Hi From Rick: On a Dresden High
|Dresden's Frauenkirche has gloriously risen from its ashes.|
I'm standing in the courtyard of Dresden's royal palace, squinting up into the morning mist. At exactly 11:15, forty Meissen porcelain bells begin a sweet three-minute melody, and I can see each of them vibrate as they ring. I am mesmerized by this little royal trick.
Then I wonder why I'm so thrilled. Several groups of sturdy Russian tourists who crowd the same square don't seem to be that impressed. Then I realize I'm on a Dresden high. In an eastern German town I've known for just a few years, I've been enjoying new insights and great new sights — newly restored and newly open to the public.
The highlight of my visit was the newly restored Frauenkirche. Dresden's 310-foot-tall Church of Our Lady was destroyed during the massive bombings one night in 1945. With a huge international effort, the heart and soul of the city was put together like a massive jigsaw puzzle — using as much of the original stone as possible. Today it's open once again. The interior is stunning: pastel to heighten the festive nature of the worship, curvy balconies to enhance the feeling of community, and with seven equal doors — to welcome all equally and send worshippers out symbolically to all corners to share their enthusiasm for their faith.
My Dresden visit started rocky. Riding the express train into town, I figured it would just stop at the main station. The train pulled into Dresden Neustadt — the New City of Dresden. Okay. Most of the passengers got out. So did I. The train took off. I walked and walked with my bag, really sweating, in a confused fog. I must have walked twenty minutes as my denial that I had gotten off on the wrong station slowly faded. After circling the big block and pretty embarrassed at my mistake, I pondered cutting my losses and just taking a taxi to my hotel. But another train was leaving in minutes for what must be the central station. I hopped on. Five minutes later we arrived. I hopped out at Dresden Mitte. The train took off and I stepped outside the station again, and it slowly sunk in: I made the same mistake...again. Another train came in a few minutes. I got on it and finally made it to my intended station: Dresden Hauptbahnhof — a block from my hotel. As I tell travelers in lectures: "Many towns have more than one train station."
One of my best skills — extremely helpful in my line of work — is the ability to make mistakes...with gusto. After a day in Dresden, my frustrating start was a distant memory. And I had a new appreciation of a city that just 60 years ago lay in smoldering rubble, just 20 years ago was in a USSR-imposed economic hole, and today seems to have caught up with Western Germany.
In contrast to the masses of Americans I saw last week in Berlin and Rothenburg, I saw barely one during my entire Dresden visit. But guess what: our 12-day Berlin, Prague & Vienna tour spends an unforgettable day in Dresden. Like all our tours, this one benefits from all my personal research and enthusiasm — with no chance of getting off at the wrong station.
To learn more about the places that our tours explore in this robust corner of Europe — and our great guides who add so much to the experience — check out this month's Tour News. You'll also learn about our gorgeous, hot-off-the-press, 84-page 2008 Tours catalog. Get one to grace your coffee table...and lead you to new travel highs.