Travel 2008 – Dresden, Day 3

Sunday, 7th December 2008 – Dresden, Day 3

Sunday dawned reasonably bright and sunny while we ate breakfast:

It was just as impressive as the day before:

By the time we’d worked our way through that lot, the weather had turned and it was hideously soggy, with the rain coming down almost horizontally. It also didn’t seem to be bothering with daylight. Fortunately, however, our plan for the day didn’t involve a great deal out being outside, and having borrowed umbrellas from reception we set off for the Zwinger and a proper look at its contents. The various museums offered something for all of us, and at 12 euros for entry to all the collections, it seemed like a good deal. Just for good measure, you were allowed to take photographs, so long as you didn’t use flash, and you did buy a photography permit (a further 5 euros). Light bounce off the glass cases was a bit of a problem, but it wasn’t too bad once I figured out the best settings to use. Anyway, we bought our tickets and went in. Although the majority of us started out in the Armoury museum, we arranged to meet up later at the café after we’d seen whatever we wanted to see. That meant a happy hour and a half for Lynne and I wandering the armoury, looking at all the shiny armour and weaponry. Needless to say a lot of it was collected by Augustus, so it was very shiny. Much of it was ceremonial or at least only used for tournaments. This was just as well as I’m sure I can’t be alone in thinking that wearing gold armour in battle would be pretty idiotic… after all, it’s pretty much announcing to people “I’m here, I’d make a valuable source of ransom, oh, and by the way, I’m wearing very soft metal…”

There were some amazing pieces, like the rock crystal embellished spurs:

The various ridiculously decorated swords:

The multiple choice weaponry for when you couldn’t decide what to do:

Or even what might be an early hand grenade:

All in all it was faintly unbelievable, as with so many of Augustus’ collections, but also great fun if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

After that we headed across the colonnaded entrance area, and into the Alte Meister gallery, in search of the Breughels and Durers and the like. Most of them seemed to be elsewhere, but I did get to look at – and photograph – a couple of paintings that seem to have been following us round Europe of late, including some of the Cranachs that were at the Royal Academy recently. There were also a lot of Canalettos, including the ones that have helped towards the rebuilding of Dresden, because they show most of the important streets as they were. There were also some of Verona, and of Venice, which I particularly liked, especially the details of life going on in the town, such as this:

There also seemed to be rather a lot of “self-portrait in a pub” paintings from various relatively obscure artists, the main exception to that being a rather less obscure artist who at least had the imagination to come up with a reason for being in the pub. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, Rembrandt’s “self-portrait as the prodigal son in the pub”, which at least means he has a good excuse for looking completely pie-eyed!

My favourite piece, though, was probably Jan van Eyck’s rather wonderful triptych, very small, very detailed and with his usual very architectural paintings on the cover side of the wings… I love this work, and it’s a far more portable one than the altarpiece in Ghent which I also love…

After that we were all pretty much museumed out, so we attempted to meet at the cafe, couldn’t get in, and so headed back towards the hotel is search of hot drinks and extra layers of clothing. A white chocolate laced with strawberries and strawberry liquer was just the thing to thaw me out though we had to down our drinks rather quickly as we had another appointment for a tour.

Drinks finished we wandered down to the Bruehlsche Terrace (also known as the Terrace of Europe):

As you can see, it was rather wet outside. Anyway, from here we were scheduled to take an afternoon “Stollen Cruise” on one of the steamships that ply the Elbe all the way to the Blue Wonder Bridge and beyond. The ships are all decorated for the season, both outside and in, with trees, lights, candles, and lots of festive garlands, which makes it a very cosy experience:

It was very restful and very pleasant and the coffee and stollen were very restorative, though a round of gluehwein probably helped too, though photos were not easy to take with the lack of light.

After we disembarked two hours later, the others went back to the hotel, but Lynne, Steffy and I headed for the Christmas Market at the Stallhof.

This is apparently a very popular option and recreates a medieval market. Here, in addition to the more usual gluehwein, you can feast on suckling pig:

And when you’ve done that you can buy everything you need for a medieval Christmas, including glasses:

And decorations:

When you’ve shopped enough for fripperies, you can buy a new bow or just test drive the latest model:

And of course you wouldn’t want to miss out on the latest bespoke armour, now would you?

Everything is lit by candles, including the bathhouse, which looked a little too primitive for us! With the rain that had been pelting down the market area was authentically medieval and muddy underfoot too… And then we walked back to the hotel, stopping to pick up our own Schwibogen on the way, a tiny electric-lit one featuring the skyline of Dresden. I managed to persuade the stall-holder to throw in two extra bulbs, having taken a good look at the ones it needed, because I’ve a suspicion that we’ll never lay hands on any suitable ones in the UK.

That evening we had a reservation at the Hotel Bülow Palace, in the Carrousel restaurant, which is widely touted as Dresden’s best (though it was going to have to go some to outclass the Maurice). They didn’t let us down, and we had yet another wonderful dinner. We started with drinks in the very pleasant cellar bar (where they fed us round 1 of the amuse bouches – a beef tartare with potato cake, a mini-pizza, and some brawn):

After a while we moved up to the restaurant, where we were first fed another unadvertised starter, this time of trout, brandade of trout, and a smoked trout soup:

Then it was on to the starters for real, with foie gras again featuring, this time with dark chocolate, and with various apple combinations to undercut the richness of the liver:

As Lynne and I couldn’t decide which of the evening’s two menus to opt for, we’d done a deal to eat half each of each course and then swap. So that meant we also had tuna with beetroot:

The next course was scallops (no photo I’m afraid) or wild salmon with a lentil gravy:

We then moved onto the mains, which were a choice between duck with red cabbage and mushrooms:

Or venison with ginger cabbage and celeriac puree:

Wonderful food, and served at a sensibly slow pace again, so we didn’t end up stuffed and out of there in an hour and half as you would in so many places. Finally we’d made it to dessert, and it was either a medley of pears (which I again failed to get a shot of) or a stollen parfait, which was just incredible, with all the flavours you’d expect, and which pulled off the neat trick of being light and incredibly rich at the same time. Very clever indeed!

And to finish the job neatly, another selection of petit fours!

After that we surrendered and ordered a cab back to our hotel where we finished off the Champagne we’d brought with us and enjoyed the view from Heather’s room, before retreating to bed!

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