Bastei & Dresden, Germany
Germany, part two. On the drive from the Czech Republic through to Deutschland we passed through stunning scenery – dense forests, winding rivers, and tall, narrow boulders jutting vertically up from the earth. The constant change in landscape never fails to impress. Our first port of call was a tourist attraction called Bastei, situated on top of a mountain and overlooking the Elbe River, the flat terrain and dozens of these towering rock formations. It was reminiscent of Meteora in Greece, but not quite as spectacular.
We entered the site with hundreds of tourists (I counted at least 12 buses in one car park alone), making most forms of movement difficult. However, they must have all been on their way out because once we made it to the scenic parts there was almost no one around. Several paths (some 100 metres above the ground) led to lookout points, and all up we spent about an hour exploring the place. The view stretched on forever, with the rocks in the foreground forming fingers that stretched up to the sky. It was extraordinary, an unforgettable experience.
While we were taking in the dramatic scenery we spotted a rock climber halfway up one of the tall boulders. I had no idea how he did it, but the view from the top would have been well worth the effort.
After Bastei we headed to Dresden, which used to be a beautiful city before it was bombed to smithereens in WWII. The rebuild has attempted to restore it to its former glory, with various reminders of the past being incorporated into the renovations (e.g. using the charred bricks leftover from the destruction in the construction of the new building).
The city was full of museums (over a dozen), including the not-very-enticing German Hygiene Museum (unsurprisingly, we bypassed this). We only visited one, the Albertinum, a museum of modern art, contemporary art and baroque statues. We skipped the statues and spent most of our time checking out the modern art. The collection wasn't as large as the museum in Prague (thankfully), but it still offered plenty of interesting works. The contemporary art was also surprisingly good, and it actually seemed like there was a bit of talent behind it.
From the Albertinum we walked through the centre of town, past grand building after grand building, to arrive at the centre square. The main church was impressive, built in a patchwork of charred and new bricks. Next we walked to the Dresden Schloss (Castle), admiring its famous 100 metre long mural on the exterior wall and its Gothic church. The final stop on our notable sights tour was the Dresden Fortress, half blackened with smoke. All of the buildings were restored to such a high standard that it was hard to imagine the devastation that occurred here. The constant reminders of the past made us appreciate how lucky we are to live in a city that has escaped these sorts of atrocities.
On our way back to the car we found a market set up in a square, with wooden huts selling food and handicrafts. We tucked into a plain sausage (we haven't worked our way up to the currywurst yet) and an out-of-this-world kartoffelpuffer, a German snack I had been eager to get my hands on. It was basically a thick potato pancake, and it reminded me so much of fish and chips that I fell in love with it straight away. I had to order two because they were so delicious, although my stomach regretted it later. Danny also had a beer, which he drank out of a glass in the shape of a boot. Classy.
We drove on to Berlin after dinner, staring at the sights of Dresden lit up at night and reflected in the river. It was a shame we couldn't stop anywhere to take photos. The two hour journey consisted almost entirely of a single road, making it highly unlikely that we would make a wrong turn (it's never that easy). Out in the suburbs we found a quiet side street where we felt relatively inconspicuous and settled down for the night.