by Adriana Yampey, AFAR Ambassador
On Valentines Day 1945 British and American heavy bombers were dropping thousands of tons of high explosive bombs over Dresden, destroying 6.5 kilometers of the city center and killing an estimated 25,000 people. It’s almost impossible to believe that such devastation took place. You would not know this when visiting the city today.
In early May I had the opportunity to travel to Saxony with Saxony Tourism and Avanti Destinations.
I admit I had preconceived ideas about Saxony. I knew much of the big cities, of Dresden and Leipzig, were destroyed in World War II followed by years behind the Iron Curtain, and imagined it undeveloped, grey and uninteresting.
But Saxony proved me wrong with its beauty, restored architecture, some in the same style they were before the war and a lot of them completely transformed in order to keep up with the times.
Seeing Dresden today makes it hard to believe such destruction ever happened. The locals however do not want to forget; in many restaurants and pubs you will see haunting images of the past hanging on walls.
I arrived in Dresden, early morning and as soon as I reached the old center I fell in love. Spring is the perfect time to visit this city and Saxony in general. The fresh, and sweet smell of the lilac trees, and wisteria complement the city’s impressive architecture beautifully.
It’s so easy to loose yourself, and become a local, on the streets of Dresden. I walked for hours without knowing, and really not caring about time. Notable sights are the Church of Our Lady, the Dresden Cathedral, the The Fürstenzug or the Procession of Princes, made from 23.000 Meissen porcelain tiles, making it the largest porcelain artwork in the world. Apart from this was surprised to see just how visited Dresden is; large groups swarm all over the city led by knowledgeable guides.
Later I visited Görlitz and Meissen which are smaller towns in Saxony, untouched by the destruction of World War II.
I found Görlitz very charming, with narrow, cobblestone streets and stunning architecture. Most of the 3500 architectural monuments have been beautifully restored to look like in their glory days, making them a visual treat for visitors.
Meissen is the home of the oldest hard-paste porcelain factory in Europe. Again, the beauty of this little town mesmerized me. The visit to the porcelain factory was a real treat; there is incredible effort, love and dedication put into every porcelain piece that leaves the factory.
Leipzig was the last stop on the tour and quite possibly my favorite. A city that, much like Dresden, was heavily destroyed in World War II today is beaming with life. People everywhere, cafes with large open air terraces at every corner, full at all times, street performers, a buzzing nightlife and a flourishing art culture.
The adventurers out there will be impressed with Saxony for the large offer of outdoor activities. Rock climbing, kayaking, cycling, rides in hot air balloons, are only a few things on offer. The most impressive nature trip was to Bastei Bridge in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains of Germany.
Bastei has become the most popular day trip destination in Saxon Switzerland. From a height of 194m you can enjoy the picturesque panorama and view the miniature villages on the Elbe River.
Saxony showed me how wrong I was to have preconceived ideas on how a region should look like post war and Communism. It is a beautiful, vibrant and friendly part of Germany that must be explored.
Germany-based AFAR Magazine Ambassador Adriana Yampey, who has also lived in Romania, France, Italy, Belgium and the United States, dreams of seeing the world and documenting it through photos.
Follow her travelers on Adriana’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. You can hear more about her journey to Saxony at AFAR.com.