Day 7

    September 8  Thursday 


    We got up early, it was cold and rainy.  We looked in the hotel dining room but the breakfast buffet didn’t appeal to us – a lot of fruits, shrimp salad, potato salad and other items that we didn’t care to eat for breakfast.  Also it was rather expensive. We walked a block to the main street and stopped at Schaefer’s Bakery for breakfast pastries and coffee.  It hit the spot.

    When came outside, it was raining rather steadily.  We walked across the bridge to Royal Palace and the Green Vault where we had a 10:00 appointment.  They only allow 100 people an hour into the rooms.  It is rather difficult to get timely tickets.  We made reservations on- line many months in advance. 


    This Renaissance palace was once the residence of the Saxon prince elector, Augustus the Strong.  The history of the "Green Vault" goes back to the year 1547, when elector Moritz of Saxony initiated the building of an additional west wing to the palace. Four of the resulting rooms were given elaborate, molded plaster ceilings. The column bases, walls and capitals were painted with a characteristic, bluish-green paint. Due to this color, the rooms were soon known as the "Green Vault", and the name remains to this day.

    Throughout the 17th century, these rooms were used as a secret treasure chamber for important documents and jewelry of the Saxon monarchs. Between 1723 and 1729, Augustus the Strong, turned the once secret chambers into a public museum. First, he ordered the construction of splendid rooms to display his collection. A suite of eight interconnecting rooms whose architectural beauty blended with the abundance and quality of the priceless treasures were constructed. Augustus the Strong could now exhibit his entire collection of valuables, including works of silver and goldsmith art, bronze statues, amber and ivory. These rooms were unchanged for almost two centuries. When war was imminent in 1938, the art treasures were taken to the Konigstein Fortress.

    The Green Vault was severely damaged in the February 13, 1945 bombing of Dresden. Three of the eight rooms were totally destroyed.  At the end of the war in 1945, the treasures were confiscated by the Red Army and transported to the Soviet Union. After their return to Dresden in 1958, part of the collection was displayed at the Albertinum. In 2006, the Historic Green Vault was reopened in the magnificent suite of rooms as it existed in 1733 at the time of its founder's death.

    There were nine rooms filled with all kinds of beautiful works of art.  Security was very tight in that objects were not in glass cases but on stands or mounted of beautiful little bracket shelves, generally attached to walls of mirrors.  We had audio phones which explained most of the exhibits.  It was a wonderful experience to see these magnificent works of art.  The tour lasted about an hour.

    There are several other exhibits in the Palace –the New Green Vault and the Watchman’s Tower.  We only had tickets for the Historic Green Vault.  The Palace had a very large book and gift store.

    They had the models of the Frauenkirche and the Semperoper, both of which I had.  I did buy a model kit of a medieval village.

    We started back towards the Frauenkirche and passed the Parade of Nobles again on the way.  This is a mural which is painted on 24,000 Meissen porcelain titles.  It is longer than a football field and illustrates 700 years of Saxon royalty.  It is a careful study of the evolution of weapons and fashions over the years.   It was a wonderful exhibit.

    We were hungry by that time and went to the Hilton Bistro which was located across from the back side of the Frauenkirche.  For our table we had a view of part of a wall that was destroyed during the war and left as a memorial.  For lunch I had a hamburger and FF and my wife had a made croque madame sandwich.

    We walked further past the back of Frauenkirche, stopping briefly in Albertinum museum where the Frauenkirche bookstore was located.  This restored building houses a number of statuary exhibits.

     It was located next to a set of steps leading to the Bruhische Terrasse – also called the balcony of Europe.  Even though it was cloudy and drizzly, it was beautiful, and we walked along this terrace overlooking the river.   There was one spot where there was a metal frame. When you stood in front of it and looked though it, you could see subject of the famous Canaletto painting – The Balcony of Europe.  We came down the steps to the area in front of the Roman Catholic Church, the Hofkirche.


