August 23, 2012
After 10 days in Poland and Slovakia, we have left Eastern Europe to visit Germany. We have been to Germany several times and chose to stay in two cities that we had not previously visited, Dresden and Bamberg. Germany is also the place for a very special family reunion, almost exactly halfway into our 14-month trip.
We journeyed first to Dresden, via Prague in the Czech Republic, passing the 3,000 mile mark of train travel in Europe and 8,000 rail miles overall. The train followed the Elbe River from the Czech Republic into Germany and we found it quite scenic. We happened to arrive in Dresden during their yearly Stadtfest, a cultural and artistic festival located in the old town area. Various performers, from rock bands to classical guitar players, performed during certain times of the day. We enjoyed walking around the festival listening to several of the musicians. We also were treated to a spectacular fireworks show on the final night of the festival.
Dresden was an important city in the former East Germany and is currently the capital of the German state of Saxony. It has a long history of royal residency for the former Kings of Saxony and today contains a castle and palace in its historic area. Dresden celebrated its 800 year anniversary in 2006, a year after its iconic church (the Frauenkirche) was rebuilt after being destroyed in World War II. In fact, over 90% of the city center was destroyed during the war and reconstruction still continues to this day.
While in Dresden we took a tram out of town, into the Elbe Valley, and rode a 100 year old cable car to the top of a hill to admire the views. We were the only ones on the funicular and on the viewing platform and seeing the peaceful river and valley was a nice contrast to the city of over 700,000.
Then it was on to Bamberg, population 70,000, via a series of three short train trips. We chose Bamberg as the location to meet our kids and Sandy’s parents, who we had not seen in almost seven months. They came to pick us up at the train station and it was a happy and tearful reunion for all of us. Together, we spent two days exploring the city, which is built on seven hills with the Regnitz River running through its center. This historic center was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1993 because of its medieval appearance. Bamberg is even older than Dresden, having been founded in 973. Among its historic buildings, some commissioned by the Holy Roman Emperor Henry II, Bamberg boasts a cathedral (built in 1237), an old town hall (constructed in 1386) and an abbey (Michaelsberg, dating from the 12th century).
The entire old town can be explored in a half day. Although easy to get lost in the maze of cobblestone streets, we were able to visit all the major historic buildings. We also spent time catching up with everyone, over long conversations at outdoor restaurants, and receiving items brought from home with other things being sent back. As we received our cruise gear back for our December crossing of the Atlantic Ocean to South America, we made a trip to the post office to box it up and send these items ahead to Rome, where we will embark on our ship.
It was wonderful to spend time with our family in such a beautiful setting. All too soon, we said goodbye to Sandy’s parents, who are moving on to another part of Europe before returning home in a couple of weeks. Our daughters will continue to travel with us for a couple of days to Slovenia and the Lake Bled area. Then they will head home and the two of us will move on to our next trek in the Julian Alps for four days and then back into Eastern Europe for the next few weeks.