Driving to Krakow takes 9 hours. Too long for any toddler I know-so we broke the drive up and spent the first night in Dresden, a four drive from Wiesbaden. After we booked our hotel, we remembered just 6 weeks ago massive flooding had taken place on the Elbe River surrounding Dresden, so we were worried there would be damage. Alas, there was not a single trace of the river’s angry flow from earlier this summer anywhere that we visited.
Dresden is a beautiful city draped in sad WWII history. On February 13, 1945, British and American pilots flattened this city, killing 25,000 people and destroying it’s historical center. The city remained in ruins for decades, rebuilding in the Old Town for the last 60 years in the same Baroque architecture of its past.
We took Rick Steves’ self guided walk on the night we arrived to see some of the beautiful buildings that have been painstakingly rebuilt. Here are a couple of pictures from our walking tour:
The Zwinger complex is the Louvre of Dresden, the families of the Wettin dynasty that ruled Saxony for 800 years lived in this fine complex, but it now houses many of Dresden’s best museums. The Wettins ruled up until WWI.
In anticipation of the bombings, Dresden moved its famous art and treasures to underground mines and cellars in the countryside, preserving its history. These artifacts are now housed in the museum complex. One of their museums focuses on porcelain. Nathan not being one for a porcelain museum (I can’t imagine a scarier place to take a toddler!!!), we just let him run wild through the complex waiting for the glockenspiel to play its 40 bells. (Nathan loves “tic tocks” and “church bells”) We are definitely raising a child in Europe because he is obsessed with any tower with a clock. “Mommy! Church bells!!! Let’s go see church bells!” This happens all day long-even on routine drives to get gas.
We passed by this amazing mural painted on 24,000 tiles of porcelain. The picture depicts 700 years of Saxon royalty-we didn’t really get to stop and enjoy it, as Nathan was screaming for a toy he wanted us to buy from a local vendor. So that was fun.
Our hotel was in the main square where the Frauenkirche (Church of our Lady) is located. This church was completed in 1743 and destroyed in the bombings of WWII. It was built into a peace monument until the end of the Communist era when the people decided to rebuild it to its original glory. It reopened in 2005, and while it is glorious, it also woke us at 6AM. Thanks loud church bells. (“Are those church bells mommy?” “Yes Nathan” As I hide under my covers and pretend I hear nothing.
By the time we made our way to the church it was closed for the evening, so we decided to see it in the morning. My opinion is that it’s more glorious on the outside, but a mediocre church in Europe is still miles better than any church in the US. We did light a candle in this church for a couple of friends and family who are sick.
Dinner that evening was a Streetcar named…1900. An 1899 themed restaurant named Dresden 1900, we actually ate inside of an old streetcar. Nathan liked running though it more than actually sitting and eating. However, the restaurant set up a kids play area behind the streetcar, so after we were done eating, he had fun playing there for awhile (all restaurants should do this). I have noticed Europe has a high number of places where they set up the same ikea kids table and chairs (we have them too) and put a bunch of toys in a corner and BOOM, ready made play area. The food was decent and the beer I had was mixed with coca cola-which made it awesome. It’s called a Radler and I really liked it.
That night Dan was determined to try the specialty cheesecake of the region but the bakery was closed and we didn’t want to sit down at another meal with Nathan. I was determined to get this orange liquor I saw people drinking, but again, hard to do with a child. So we decided to take turns, I went down to the Main Square first while Dan got Nathan ready for bed. I found the cheesecake and the delicious refreshing orange drink (no idea what it was) I just pointed to someone else drinking it! The cheesecake was dry and I wasn’t a big fan though. Dan decided to skip it, but not to worry, the next morning Dan got it for breakfast at the bakery and it was much better than the one I tried.
Sleep was interesting with the church bells and the summer concert happening, so I put on a dubbed movie (Back to the Future is hilarious with german dubbing) but Nathan couldn’t fall asleep to Doc and Marty, so we sat in the dark and fell asleep.
The next morning after a quick walk to New Town and a visit to the church we headed over to the Blue Wonder Bridge for lunch at the Schiller Garten on the Elbe River. This beer garden had a playground, brats and beer. Need I say more?
Schiller Garten & Blue Wonder Bridge:
After that, it was time for Krakow! The drive itself was an experience. After many toll roads, an 8-car pile up and an entire segment of road just closed off while we wandered through the countryside (thank god for google maps), we finally made our way to Krakow. It took almost 7 hours and should have take about 5 and a half. We were exhausted and wanted to eat dinner and go to bed. Our apartment was a 15 minute walk into the main square. We could have eaten along the way, but we are gluttons for punishment and made the entire walk-starving with no direction in sight. Dan and I aren’t the best decision makers and when I couldn’t take it any longer, I picked the first place I saw with periogi’s on the menu.
I should have known to abandon mission when I ordered them and the guy looked at me like I had just ordered pie from the moon. I thought I was pronouncing the word wrong, and I don’t speak polish so it wasn’t an easy transaction. Then I see him digging for the periogis, starting to boil the water, filling up more water, looking at the water with his co-worker with questioning faces and I knew I made the wrong call. This was a doner kebap place and we should have ordered those. I don’t think anyone ordered a pierogi from here, ever. After waiting 15 full minutes, he handed me two boxes and then I saw him drop the final ones into the boiling water. I almost lost it. I asked how long and he said another 10 minutes-their boiler could only take two orders at a time! I managed to get my money back for the third order (after deep discussion about the periogis) and we took them home. I knew they weren’t going to be good but when Dan said “I would rather be eating Chef Boyardee” I knew we had just had the worst Polish dinner. Ironically, the food in Poland was probably my favorite food we have eaten since we arrived in Europe: just not this meal. We called it a night and went to bed. Hoping Krakow would charm us in the morning—and it did!
Stay tuned for Part Two!!!