    In order to gain the Polish crown, August the Strong, the Elector of Saxony, converted to the Catholic faith.  After his death, August’s son, Friedrich August II (1696-1763) and his wife, Maria Josepha, who was the daughter of Emperor Joseph I, conceived of a plan to build a prestigious court church.  The Italian master builder Gaetano Chiaveri was appointed architect for the project.  In 1739, workers laid the cornerstone of the Church.  Although initial progress was good, construction of the Court Church slowed to a halt.  As the royal family’s interest in the project ebbed, so did the flow of funds needed for completion of the church.  Deeply offended by the court’s lack of commitment, Chiaveri left Dresden in 1748.  Using Chiaveri’s plans other builders competed the church in 1751.

    The Hofkirche was badly damaged during the allied air raids on Dresden in February of 1945. Bombs fell through the roof of the nave, causing it to collapse. And the interior was extensively burnt during the raids. Reconstruction of the church began soon after the end of the war, but progress was slow. By 1955, a shell of the exterior was completed and, in 1962, a reconstructed nave was used once again for religious services. Finally, in 1987 reconstruction of the entire structure was finished. Many damaged,valuable interior features of the church were saved and restored, including the Silbermann organ which was returned to its home in the Hofkirche.

    In the High Baroque style, the church is oval shaped with an impressive belfry measuring 272 feet in height. Balustrades frame the church and from these features arise 78 statues, each measuring almost 10 feet high. The statues represent historical and religious figures.

    We visited the interior where we were allowed to take pictures.   The nave is surrounded by a two story arcade of pillars.  Two broad aisles adjoin the nave.  There was a chapel at each of the church’s four corners.  The high altar is made of local marble. In the center was a large painting of the Ascension.


     One chapel, the Memorial Chapel, had very modern artwork. It is dedicated to those who died in the WWII bombing and to all victims of violence.  The pieta altarpiece was made in 1973 of Meissen porcelain.  The tall vertical stone represents Mary – note  the two eyes at the very top. Half way down Mary offers a crown of thorns made from Dresden rubble.  Jesus in her lap is represented by the horizontal slab.  The freestanding altar in front shows five flaming heads which symbolize how the citizens of Dresden suffered.  On either side of the main altar 30-1-33 and 13-2-45 which mark the period between Hitler’s rise to power and the night that Dresden was destroyed.

     When we came out it was still raining but we decided that want to go see the Kreuzkirche church (Church of the Holy Cross), which was several books away.


    The Kreuzkirche has a history of being destroyed and rebuilt. In the early 15th century the old 13th century church was replaced by a gothic building, but it burned down in 1492. In the rebuilt church the first Lutheran service in Dresden was held in 1539. Between 1579 and 1584 a new tower was constructed, 295 feet high. Bombardments of the Prussian army in 1760 heavily damaged the Kreuzkirche. Its tower seemed unharmed, but collapsed five years later during reconstruction work. The church was rebuilt once again between 1764 and 1792 after a neoclassicist design by Johann Georg Schmidt.

    Disaster struck again in February 1945 when the Kreuzkirche was one of the many buildings that were damaged by fire bombardments. Reconstruction of the exterior started soon after the war, in 1946, and was completed in 1955.

    The church, although on a corner, was difficult to photograph.  The interior was somewhat stark.  During the bombing, fire destroyed the interior. After the war the decision was made to not restore the interior in original style. Instead the plan was to show the scars of the war - a raw plaster covers the walls and huge pillars, the few remaining sandstone embossments were left damaged, only the lower parts of the altar are intact. Miraculously the altar painting survived the fire, only the colors darkened.

    Kreuzkirche is famous for his fine organ and music.  There was a fifteen minute organ concert at 3:00.  We decided not to stay because we wanted time to rest before dinner and the opera.  When we went out it was pouring hard, so we went back in for the concert.  They church was almost filled.  The organ is famous.  The first selection was by Bach.  A man dressed in a sports shirt and blue jeans stepped into the pulpit and read some scripture in German.  Then the organist played an arrangement of “Now thank we all our God”   The rain had slackened up a little when we came out, so we walked back to our hotel.

