Dresden will always have a special place in my heart. It was our first proper German Christmas market (and one of the oldest!), and probably my favourite. There was one moment, where we were standing in the market sipping glühwein (mulled wine) from ceramic mugs and listening to a brass band playing Christmas songs, when snowflakes started floating gently down around us. I’ve seen snow plenty of times before (goodness knows we had enough falling on us in Berlin), but this was different – perfectly formed crystal structures, about half a centimetre in diameter, and so incredibly beautiful. I remember thinking that this, this is how I imagined Christmas in Germany (as it turned out it wasn’t even close to snowing where we were at Christmas, but this was close enough). The snowflakes were too tiny for my camera to capture, so I just enjoyed the perfect moment and resolved to always treasure the memory.
We sadly just missed out on the stollen (traditional fruit bread) festival, where a giant Christmas stollen is baked, paraded around the city, sliced with a huge ceremonial knife and sold to the crowed. But there were plenty of stalls selling the stuff and (my favourite) giving out free samples!
Like most cities in Germany many of the older buildings in Dresden were destroyed or damaged during the war, but most of the old town has been painstakingly restored. The Zwinger Palace, our introduction to Baroque architecture, looked beautiful blanketed in snow. The Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault), in which we were unfortunately unable to take photos, houses room after room of amazing jewels, sculptures, ornate tableware and other decorations but is presented as it was in the 18th century. That is – none of this glass containers and neutral white walls business; it’s all brightly and intricately painted walls, gold detailing, mirrors, tiling, vaulted ceilings… the rooms themselves are as stunning as the treasures that they hold. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many shiny things in such a small space in my life.
- Stollen is an absolute must in Dresden, and although it’s specially made at Christmas I believe it’s still sold all year round. Official Dresdener stollen has a special seal with King Augustus II the Strong on it.
- We mainly lived on Christmas market food in Dresden – honestly not too bad an option!