Mark JohnstonTWO DAYS IN DRESDEN Mark Johnston September 5 Germany, Planning, Travel While I’d initially planned on sticking around Berlin for eight whole days, I soon decided to explore elsewhere in Germany and give my hosts their kitchen floor back—where I was sleeping and recovering from a cold as they celebrated their wedding anniversary. After a little discussion through emails with my dad, I took his advice and headed to Dresden, 187 kilometers to the south. Trains in Germany were quite expensive, but there was many bus companies offering tremendous deals to compete with them. Late the night before my departure, I stumbled across meinfernbus.de while searching online and saw a ticket offered the very next morning for only 5 Euros! I was initially worried it would be a scam, but after getting the nod of approval from some locals, I booked a one-way ticket. The bus departed early from Berlin Alexanderplatz and arrived at Dresden Hbf just under three hours later. It was a smooth and comfortable ride and upon arrival at my hostel I immediately booked my return for two days later; once again using meinfernbus.de, it only cost me 7 Euros. It was money well spent as Dresden didn’t disappoint. That first afternoon I explored the historic downtown, beautifully rebuilt after the controversial Allied bombing of the city in World War II. The resulting firestorm destroyed over 1,600 acres of the city center and killed close to 25,000 people. Yet, today a visitor might not realize just how close Dresden came to completely losing some of the historic treasures still standing. Crossing the Augustus Bridge from the north, I was awestruck by the beauty of the restored Dresden Cathedral, rebuilt Semper Opera House and Zwinger Palace, before visiting the Procession of Princes, which miraculously survived the bombing. Then it was time for coffee and apfelkuchen in Neumarkt Square. The following morning I bought a day pass for 13 Euros at Bahnhof Neustadt and caught the train south to visit Saxon Switzerland National Park (Sächsische Schweiz) just 45 minutes away. The park is home to numerous medieval castles, all of which I managed to avoid as I spent the day hiking in much-needed peace and quiet while exploring the unique landscape. Part of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, the area is home to a wide variety of geological formations that draw crowds of tourists and rock climbers from around the world — supposedly there are around 14,000 climbing routes on over 1,100 rock pinnacles, none of which I got to climb. I did manage a steep hike up to the tabletop mountain of Lilienstein after exiting my train at Königstein, crossing the river by ferry and guessing the right trail (all signs in German). Up top, the panoramic views of the River Elbe winding far below made the steep trail worthwhile and I had the opportunity to map out my route downstream. A few miles later I climbed to the Bastei — pictures of which had lured me to the area to begin with — and then onto the village of Stadt Wehlen where I caught the train back to Dresden. An early morning bus the next day took me back to Berlin and I was glad to have seen a little more of Germany while there. My only regret was having to turn back to catch a flight to London when Prague was just 93 more miles south of Dresden. But I’ll get there soon enough. If you go… Meinfernbus.de provides frequent and cheap buses between Berlin and Dresden. One day in the city would be plenty to see the beautiful and historic sights in downtown. Get out of the city to Saxon Switzerland, and if you buy a day pass to get there on the train, the ticket is good for the river-crossing ferries too. Then shove some currywurst into your face to refuel back in Dresden… or push on to Prague! Here’s more photos from Germany.