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Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

The VSOE Revisits Dresden...

Dresden is exceptional for the way it has risen phoenix-like from the ashes. Pulverised by Allied bombers, over the past 60 years its old town centre has been pieced back together into the jewel-box of architecture that it once was. A stroll around its cobbled streets is fascinating: this transformation – which is still unfolding – can be experienced all around.

Landmark buildings like the Zwinger Palace and Semper Opera, examples of the ornamental style, boast fabulously decorative exteriors. But the crowning achievement is the restoration of the Frauenkirche, the city’s cathedral-church which looks like an ornate teapot with a belfry on top (yet with a contemporary altar by artist Anish Kapoor within).

Dresden’s compact centre can be negotiated in minutes on foot: there is a remarkable concentration of great buildings. Key sights include:
  • The Bruhl Terrace, known as The Balcony of Europe, above the Elbe river. Particularly beautiful at sunset. Quaff a locally-brewed beer overlooking the water and perhaps take a river trip on one of the old paddle steamboats that have been running short cruises here since 1836.
  • New this June: The Albertinum, Dresden's modern art museum, reopens after major renovation. View great works from Caspar David Friedrich's romantic seascapes to Van Gogh and Gerhard Richter.
  • A night out at the hugely grand Semper Opera House. Depending on the concert, tickets may be readily available. Catch Mozart's Magic Flute this summer. 
  • The Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault) is a jaw-dropping treasury of baroque decorative art. A giant cabinet of curiosities, you could spend hours here marvelling in near - disbelief at the wild reaches of human imagination and extraordinary technical skills. There’s everything from intricately-carved cherry stones to the Dinglinger brothers’ depiction in miniature of a Moghul emperor and his court.
  • In a city long known for its porcelain, there is a magnificent display in the architecturally stunning Zwinger Palace that includes a room of pure white animals. Next door is the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (old masters picture gallery), whose many highlights include Raphael’s Sistine Madonna with the world-famous image of twin cheeky winged cherubs gazing up from the bottom of the frame.
  • The baroque Frauenkirche and the townhouses in its surrounding square are remarkable tributes to the restorer’s art. The Dresden Transport Museum is also located here, in a grand 16th century building, where train fans will enjoy the excellent – and hugely nostalgic – display of engines (including a splendid silver art deco loco) from the earliest days right through to the communist years.
  • The Paulaner beer house opposite the Residenz serves delicious German dishes in a traditional atmosphere.
  • Across the river is a beer garden – perfect for a drink and bratwurst while listening to the church bells opposite ring out. Further along is the Japanisches Palais, a fascinating piece of architecture with an excellent ethnographic collection that includes bronzes from Benin.
 
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