Dresden

Suzanne Pergal crosses the Czech-German border to spend 48 hours in Saxony's history-laden capital

If you find yourself clamoring for an inch of space on the train platform, at least you know people want to go in the same direction.

Maybe it's an indication of a good choice?

I was leaving on a Friday morning, along the Prague-Berlin line.

The train was a half-hour late and I ended up standing all the way to Dresden for lack of a reserved seat, with various traffic jams taking place in the railway cars' narrow aisles.

The point is: if you're not into standing, it might be worth paying a few crowns for a reservation on this particular route.

Find Prague-Dresden railway schedules on the IDOS website; a return ticket costs around 1,000 CZK.

Another easy way to visit Dresden is by bus.

Student Agency buses runs three times a week and cost around 900 CZK for a round trip. But check with the Student Agency website to be sure the times are convenient.

The ride is short -- only a couple of hours -- and there's no passport control. As you pass by, the landscape follows the Labe (Elbe) river over the border and into an entirely different realm.

Like much of Germany, Dresden boasts an extensive public transport system of trams and buses, along with bike lanes on nearly every road. If the weather is nice, try biking about. You can rent a bike from five euros a day with Nextbike.

Dresden, Germany

If the urge to plan a little journey comes during more less pleasant weather, try a transport day pass that gives you the run of the city center for 4.50 euros.

Ranging in budget from low to high, Hostel Die Boofe, the Hotel Elbflorenz Dresden and the palatial Hotel Taschenbergpalais Dresden are all centrally located.

Dresden, the capital of Saxony, is an old city with a storied past. A number of beautiful structures have either been preserved or restored since the 1945 bombing.

Frauenkirche, Dresden, Germany

A first day could be spent touring historic landmarks and buildings of the Altstadt (Old Town), such as the Rathaus (City Hall), the Kreuzkirche, the Altmarkt, the restored Frauenkirche cathedral, the Residenzschloss (Royal Palace), the Stallhof, and Fürstenzug. You can pick and choose the museums and buildings. There's a lot to see and it will definitely fill the day.

Once the residence of musical giants like Carl Maria von Weber and Heinrich Schütz, Dresden still maintains its artistic heritage in museums like the Albertinum and the grand Semper Opera House.

At night, spend a few hours seeing an opera and dine at Café Schinkelwache for the coffee, the traditional Saxon fare, and the lovely view of the Theaterplatz.

On day two, head in the direction of the Neustadt (New Town), but, if you're a cheap-finds fanatic, stop at the Elbwiesen an der Albertbrücke flea market under the Albertbrücke bridge first.

Running along the river, this expansive network of tables offers everything from 50-eurocent wine glasses to dainty handmade lace aprons, and lots of kitsch inbetween makes for an excellent place to get lost.

After stocking up, head over the Albertbrücke to the vibrant, developing Neustadt. On this side of the Elbe, you will find more old architecture and museums like the Museum für Sächsische Volkskunst (Saxon Folk Art Musuem), Japanisches Palais (Japanese Palace), and the Blockhaus.

The face of today's developing Dresden is embodied in the KunsthofPassage, a network of courtyards and little shops tucked away from the street.

Spend a few minutes sampling wine at Weinkult on Görlitzer Strasse. Nearby, the self-proclaimed "most beautiful dairy store in the world," Pfunds Molkerei, is definitely worth a taste.

Finish out the day with a stroll through the Grosser Garten on the opposite side of the river. There you'll find a palace, fountains, and delicately secluded green areas. Relax on your way back, knowing that even if you didn't see every last painting or historic column, you were charmed by Dresden.

For more information on visiting the city, try the Dresden tourism website and its concise printable city guide.

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