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The Silk Route - World Travel: Dresden at Christmas, Germany
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Germany: Dresden at Christmas
December 2016

Neumarkt Zwinger Palace Altmarkt Residenzschloss Around the City Medieval Christmas Market
Dresden Christmas Market

 

A beautiful city on the banks of the Elbe, with great Christmas Markets - one of our favourites.

Neumarkt

Dresden
The Hotel Steigenberger on Neumarkt.
Dresden
Dresden
Frauenkirche

 

We arrived quite late in the evening and took a taxi from the airport to our hotel, the Steigenberger on Neumarkt. A lovely hotel and very central for all the Christmas Markets - not least the one right outside on Neumarkt which we went straight to after dropping off our luggage in the room. First glühwein of the visit!

We passed through Neumarkt many times on our wanderings through the city. The Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady)1 is one of the most recognisable buildings there, dominating the square. A church has stood here since the eleventh century and went through numerous incarnations before the Baroque building of George Bähr was erected in the eighteenth century, taking over twenty years from the planning stage before completion in 1743. The unique bell-shaped dome is a landmark of the city.

The church perished along with much of Dresden in the bombing and subsequent firestorm of WW2 but was reconstructed between 1994 and 2005, using as much of the original material as possible.

 

Zwinger Palace

Dresden Semperoper
Nineteenth century Semperoper on Theaterplatz. The Zwinger Palace is in shadow on the left of the square.
Dresden Semperoper
Dresden Zwinger Palace
Bernardo Bellotto
Dresden with the Frauenkirche on the left.
c 1751

 

The following morning was bright and sunny as we made our way to the Zwinger Palace. It has an entrance from Theaterplatz where Semperoper is also situated.

A very grand Baroque building, commissioned by Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland in the early 18th century, the Zwinger was modelled on Versailles and is set in manicured grounds.

Dresden Zwinger Palace
Zwinger Palace
Dresden Zwinger Palace
Zwinger Palace south west entrance.
Dresden Zwinger Palace
Bernardo Bellotto
Views of Dresden
1747 and 1748
Dresden Zwinger Palace
Rembrandt van Rijn
All three of these paintings feature Rembrandt's wife Saskia.

Dresden Zwinger Palace
Abraham Bloemaert
The Miserly Old Woman
c 1625

Dresden Zwinger Palace
The spired building in the background is the castle.

The Altes Meister Gallery was our destination in the Zwinger. Among many fine artworks it holds a wonderful Hans Holbein, superb Rembrandts, several by Canaletto and his pupil Bernardo Bellotto, and a number by Lucas Cranach.

There are quite a few paintings of Dresden in centuries past which highlight how the city has changed - many buildings are still standing, if reconstructed after Second World War bombing.



Dresden Zwinger Palace
Charles de Solier, Lord of Morette
Hans Holbein the Younger
c 1534
Dresden Zwinger Palace
Johann Alexander Thiele
"Caroussel Comique"
Procession in the Zwinger 1722, before 1725.


Dresden Zwinger Palace

 

Altmarkt

Dresden Altmarkt

Dresden Striezelmarkt in the Altmarkt is massive and the oldest Christmas market in Germany, with hundreds of stalls, plenty to eat and drink, and a ferris wheel.

Dresden Altmarkt
Dresden Altmarkt

We had a superb roasted ox sandwich here!

Dresden Altmarkt
Roasted ox sandwich - for one!
Dresden Altmarkt

The stalls were all beautifully decorated, especially the roof lines, where a lot of trouble had been taken with greenery and Santa Clauses and other models and baubles.

Dresden Altmarkt
Traditional Dresdner stollen.
Dresden Altmarkt
Dresden Altmarkt
Dresden Altmarkt
Dresden Altmarkt.

Of course, everything is more magical at night when the lights glow against a dark sky.

Dresden Altmarkt.
Dresden Altmarkt
Dresden Altmarkt
Dresden Altmarkt
Dresden Altmarkt

 

Residenzschloss

Dresden museums
Seventeenth century Ottoman cavalry warrior light armour.

From the sixteenth century the Residenzschloss was the seat of the rulers of Saxony, though the current architecture is mostly of the sixteenth century. It is now home to a number of museums.

The rich treasure chest known as the Historiches Grünes Gewölbe (Historic Green Vault) is one of the collections housed in the Residenz. The Treasury of Augustus the Strong holds fabulous amber pieces, including a magnificent cabinet, an awful lot of ivory, and a stunning collection of jewels. No photography is allowed.

