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Europe 2012 - Down to Dresden

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Down to Dresden

We now headed towards Dresden, reaching the attractive town of Bautzen via a long diversion through Hoyerswerda, due to a road closure. We parked at the stellplatz near the town centre and walked around the old town, which was empty as it was another bank holiday, (the fourth in May in 2012!). There were several attractive old buildings and towers, some that could be climbed, and the Dom (cathedral), where the nave is split into two, with Catholic and Protestant sections - presumably the services are at different times. Continuing through wooded hills, we reached Stolpen and a private stellplatz. The small town is set on a hill, the first of a reasonable height we had seen in five weeks, with a castle built on a basalt, needle like, rock outcrop, and a pleasant main square surrounded by old houses and shops, the bookshop having a precarious stack of books outside. Not far from there were the Bastei rocks, a very popular tourist attraction, in woods overlooking the river Elbe in the Sächsische Schweiz National Park. 

Bautzen towers
bautzen main square   Bautzen tower 2
Bautzen centre
another tower
 Bautzen castle
Using the compulsory Park and Ride (where motorhomes can stay overnight for €5), we joined the crowds to take the walkway through the rocks to the viewpoints. After lunch we drove to the busy town of Bad Schandau for some shopping in the Lidl, which was full of Czech youngsters buying cheap booze, then across the river and back west to Kurort - Rathen, where a large sign in many languages told us that motorhomes are banned overnight, so we stayed at the most expensive private stellplatz of the trip, at €16 including hookup and (biochem only) services, and no access to the river due to a busy railway line. The next morning we drove along to the riverside carpark and took the foot ferry across the river to the landing stage for a pleasant trip on a vintage paddle steamer to Pirna and back, (with a good discount on fares for seniors).

Old paddle steamer on Elbe
Elbe paddle steamer

We then drove on busy main roads to Dresden, and fairly easily found the stellplatz, right in the city centre thanks to the satnav. It is in a fenced in private carpark, attended in the daytime, so felt safe (€14/24hours services extra). In the evening we took the short walk across the Augustus bridge, dodging the speeding cyclists on the pavements, to the city centre, and found the tourist office which wasn't very good for information being more interested in taking hotel and concert bookings. We eventually got a poor guide leaflet and street map for 80 cents. We returned to the stellplatz along the banks of the Elbe as night time approached.

Rebuilt Frauenkirche Dresden
Dresden Frauenkirche

We strolled around the city centre the next morning, visiting the main historic attractions, and walked a fair distance to the Wolkswagen Phaeton factory in an impressive modern glass building. Entry is free for viewing but guided tours of the remarkably clean assembly line are extra. Returning to the Altstadt, we visited the rebuilt Frauenkirche, re-opened in 2005 after being flattened in WW2, as was most of the city centre. There is still evidence of bomb damaged buildings. The baroque interior is richly decorated with frescos, and gilt and marble columns which support the dome. From there we walked to the baroque Zwinger Palace, now a museum and art gallery with its tuneful Meissen porcelain bells and clock (it's lucky how often we arrive at these attractions at midday). Rebuilding work continues with the fountains and statues around the Nympheum courtyard now restored.
Zwinger Palace porcelain bells
Zwinger Palace porcelain bells

Zwinger palace cherubs statue   Zwinger Palace another cherub statue
Nymph statues

After looking at the 100 metre long mural  of the Fürstenzug, comprising of 24,000 Meissen porcelain tiles, and the contrasting mosaic "March of the Red Flag" created in 1969 but in fact not installed on the Kulturpalast until 2001, we decided we had seen most of the main sights and headed back to the stellplatz, hoping to buy a British newspaper, but oddly didn't pass a single newsagent or street kiosk. After lunch we had a couple of hours before our 24 hour parking ticket expired, so we walked up the quiet Königstrasse and back down the Hauptstrasse, where there was an indoor market, smart shopping arcades and modern art galleries, passing the gilt statue of Augustus II the Strong.

  King Frederic golden statue
Augustus II the Strong

Stolpen     Stolpen stack of books
Stolpen town square

Bastei Rocks
Bastei Rocks

View of Elbe from Bastei Rocks
View of Rathen on the Elbe from Bastei Rocks

Dresden by night
Dresden by night

Dresden VW Phaeton factory
VW Phaeton factory

Dresden main square
Dresden main square and Frauenkirche

Frauenkirche interior
Frauenkirche organ

Zwicker Palace Dresden
Zwinger Palace

The Meissen fresco
 Fürstenzug porcelain mural

GDR mural on city Kulturpalast
"March of the Red Flag" mural on the Kulturpalast

Starting our homeward journey westward, we headed through the Erzgebirge region of low forested hills and small towns. Unexpectedly, we came across a newly opened Space exploration museum at Morgenrothe-Rautenkranz, before continuing to the stellplatz in the altstadt at Schwarzenberg. Around this mining area there are many traditional ironwork signs, often with the greeting "Glück Auf" (good luck). There was a concert at the large outdoor arena in the park the next evening, headlined by the Hollies, but at €42 a ticket we gave it a miss! After a night at Bad Brambach, a small spa resort, we cut across the Czech Republic for about 12 miles, only to be stopped by a police checkpoint. Luckily they just checked our papers and we crossed back into Germany, and on the autobahn to Rehau and a lunch break in Hof, before reaching Kronach and a stellplatz at a riding stables. From there we continued through Thüringia with a stop at Lauscha, known for its decorative glassware, and on to the remote village of Meura, home of "Europe's no. 1 Haflinger gestät" which we discovered was a stud farm for the distinctive breed of horses. After a night alone at the stellplatz we drove to Arnstadt, worth a visit for its attractive altstadt, and the Schlossmuseum with its fascinating dolls and doll houses, dating back to the Eighteenth century. There are also displays of porcelain and tapestries, and nearby, a ruined schloss with models of local buildings in the grounds. 
iron sign at Schwarzenberg
Scwarzenberg sign
Miners Gluck Auf sign at Schwarzenberg
Glück Auf mining sign
Arnstadt model of rathaus
Model of rathaus at Arnstadt