Friday, 5th December 2008 – Berlin, Dresden Day 1
The Sixth Annual Girls’ Weekend Away (otherwise known as the “Credit Crunch be Damned!” GWA) was, I think, a success. Which was probably just as well as I did most of the organising. Anyway, enough of blowing my own trumpet, as it were. What happened and what did we do? Well, we discovered that a weekend is not long enough to investigate Dresden in depth, that if you didn’t know that it was a mostly reconstructed city you really wouldn’t be able to tell, and that boots with heels don’t mix with cobblestones! Also, that you can eat incredibly well in both Dresden and Berlin.
The 6th Annual GWA got underway on Friday morning when we headed off to the airport. Irene stayed overnight with us, and we then picked Steffy up from Silverstone, and arrived far too early at the airport. This was a bit of a pain because BA refused to accept our bags before 9 am, so we had to to hang around for 30 minutes. Once they did deign to take our luggage off us, we then faced quite a long queue at security, but we still made it to Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food for 9.15 and our reserved table was nicely set out waiting for us.
It will come as no surprise to those who know us that we started as we meant to go on, with Champagne breakfasts all round (and most people opting for the eggs benedict with the smoked salmon rather than spinach).
It was a substantial breakfast Which was just as well as the standard of catering deteriorated badly once we got on the plane.
BA gave us bad white wine and a packet of nuts (savoury) or a muesli bar (sweet) that looked like wood shavings and tasted like them too for lunch. Needless to say, we didn’t really care! We landed on time at Tegel, despite a late departure, and were eventually reunited with our baggage in time to walk what felt like miles to the Hertz office to collect our pre-booked hire car, a Mercedes Vito, which is in effect a 9-seater bus with quite a large amount of luggage space.
Our bags fitted easily, as did we, and after a little careful thought we managed to extract ourselves from the car park and headed off up the Autobahn into the dusk (with an accidental detour to the Avus ring circuit of which nothing now remains but a crumbling grandstand by the side of the road, and the race control building which is now a rather nice service station.
As we also passed the Lausitz Ring on the way to Dresden, it turned into a bit of a tour of German race circuits).
Arrival at the hotel was tricky and a bit slow – especially with the two SatNav systems (Ethel and Charlotte) disagreeing with each other before trying to send us down a closed road. We finally arrived at the Hotel Suitess and then wondered how we were supposed to park and where. As it turned out, we need not have worried. A uniformed concierge came tearing out and simply unloaded our bags before removing the car to some unknown place where it would spend the rest of the weekend. We were invited to sit down in the lobby bar and were offered a welcome drink of sekt (German “champagne”) while our bags were placed in our rooms.
Once shown to our rooms, it didn’t take too long to establish that the hotel was everything you could hope for in a luxury hotel at very silly rates (I booked when it was still very new and hadn’t achieved its subsequent five star rating so the room rate was pretty reasonable) with Hermes cosmetics, fresh flowers, fruit and chocolates all supplied.
Once settled in – and having established that Heather had a view of the Frauenkirche while the rest of us didn’t – we unpacked and got organised before heading out to the Grünes Gewölbe, having been unable to get tickets for the weekend apart from at 19.30 on Friday. It really is that popular an attraction and they only sell 100 tickets for each hour now. After a fight with the lockers, and the cloakrooms, we finally were allowed in, without bags or cameras of any kind (to be honest if a camera flash went off in there you’d blind everyone for a mile around). The collection is utterly jaw-dropping with rooms full of amber, ivory, ostrich egg shells and nautilus shells made into cups, and jewellery to kill for, and it promptly led to us decide that the man responsible for it originally wasn’t really Augustus II the Strong, but rather Augustus the “Oooh! Shiny! Must Have One!” or Augustus the Bling! or even Augustus the Shopaholic… There must have been some magpie in his family, is all I can say.
Anyway, we staggered out of there with a collective case of retina burn, and headed for dinner at the Alte Meister (once we were able to locate it). The location issue was caused by the fact that by day it’s the gallery cafe for the Alte Meister gallery in the Zwinger, so you get in that way. By night it’s a stand-alone restaurant with its entrance in an obscure corner of Theaterplatz.
A hurried phone call led to the guy who answered saying “I was about to go off duty. Stay right where you are and I’ll come and find you!” Now that is what I call service. Anyway, once we were safely seated with a glass of sekt in front of us, we had a superb meal of curried pumpkin soup with coconut milk and a pan fried prawn:
This was followed for some of us with fillet of wild salmon with a honey-mustard crust, yellow beetroot puree and sugar snap peas:
Or by pink cooked duck breast glazed with maple syrup, served with a pumpkin ragout and potato roulade:
Or even braised beef with black salsify and small potato dumplings:
Lynne and I shared a plate of four cheeses between the two of us, and eventually we all staggered back to the hotel to get some sleep.