Next, we travelled to the northern German city of Hannover. Like Dresden, it was bombed quite heavily during WWII, so it was also a mix of old…
And of new(ish)…
They rebuilt much of the new centre as a series of pedestrian malls. And as with all German cities, the transport was fantastic. We came in by train to the main station.
But got around mainly by tram, which went in all directions.
The city also had a comprehensive subway network that linked the city to surrounding towns. And of course, a great cycling path network. It made the public transport offerings in Sydney look very meagre indeed.
I can say that Germans really loved their schnitzel. It was on our plate most days, with different accompaniments. At the local deli, we had it With chips and cabbage salad.
At the Czech-themed pub, we had it With white asparagus (the favourite seasonal spring vegetable in Germany) and hollandaise sauce.
The other favourite is the sausage, or the bratwurst. The sausages are usually pork-based, and packed with flavour. It also came with different accompaniments. At an Irish-themed pub we had bratwurst with fried potatoes and onions.
And with sauerkraut and mash.
The portion sizes as you can see were generous, and we always came away very full. The cooking was generally quite homely in Saxony. I guess it reflected on the taste of the locals. No high-end, modern, experimental cooking here, just firm favourites.
In Freiberg, we stayed at a little Art Deco hotel, a former cutlery factory.
It had a pretty good restaurant which we ate at quite a few nights. We got to sample some German fare this way. The consommne with dumplings below was good, more delicate than I expected.
And the pea soup with a prawn side was also tasty.
Mains generally consisted of meat and veg or salad combinations, with lots of potatoes. There was certainly a lot of pork, either as chops.
Or as schnitzel, of varying sizes. The latter certainly could feed several people.
What we didn’t expect was that the people around town, especially those of middle age or older, had no English. I guess in the Communist era, East German had more ties to the east, hence their second language at school was more likely to be Russian. So our phrase book, especially its menu decoder, got a bit of workout during our stay. Fortunately, German and English aren’t too far apart (unlike some other languages), and with a bit of practice it was relatively easy for us to order and figure things out in general.
There were some fantastic stone work in the cathedral. This pulpit, called the Tulip Pulpit for its floral design, is completely free standing.
There were also plenty of reminders of Freiberg’s mining heritage too.
This miner remind me of the Disney’s seven dwarves. Perhaps the story of Snow White originated from this area?
But the highlight was the Golden Gate, which was part of the original 12th Century cathedral. As you can see, this was definitely a medieval extravaganza.
I really liked this place. It was certainly a hidden gem.
I liked Freiberg. It was a small, quiet but pretty town, easy to get around, and not touristy at all. The Freiberg Cathedral (or the Dom St. Marien in German) and Terra Mineralia (that I described in an earlier post) was as touristy as it got.
From the outside, the cathedral (the white building) seemed plain indeed. Unlike the Catholic cathedrals, the Lutherans obviously weren’t so obsessed with bling, even though the town was rich from the silver mines nearby. You had to get your ticket from an adjoining office, and the lady there kindly opened up the church for you.
Step inside, and it was certainly a different kind of church. Even though the architecture was gothic, the rendering made the space seem lighter.
The cathedral seemed to me like a mix of pre and post-reformation. The original cathedral was built in the 12th Century pre-reformation, but was replaced by the current cathedral in the 15th Century when it was destroyed by fire. I’m guessing that the rendering happened post-reformation, but there were still a few statues left.
Some of them were very life-like.
Freiberg had a castle (Schloss Freudenstein in German). After falling into disrepair, the city restored it to house its world-class mineral collection, Terra Mineralia, which holds beautiful minerals from around the globe.
I had a go at painting the schloss, although all the windows and slanted roofs drove me a bit mad.
We didn’t stay in Dresden long though, as our destination was the small town of Freiberg, 30km away.
This pretty town made its fortune from its silver mines which had been in operation since the Middle Ages. The town’s university still has a school of mining operating.
Given its wealth, there was a lot of intricate decoration. The East Germans loved the town so much that they even restored the town to its full glory in the 1980s, when much of the country was neglected.
It was our first taste of Germany. More to come.
From Prague, we made our way along the Elbe River valley to the city of Dresden. Although the trip was less than 3 hours long, it was a very scenic ride as we passed a narrow river valley with interesting sandstone formations and cute villages. It’s so pretty there that the locals call the area Saxon Switzerland.
Dresden itself was a mix of modern…
And not so modern.
The modern bits were the parts that were destroyed during the bombings in WWII, and the older bits were the parts that were spared. As you can see by the number of post-war buildings, the destruction was extensive. The city was quickly rebuilt post-war, and then upgraded after the end of the Communism. The modern parts now look like any other growing modern city in Germany, perhaps more well-kempt than most.
What we did not know at the time was that half of Dresden would be under water a mere 2 months later. The long winter caused the biggest floods in a long time and flooded both Prague and Dresden, as well as other places downstream to the North Sea. We were lucky to see both at its best.
In the middle of the castle complex is a rather large cathedral.
The facade was decorated with glittering mosaics.
As well as beautiful masonary and metal work.
Goes to show that the Bohemian royalty back in the day (around 16th and 17th Centuries) were a pretty wealthy lot. These days, the Czech people have largely found their feet after the Communist era, but travelling from Germany into the Czech Republic, one can see that things aren’t so well-kempt. The Czechs still have some ways to go until the reach the affluence of their old western cousins.
In the end, there were simply too many people around the castle, and after a speedy walk-through, we ventured back down the hill to the elegant squares.
I heard from other travellers that Prague is often like this, and actually gets worse during the summer. Perhaps next time I should go in winter when the crowds are away?
We are visiting Prague Castle on the other side of the river. It’s where the royal family once lived and where parliament sits. But to get to the castle you had to climb to the top of the hill.
There were quite a few steps and a view of old and new Prague from the top.
There were also some interesting statues.
And lots more wonderful masonary work inside. This one seems to be of St George slaying the dragon.