    We went to the Canaletto restaurant in the Westin Bellvue for dinner.   Since they hadn’t received our reservation from Bookatable for the night before, they had told us to come at 5:00 for a pre-opera dinner with dessert afterwards.  We were surprised that we were the only people there.  They welcomed us like royalty.  They did admit that they had found our reservation, and had forgotten that we were coming  since they were so busy planning the private party. We were seated at a nice table sprinkled with little fake jewels and little red hearts with a view of the river and the Semperoper (the opera house).  Our server, who had made the arrangements the night before, brought us some champagne in a little container that held two flutes with pointed bottoms. The menu had excellent choices.  For  a starter my wife  had a quiche with small slices of chicken on the side.  I had a delicious pumpkin soup with a fried shrimp on the side.  For the main course I had chicken livers, figs and mushrooms served over noodles with a sherry sauce.  My wife had red mullet served over pumpkin risotto.

    We had time to walk back across the bridge to the Semperoper.  As in past travels, when we know that we are going to a concert, play or going to eat at fancy restaurants, I wear my blue blazer on the plane.  On almost all of our trips, we have rented a car so it is easy to carry the blazer.  Since we are traveling on the train on this trip, I just wear it on the train rather than get wrinkled in a suitcase.  Since it was cold out I wore my red sweater over my shirt and tie and then my blazer.  We carried a small umbrella, but the wind was blowing very hard.  So my blazer was a little damp when we got to the opera house.  After we got in I stepped out into a hall and removed my sweater as I was too warm.  About 95 % of the men had on coats and ties.


    The Saxon State Opera House is nicknamed the Semperoper after its architect  Gottfried Semper.  Three opera houses have stood on this spot.  The first was destroyed by fire in 1869, the second during WWII in 1945.  It is rebuilt much in the same type as the first one using several different architectural styles.

    We had wanted to attend the opera in Dresden so in May we booked tickets to the Marriage of Figaro.  We had two end seats on the second row.  It wasn’t too close to the stage.  The set was very modern and somewhat sparse.  The opera was sung in Italian and the subtitles (translation projected above the stage were in German, so we were out of luck on both counts.)   We had brought a summary from a recent Teaching Company catalog but had forgotten to refresh our minds of the story.  The opera was well done and we could get the jest of what was going on.   There was an intermission, and we wandered around a little.  The interior was beautiful in its Baroque theme. The opera began at 7:00 and over about 10:15.  There were a number of curtain calls and the applause lasted a long time.  No one left early as we often see at the Kennedy Center.  No one stood for the applause either.

    I was able to get my sweater on under my blazer.  It was still raining.  We walked to the Canaletto in the Westin Bellevue for dessert. Again we were the only people in the restaurant.  We were tired and wet, but the same hostess insisted that we stay and have our dessert.  There were two choices on the menu so we had one of each.  One was two little dumplings with a sour cream ice cream.  They other was a beautiful dish of assorted fruit.   We got the bill.  We thought that we might have received a free meal or at least a discount for their booking mistake but they had charged us for everything except the champagne.   It was worth it.

    By then it was about midnight as we walked back to our hotel. 

    Next Page

    Day 1 - Berlin

    Day 2 - Berlin

    Day 3 - Berlin

    Day 4 - Berlin

    Day 5 - Berlin - Potsdam

    Day 6 - Dresden

    Day 7 - Dresden

    Day 8 - Prague

    Day 9 - Prague - Kutna Hora

    Day 10 - Prague

    Day 11 - Brno

    Day 12 - Budapest

    Day 13 - Budapest

    Day 14 - Budapest

    Day 15 - Vienna

    Day 16 - Vienna

    Day 17 - Vienna - Melk Abbey

    Day 18 - Vienna

    Day 19 - Salzburg

    Day 20 - Salzburg

    Day 21 - Salzburg