During our time in Dresden we embarked on a wide-ranging tour of the surrounding Elbe Valley with a wonderful guide, a driver, and just one other couple from our cruise, making for a cozy, personalized excursion. Our small bus first wound around central Dresden and some of the surrounding suburbs and then headed out to Schloss Moritzburg. The castle sits on an artificial island that replaced a hunting lodge built in the mid 1500’s by Duke Moritz of Saxony, who gave the castle its name. During our visit, the surrounding lake was mostly drained following the annual harvesting of the resident carp.
Entrance to the castle:
Hunting trophies filled the interior walls, apropos of a hunting lodge/castle.
For most of the year, the castle’s museum has exhibits focused on the royal and hunting history of the site. During the holiday season, however, the museum is all in on remembering a movie that was shot there back in 1973. It’s a Cinderella story that in English is called either Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella (which is closer to the original German or Czech titles) or Three Wishes for Cinderella. Bus after bus come to the castle during the holidays from Germany and the Czech Republic, where the movie repeatedly runs on TV, year after year, much as A Christmas Story runs every year on American TV from Thanksgiving through Christmas. Crowds of children on school field trips and families with girls dressed in princess outfits swarmed the castle. Planted out front of the entrance was this display, perfect for family Christmas card photos:
Back side of the castle with its extensive grounds:
After visiting the Schloss, we took a ride on a narrow gauge (750mm or 2′ 5-1/2″) railroad from Moritzburg to Radebeul. The coal-fired steam engine was decorated for the season:
The line Lößnitzgrundbahn (“Lössnitz Valley Railway”) wound past horse farms and through suburban neighborhoods. Its nickname is the Lößnitzdackel, or Lößnitz Dachshund.
Upon our arrival in Radebeul, our bus met us to take us to the nearby Radebeul Observatory that overlooks the Elbe valley:
Just below the observatory is the vineyard and winery for Schloss Wackerbarth. We passed on the option of walking down the hill through the vineyard, and instead rode down to where we enjoyed a beautiful lunch at the winery’s restaurant.
Returning to the historical center of Dresden, much of was badly damaged by Allied firebombing later on in WW2, we walked around the opera house (pictured in a photo at the top of this posting) and the theater plaza with an equestrian statue of King Johann in the middle, through the courtyard of the Zwinger Palace, the city hall, and the Dresden Castle.
Running along one wall of Dresden Castle is the 334-feet long Fürstenzug (“Procession of Princes”), a tile mural that depicts a mounted procession of the rulers of Saxony. Originally painted in the 1870’s and replaced with Meißen procelain tiles in the early 1900’s to make it waterproof, it managed to escape the Dresden firebombing with only minor damage.
For us, the highlight of the entire tour was a visit to the Green Vault in the Dresden Castle, the Saxon equivalent to the Tower of London, complete with the famous 41-carat Dresden Green Diamond. Most of the treasures here were seized by the Soviets at the end of WW2, but were returned by Nikita Kruschev in the 1950’s. Here are just a few pictures of the museum’s many blingy treasures:
Regaining strength after dinner back on board the Astrild, we managed to venture out yet again to visit the Christmas market at Altmarkt Square. This Christmas market is reputed to be the oldest in Germany, starting in 1434. We’re not sure if it’s due to its advanced age, but we were surprised when the market closed down promptly at 9:00 PM. We managed to not only quickly cover the market, we even managed to buy some crafts while we were there.
Up next: We journey to the craggy heights of Saxon Switzerland National Park to visit the Bastei.