Saturday, 6th December 2008 – Dresden, Day 2
After a good night’s sleep under a wonderfully soft goosedown duvet, we met for breakfast in the restaurant Maurice (now the Moritz). Breakfast just served to reinforce the point that this was a wonderful hotel, with all sorts of extras from Nurnberger Rostbratwurstchen with mustard to a prawn omelettes available to the hungry guest, while there were so many cold meats and fish choices, yogurts, fruits, breads, and small sweet dishes that it was hard to know where to start (to say nothing of where to stop). The staff were wonderfully friendly too, and could not have been more obliging.
After finally deciding that we really should stop eating, we wandered out to see what the city had to offer. With the Frauenkirche literally just opposite the hotel (Heather could see it from her window, did we mention that?), we started there.
It was particularly interesting to Lynne and I, as we’d visited in the early 1990s when the church was nothing more than the remains of a tower and a pile of labelled rubble, much like this. You would never know to look at it now.
We joined a reasonably fast moving queue to get in, and were soon inside with the hordes. You’re not supposed to take photos, but everyone else was… so I did too, at least till one of the staff made an announcement and asked everyone to stop, though not before I’d taken some shots of the glorious ceiling.
We also had a nose around in the crypt, which was supposed to be set aside for contemplation, but, sadly, no one had explained it to the overly noisy crowds down there.
By the time we came out, the parade for the 15th Annual Stollenfest was passing, which was good because we’d hoped to catch it, but had no idea where it was going to go or when. Well, that answered that question.
Although it’s a newish event, it has medieval precedents with various trade associations (for which read guilds) marching in procession with the biggest stollen I have ever seen (as well as the biggest stollen knife of course, because you’re not going to be able to cut something that big with a standard bread knife)!
It was a bit crowded, with those processing handing out sweets, flags and cakes to the hundreds of children lining the route. Anyway, we elbowed our way into the crowd at various points, and watched as it all went by.
After that we took a swing through the Zwinger which could stand as a dire warning about what can happen when a building project runs out of control – it started out as an orangery and just grew! Augustus again of course.
We couldn’t stop, because we had an appointment with a relic of the DDR. I had booked us on a guided tour of Dresden in a fleet of Trabants! The Trabi-Safari, which also happens in Berlin, is tremendous fun.
We picked up the tour near the old Yenidze cigar factory and were soon ready to go.
The tour starts with a quick lesson in gear changing, a brief session on how to turn up the radio so you can hear the guide, and instructions on what to do if you get left behind at traffic lights (they wait for you).
And so, with Lynne, Steffy and Angela in the passenger seats, I set off in the pale blue Trabi, while Janice followed behind in a zebra striped model with Irene and Heather packed in. We trundled gently along a route that took in Ostraallee, the Zwinger, Postplatz, the Kreuzkirche Church, the Hygienemuseum, the Großer Garten Park, the VW Group’s Transparent Factory, Fetscherstraße, the Mansion District of Blasewitz:
The Blue Wonder Bridge, the Elbe Meadows, Pfunds Dairy:
The Albertplatz, Königstraße, the New Synagogue, the Church of our Lady, Theaterplatz and back to Ostraallee. Needless to say we took in bits of the town we wouldn’t have found on our own, and with a really good multi-lingual tour guide in the lead car, we had a great if boneshaking hour and a half trundling round, causing a stir and becoming a tourist attraction in our own right (with people waving and taking photos of us). We also got good-natured abuse thrown at us by the people driving the horse drawn carriages from the Stollenfest procession. I assume they were going home when one wit decided to yell “We’ve got more horsepower than you!” at us.
We didn’t care! It’s very hard to drive a Trabi on this tour without laughing like a loon, although I suspect that’s because we knew we would be giving them back after an hour and a half and wouldn’t have to drive one every day. At the end of the tour, those of us who had driven were given licences that said we are now qualified to drive a Trabi (even if I could only find reverse at one point, to the consternation of the VW driver behind me, and I only made it into fourth once for about two seconds)… Anyway, it’s a highly recommended trip for anyone finding themselves in need of a tour of Dresden or Berlin and not wanting to do the obvious tour bus thing.
After that we felt an urgent need to go for a gluehwein and stollen at the nearby cafe, partly in lieu of lunch, but largely to thaw out after the Trabis, which have two heater settings – on or off. We also found the light switch once we stopped the car – it had fallen off and was under the seat!
After we’d defrosted, we headed back to take in a couple of Christmas Markets, starting with the market an die Frauenkirche (described English – or at least sort of).
The narrow street stretching down to the Elbe was full of food stalls, gluehwein stalls and people selling beautiful, traditional Christmas decorations in wood or glass or tin, as well as some scary looking soft toys and some truly terrifying fruits preserved in hideously coloured liquers. We bought some bits and pieces for the house this Christmas, and stopped for a gluehwein with rum, which was incredibly strong, and a bratwurst in a bread roll (which Lynne and I shared) to attempt to soak up the rum!
From there we wandered over the Neue Markt to the 574th Striezel Markt, which lays claim to be the oldest Christmas market in the world, probably with some justification. It was somewhat too crowded for my liking, though when you’ve got enough gluehwein and rum floating round your system, it becomes far more bearable!
Afterwards we spent a lazy couple of hours at the hotel getting ready for dinner in the two-starred Restaurant Moritz. We’d been offered the use of a lovely private dining room and were waited on by white-gloved waiters and the maître d’ from start to finish.
We’d agreed that the special truffle menu would be our choice and we were not disappointed in any way with what followed even if we were still slowly meandering our way through our meal well after midnight. It was absolutely superb, from the décor through the wine, the music, the food all the way to the petit fours.
We started with a little plate of amuse bouches, mostly lobster-based. The lobster won ton was especially delicious, and I personally could have happily eaten a whole plate of those!
Next came a splendid foie gras terrine in a very thin, sweet pastry case, served with some delicate salad leaves on a truffle vinaigrette.
And then, after a gentle pause, on to the goat’s cheese filled ravioli, served with sole on a beautiful truffle foam.
The meat course was a meltingly tender fillet of veal with the tiniest stuffed shallots, all served on a truffle jus.
Another pause followed, before a small portion of Brie de Meaux, shot through with a layer of truffles, and served with marinated celery. I don’t usually like celery – this was really good, though it paled into insignificance next to the brie and truffles.
There then followed two desserts, the first a warm elderberry soup with a semolina panacotta, which was lovely.
However, it wasn’t anywhere near as good as the white tonka bean ice cream with jellied elderberry juice, the jelly studded with tiny halves of green grapes.
By the time they brought the petit fours we couldn’t manage any more food, and it was well past midnight…
So we ate the petit fours and staggered off to bed!