Other parts of the museum hold many fascinating and precious artefacts and we were particularly impressed by the huge and beautiful Ottoman tents in the Turkish Chamber.

Dresden museums
Dresden museums
Dresden museums
17th century Three-Masted Ottoman Tent - Zeithainer Lager
Dresden museums
Janissary Cauldron
About a metre in height.

Augustus the Strong (1670-1733) who ruled as Elector of Saxony (he was also elected King of Poland) was responsible for much of the Baroque splendour of Dresden, including the Zwinger. In 1730 he planned a great tented city for an Ottoman-style military camp which became known as the Zeithainer Lustlager.

I particularly enjoyed seeing an enormous Janissary cauldron, being a big fan of the books of Jason Goodwin. In his "The Janissary Tree" the history and practices of this elite corps of Turkish troops are interwoven with the story. The Janissary traditions are linked to food, particularly soup, and the sultan providing for his subjects. The high-ranking Janissary officers were known as "soupiers" and woe betide any sultan whose Janissaries overturned their cauldrons, symbolic of rejecting the sultan's food and a sign of serious discontent.

Dresden museums
15th/16th century Ottoman armour and weapons.

The Neues Grünes Gewölbe (New Green Vault) holds around a thousand pieces, including many fascinating and intricate works of art such as a rolling ball clock, a golden statuette of Daphne at the moment of her metamorphosis into a bay tree, a cherry stone carved with 185 faces, a bizarre automaton drinking vessel, and a magnificent jewel-studded representation of the birthday celebrations of the Mughal Emperor of India, Aurangzeb.

Dresden museums
Rolling Ball Clock
A rock crystal ball rolls down the inclined spiral ramp, completing the run from top to bottom around the clock in one minute. Inside a second crystal ball is lifted to the top. At the end of the sequence the minute hand advances and Saturn strikes the bell. Twice a day the musicians at the top raise their instruments and an organ plays a melody.

 

Dresden museums
Daphne transforming into a bay tree (made of coral) to escape Apollo.
Dresden museums
Purchased in 1610 by Christian II in Prague, this table decoration automaton moves across the table, the bigger dog moving its head and the smaller dog jumping up and down. Diana and the centaur move their eyes and when the automaton stops the centaur shoots an arrow.

 

Dresden museums
Model of birthday celebrations of the Mughul Emperor of India, Aurangzeb
A very pricey piece bought in 1709 by Augustus the Strong. The Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb ruled from 1658 to his death in 1707.
Dresden museums
Model of birthday celebrations of Aurangzeb, detail.
Dresden museums
Model of birthday celebrations of Aurangzeb, detail.
Dresden museums
Many of the precious items were taken with their owners when travelling. Individual bespoke cases were made for each item in wood, covered with leather, and usually with a padded and lined interior.

 

Around the City

Dresden
Fürstenzug, Augustusstrasse.
A mounted procession of the rulers of Saxony, the House of Wettin. Originally a mural, it was replaced with more than 24,000 Meissen tiles in the 19th century.
Dresden
Dresden Cathedral

 

Dresden
Smoked salmon at the Hauptstrasse Christmas market stretching north from the golden statue of Augustus the Strong.


Dresden
Dresden skyline from the north bank of the Elbe.
Dresden
Gold statue of Augustus the Strong north of the Augustusbrücke across the Elbe.
Dresden
Details from the "Dance of Death" left.
Dresden
Dresden
Just off Neuplatz with the dome of the Academy of Fine Arts topped with a golden angel behind.
Dresden
Sixteenth century "Dance of Death" now in the Dreikönigskirche.
Dresden
Dresden Cathedral
Dresden
Frauenkirche at dusk.

Dresden
Christmas decorations in Kempinski's.
Dresden
Coffee and stollen in Kempinski's.
Dresden

 

Medieval Christmas Market

Dresden Medieval Christmas Market


Dresden Medieval Christmas Market
Dresden Medieval Christmas Market

 

 

The Medieval Christmas Market is held in the Stallhof very close to the Frauenkirche in an original sixteenth century jousting space.

There was an entrance charge but it was worth it. It was really atmospheric with most stalls in keeping with the medieval theme.

Dresden Medieval Christmas Market
Dresden Medieval Christmas Market

 

The best glühwein was here - and the best beakers - now my favourites for glühwein at home! There were lots of different themed stalls plus a blacksmith and a fire eater, and the music was really excellent.

Dresden Medieval Christmas Market


Dresden Medieval Christmas Market

 

References

  1. Frauenkirche
  2. Neues Grünes Gewölbe
  3. Fürstenzug