In my last post, I mentioned that I’m currently in Germany for a workation. We left Manila on the evening of March 4. After a layover in Istanbul, we arrived in the morning of March 5, with a few hours to freshen up before a rehearsal of our first show the next day.
By now, we’ve done 2 shows for Philippine tourism at separate travel markets within the city. One was at ITB Berlin, the biggest international travel trade fair in the world, held at the ginormous Berlin Messe. (I’ll try to tell that story at a later time).
Thursday was our first free day of the trip, and we initially wanted to go to Hamburg without much deliberation. (Un?)fortunately, I woke at 2:30 in the morning, feeling too hot under my sheets and couldn’t get back to sleep. This gave me the time to look up details, which led me to other options for a day trip outside Berlin.
Several blogs helped me narrow the choices down to Spreewald, Leipzig, Hamburg, Saxon Switzerland, and Dresden. All of them looked gorgeous in the springtime, thanks to all the featured photos; but none of them advertised winter. What made me decide Dresden over Hamburg and the rest were 1. it was the shortest distance by bus, 2. its compact downtown area is completely accessible by walking, and 3. it had the best (warmest and driest) weather forecast for the day.
I found an app for the Flixbus transport system, a cheap service that apparently the locals don’t like very much (perhaps for being the most competitive option for land travel versus their traditional). The app let me pick bus stops from point to point, showing travel schedules and prices, and even reserve seats directly. I didn’t do the latter, because I wanted to get the opinion of my companions over breakfast, but the information helped me form better decisions.
How the Flixbus app looks; price estimates for March 9
Once everyone was awake, we all agreed on Dresden. We were picked up from our hotel at 8:00 am, by a van provided by our production team. When we arrived at the Central Bus Station, we made a beeline for the Flixbus ticket office and booked the next train departing at 10:00 am. It was even cheaper than the rates online at €9, and we got each 1-way trip at €7,9 with an additional €3 service charge on top of the total of our 4 tickets. What a steal.
Leaving rainy Berlin for sunny Dresden
There was WiFi, toilet, and even charging sockets on board. The bus was only filled halfway, so we each got a window seat and slept most of the 2.35-hour ride. We passed an area with a lot of snow still on the ground, and electric windmills on the fields. Hardly noticing the distance traveled, within minutes of exiting the highway, we caught sight of the Elbe River and majestic structures on its banks.
View of old town by the Elbe River
When our bus pulled into the hauptbahnhof (bus/train station), the smell of warm food and spiced meats wafted through the air. Mmm, there was a Turkish döner place just inside that was beckoning to us; but time was ticking and we couldn’t wait to see the city.
Surprisingly, there were no free maps at the station, and neither were there free use of toilets! (as you will notice on the video, this was a huge issue for us throughout the day. ?) Luckily, the first guy we asked spoke English (this has become more common now, but I remember language being a more significant barrier in my previous visits over 10 years ago). He told us to go straight down the street we were on and we’ll find everything.
This street turned out to be Prager Strasse, the longest shopping district in the city. Lined with malls, boutique shops, restos, and cafés, it was an easy walk punctuated by interesting sculptures along the way. At the end of the buildings’ converging lines, I could already make out the silhouettes of the churchs’ spires I was walking toward. Gradually, the shiny, glass buildings gave way to the classic sensibilities of the historiche altstadt (historical city).
Spires from a distance
From the moment we saw the Kreuzkirche (Church of the Cross), and followed the cobbled roads toward the center of town, the shops became quainter and the buildings grander. Upon turning every corner, we traveled to the glorious past of monarchs, palaces, and new religions. Extravagant Baroque architecture predominated the landscape, from the intricate altar details in a cathedral to the decorative carvings in a royal courtyard.
Charred and new, the restored Kreuzkirche
Dresden Academy of Fine Arts
We walked for hours, circling the city and crossing bridges. Despite that, the occasional biting wind, and the pinch in our shoes, the day passed in the blink of an eye and the sun was near setting when we decided to stop for a proper meal.
We decided to call it a day as we made our way back to the bus terminal as the sun slowly disappeared from the sky. To fulfill our initial craving for a döner, we settled into the Baba Döner that welcomed us into Dresden earlier that day. I got the falafel wrap while my friends got beef and chicken, and either we were famished or it was one of the best I’ve ever had. The servers were nice, too, letting us sit and laugh, and while the time until our bus arrived.
Sometimes, the best trips are those you take on a whim. I had no expectations, and that left all the possibilities open for wonderful surprises. Glad we took a chance on this sunny day in Dresden. I’d recommend it to anyone in a heartbeat. ?
Suggestions for your own day trip:
I recommend the bus, the difference in time versus the train is negligible, but the price is a huge difference.
Flixbus to Dresden: €7,90/trip + €3 for service charge over total; travel time is 2.35
Everything is beautiful, soak it all in. Don’t stress about seeing the popular landmarks, they will automatically catch your eye when you’re walking around.
Take your time. The beauty is in the details, in seeing different angles, and in imagining their original context in history.
If you’re new to Europe, have spare change for the freaking Water Closets (WC) from .50-€1. Tip: Starbucks and some hotels don’t charge for use of toilet.
As with all places and people, keep an open mind. It makes the world a more beautiful place. ?