Friday, January 14, 2011
It was the first night of the annual convention of the Society of American Travel Writers and not only were we treated to a concert, we were allowed to photograph the interior.
Tip: Unless you climb to the top of the dome, the only steps you'll have to contend with are those from the square up to the church.
Every time someone talks about the city's destruction, credit is given to "the rubble ladies," the many women who gathered and saved the remains because most of the city's men were either dead or in prison.
Warning: These craft are antiques and do not have lifts or handicapped bathrooms. However the stairs up to the top deck aren't bad and crew is eager to help if the river's water level is such that you need help getting on or off.
In between all of this is a charming, bustling city that I didn't have nearly enough time to see because the convention was split between Dresden and Leipzig. Sigh. Add one more gotta-go-back to the ever-growing list.
Are there any convention cities you have tips for? Let me know and I'll include you and your tips here.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
"Saxony" sounds strong, rich, luxurious and is fun to say.
Here are the former residences I hit on a one-day tour organized by the German Tourist Board. Alas, though well-organized, it was timed to the minute with no room for seeing everything much less lingering.
Didn't have an opportunity to visit the famed Moritzburg stud whose warm-blooded horses are coveted by many an equestrian (Queen Elizabeth bought 14 Mortitzburg stallions).
Tip: You will park nearby and walk to the castle along a bridge. The downstairs is easy, but you'll encounter steps on the tour of upstairs.
Tip: Take a day to pace yourself and do it justice. You will walk a lot but you won't be overwhelmed by stairs. There are places to eat and drink and vendors offer some of Saxony's special treats - gingerbread filled with marmalade and covered in chocolate. It wasn't my fave but do try some.
Warning: Everyone says arriving at Pillnitz via the Elbe the way royalty once did is the best way. It probably is if you aren't a Leveler; a 250-foot rise in elevation requires a lot of steps. I'd advise coming by road and saving your energy.
Perhaps they should stop trying so hard. The secret of producing porcelain was discovered in Saxony by accident. Johann Friedrich Bottger, an apothecary and charlatan, claimed he could make gold, but what he did was succeed in firing porcelain instead. After eight years he presented Augustus the Strong with porcelain, soon dubbed "white gold," which was almost as good. For years, Europeans had tried to recreate this prized product of the Orient and in January 1710, Augustus proclaimed he had. To keep Bottger and the secret safe from poaching monarchs, he ordered a factory to be built in Albrechtburg Castle high above Meissen where it operated for 153 years.
The Baroque Garden Grossedlitz is an unfinished vision of Augustus the Strong and supposedly the the best pure Baroque garden around. Meant to be the Versailles of Saxony, it presents quite the vistas and will no doubt be worth a visit to lovers of formal gardens. I found it exhausting and not worth it because of the many different levels and stairs leading to and from them. The map shows a "barrier free path" to the lower areas but I never saw it.
Blame it on too many palatial residences in one day. German efficiency is grand but some of us need more American ambling and idling.
By the way, I found residents, guides and the average herr in the street, willing to talk about World War II, the damage - human and otherwise - incurred, living in the Communist-controlled zones and the reactions when the wall fell and reunification arrived. Such conversations invariably begin when the guide or resident explains the damage from Ally bombing and subsequent reconstruction, pointing out that dark stones are original, pale stones are replacements.
Next posts: Saxony's signature cities, Dresden then Leipzig.
Note: To see what what was served to Augustus the Strong go to my blog, www.foodafar.blogspot.com.