Dresden - Florence on the Elbe

You always think you have left enough time, I think, as I run up the platform to the front-most carriage of an impossibly long platform to catch the last train to Berlin, a double espresso to go in one hand - and starting to appear on my hand - a bottle of ice green tea in the other, and daypack bouncing. Later, safely in the compartment that I have to myself, I watch as the sun sets into the Elbe and the brief exhaust trails of jets marks the pink sky over the Germany countryside.

After having glimpsed its surprising freshness and likely stamina, I leave Dresden wanting for more. For one hour only I was the epitome of the tour-bus-tourist - book-mark filled Lonely Planet protruding from pocket and dragging down my already baggy pants, compact camera noosed around one wrist, and eyes darting everywhere as I perform the solitary waltz of the trigger-happy photographer.

The Elbe River, Dresden

For I had filled much of the already sparse daylight hours remaining for me scanning the orange departure time-table, desperately looking for Berlin, somewhere in the future that wasn’t the next day. The normally fruitful orange sheet did not however carry that name. It was only a chance examination on the touch-screen ticket machine of the likely fare I would have to face - on top of what I would be fronting for accommodation that night in a nearby hotel - that revealed a secret passage to the capital in a little over an hour. Two sets of items stand out as prerequisites, or at least highly desirable, for my next trip this way - rollerblades, and a 3G enabled phone, for impromptu itinerary building while on the move.

Train platform, near station

Dresden is charming. Long tram platforms line the boulevards. The inner city - wide, tall walkways all the way from the station to the river and beyond - is testimony to the energy and intelligence the residents rebuilt with after their dreadful bombing with. Buskers, normally a rarity in Germany, play along its streets certainly - affirming in their voluntary offering of art and breath that there is soulfulness to Dresden. (Although I have had a couple start playing on the trains in Berlin - one a thin handed violinist with ear studs, another a trumpet player with a confident voice - which is a rarity even in Melbourne.)

The Frauenkirche

The Frauenkirche - the Church of Our Lady - a replica of its pre-war predecessor, is fresh beige and not the black age-scorched stone of its peers. The church’s youth could make it tacky - yet it is not just fidelity to style, but of materials, that it has towards its original. Thus, it reminds me of the steam-punk-style Oxford and London of The Golden Compass - these stone shells still homes of power, and not the husks for geriatric ghosts.

The aspects that I loved most in Dresden were also its most ‘Italian’ features - the joie de vivre of its University population, the freshness to the stylish architecture, and Brühl's Terrace - known as ‘The Balcony of Europe’ - near the river; all of which have helped build Dresden’s reputation as ‘Florence on the Elbe’.

Brühl's Terrace, also known as The Balcony of Europe