restaurants by myself and I’m a bit of a cheapskate, I cooked most of my meals myself during my two weeks in Dresden. I was in a part of the city with tons of vegan restaurants, though, so I didn’t completely avoid eating out. Here are my recommendations for great food in Dresden.

St. Pauli Church; a ruin in the same area as (almost) all of these fine dining experiences.

Der Dicke Schmidt was my favorite restaurant. If I’d had a bit less shame, I would have eaten there more than once. They use seitan for their döner/gyros and it’s even on a tiny little rotating spit just like in “real” döner shops! The seitan “meat” was cooked to perfection; a little crispy and still juicy. By the time I realized I should have taken a picture, I’d already finished. Even better? At 4.50€ it’s not much more expensive than getting a “regular” döner.

Falscher Hase is on the same street and they also serve great vegan food. Oh, and, bonus: there were two dogs in the restaurant when I visited with my classmates. I had a tasty potato vegetable fry-up and all of my non-vegan classmates said they enjoyed their food as well. We went during off-peak times, but every time I passed by on my way to buy groceries, the restaurant was full; another sure sign that the food is good.

In the mood for pizza? Head over to Pizzastube. They have both vegan and non-vegan pizzas. In fact, most of their pizzas can be made vegan! Not only do they have vegan pizza cheese, they also have vegan parmesan and salami. The pizzas are delicious and they’re also dirt cheap; yes, even the vegan pizzas!

Sweet Treats

Finally, if you’re in the mood for something sweet, check out Fiete Behnersens V-Cake. They have an impressive selection of vegan cakes, including “cheese” cakes and cream-based cakes. I tried the Oreo cake, which I found to be a little drier than I would have liked and not quite sweet enough. However, based on their overwhelmingly positive reviews and how absolutely packed this cafe was, I suspect this was just an off-cake. I wish I’d had the chance to go back and try something else. The next time I’m in Dresden, I will.


It’s a little strange writing about travel now that we can’t, due to the Coronavirus outbreak. I hope you’re all able to visit Dresden in the near future, once this pandemic is finally over. Our next trip to Berlin is already cancelled and my husband thinks we might not even get to travel in July! I hope that’s not the case.

In my next post, I will be sharing my recent experience in a German hospital and comparing it with a stay in the US. I also plan to revisit old topics from my first year in Germany, to see if my opinions/feelings have changed now that I’m getting close to fluent in German and I’ve acclimated better to the culture. So, keep checking back for more!


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