Dresden: Christmas Charm

Dresden Christmas market pyramid

Wow, we were impressed with Dresden, its Christmas markets and its people.  Of course it doesn’t have the beauty and charm of Prague but we found the people exceptionally friendly and the markets were clean and very charmingly decorated and seemed to offer better products and food.

They all had a Christmas pyramid as well. These are a traditional toy or decoration only a few inches high and powered by candles.  Now they are huge and elaborate.

Dresden is a pleasant train ride from Prague Strěkov Castle, Labe River Czechalong the Labe River that becomes the Elbe in Germany.  Near the border is the Strěkov Castle privately owned by the Lobkowicz family whose palace at Prague Castle we especially enjoyed.

The Striezelmarkt in Dresden is one of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets; starting as a one-day event in 1434.    The word Striezelmarkt comes from Strüzel, the name of a type of cake sold at the market. Now famous as Stollen; it is a light airy fruitcake which is quite low in sugar and sold everywhere in town.  Of course we bought some.

Oldest market at nightQuote from Karin:  “Going to the Christmas Market at night is really special!  It takes on a completely different look!  The smells of the food cooking in the open air, the mulled wine, the lights, the stalls; it is all very exciting!”

Hot food at the night Christmas market

 

 

Here are a few shots of booths, pyramids and music. I especially enjoyed seeing the flame broiled salmon because I had wild Pacific salmon cooked that way as a young man and never tasted its equal since. (Click to enlarge or to play the video.)

flame broiled salmon on wood planks  wood carved Christmas decorations  figurines of village scenes decorations  toy soldier nutcrackers         

Since our time was limited, not to mention our energy level, we looked at a lot of the buildings in old town but did not go inside any museums.

Orangery Dresden  Crown gate orangery Zwinger Dresden  Public buildings along the Elbe River

Fine Arts Academy, Dresden

The gold statue on top of the glass dome is Fama (means ‘rumor’), a Roman goddess described as having multiple tongues, eyes, and ears. She is also said to have lived in a home with 1000 windows so she could hear all that was being said in the world.

Castle Square, Dresden with Cathedral

In front of the Cathedral is a stone with a large N commemorating where Napoleon reviewed his troops before a victorious battle.

 

Frauen Church, Dresden

The Frauen Church was our favourite because we went inside–and I bought Karin a charm for her bracelet that depicts this symbol of rebuilding Dresden.

interior of Frauen Church, Dresden

We took the tram into Aussere Neustadt (Outer new town) to see what a normal neighbourhood was like–much like Prague with graffiti and all–and to see the Old Market Hall and the Pfund Dairy Restaurant.  We didn’t get any good photos but this is where you go to see normal city life and find non-touristy restaurants.Augustas, Saxony ruler

Everywhere we went we saw references to Augustas, Dresden’s equivalent to Prague’s Charles IV. He was one of a long line of local Saxony rulers, all of which are depicted in The Fürstenzug (Procession of Princes), the world’s largest porcelain artwork made with tiles from nearby Miessen.  This photo shows a small part.detail of Miessen tile mural in Dresden

So I will close with a great photo.  It looks like a collage but is just good composing by my star photographer and researcher, Karin.

Frauen Church and Christmas market

 

Pilsen: Second Time is a Charm

This post is mainly an update to the previous post on the city and brewery at Pilsen.  So you may want to go there first.

Two big differences between our visit in October 2011 and October 2015:

1) We were allowed unlimited photos on the brewery tour so I made this video:

 

2)  We went in to the Great Synagogue.  Here are a couple photos:

Great Synagogue, Pilsen, Czech       Synagoge Glass. Pilsen, Czech

Also they were holding an excellent exhibition of WW II photos including the real nitty-gritty of soldiers and citizens reactions to liberation.  As history (or movie) buffs know Pilsen was taken from the Germans by the Americans under Patton while Prague had to wait for the Russians to do the honors.

One element that was the same as previously was our lunch at the brewery pub; it was good authentic Czech food at good non-touristy prices–despite being billed as the highest capacity pub in Czech Republic.

Cheers to good beer being brewed by a giant multi-national corporation   🙂

Loket: Beauty in the Elbow

Loket map with highlightsWhen spoilt for choice it is sometimes difficult to decide.  Such was the case in trying to decide which of the Czech Republic’s most beautiful towns to visit next.  In my research I read a review that said Loket was best viewed during the summer.  So there my decision was made; reinforced by the fact that we were experiencing especially hot weather and the mountains should be cooler.

Loket CastleWhile we were primarily looking for forests and river banks in order to cool down this town also provides plentiful history to soak up.  The castle dates back to the 12th century and like all castles still standing has been re-modelled many times.  I have been in a lot of castles over the years but none as extensive as this one.  For a mere 3 Euro entrance fee you can wander from wing to wing and floor to floor; that includes extensive exhibitions and a very elaborate torture chamber.  Certainly not the most elegant of furnishing and displays since the castle has only been recently re-opened after serving as a regional prison for many years.Loket porcelain inside castle

For those with a literary interest Johann Wolfgang Goethe visited the town many times and it was here on his 74th birthday that he fell in love with a 19 year old girl.  An affair that not only spawned a lot of gossip but several pieces of literature as well.

St. Florian brewery in LoketA couple weeks before our visit the local news was that Richard Gere gave the town a once over and liked what he saw. He was quoted as saying the local beer was possibly the best he had ever tasted.  So of course I had to try it (of course, I would have anyway).  Yes it was quite good, as was the steak dinner I had at the brew pub, St. Florian.  I was quite impressed that the working brewery was right there in the same room.

Loket Bridge and Ohre RiverThe next morning we set out to find the train station for our afternoon departure.  Since it was on the river bank we continued on and did a nearly complete circle around the town.  It was a delightful walk through parks, residential areas and semi-wilderness along rock cliffs and ended with a swinging foot bridge back into town.  Since it was time for our regular coffee and cake we headed for the recommended Galerie Cafe. We now recommend it as well; it should be listed as a major site rather than a mere cafe because the décor and the art create an utterly enjoyable atmosphere.

Galerie Cafe rock climber art

Rock climbers at cafe’

Galerie Cafe apple tree wall

Apple tree with sculpture

Loket is one of the rare towns we have seen that has a good web site that is kept up to date:  http://www.loket.cz/  They host such diverse offerings as an opera festival and the Czech National Motocross — both crowds we purposely avoided.  The drawback is there are no directions on how to get to the town by public transport. The train takes 4 1/4 hours or more depending upon which round about route you chose.  The bus to nearby Karlovy Vary is scheduled for 2 1/4 hours so we took that, intending to make a local bus connection, which it turned out no longer existed.  So after much consternation and walking around we did catch another bus that took us to the edge of Loket but no signs how to get up the hill into town.

All this on a very hot day so we were very glad that we enjoyed this place enough that we kept thinking of friends that we could bring here.  I once heard that the ugliest part of the human body was the elbow (loket in Czech).  It certainly does not apply to towns surrounded by rivers.

Ohre River walk around LoketMost photos by Karin

Hrusice: Josef Lada

Hrusice, CZKarin and I were past due for another jaunt into the countryside outside of Prague.  We chose a small village that most Czechs know well, even if they have never been there, because its idealized scenery was featured by the artist and author Josef Lada.

Lada was a prolific artist who wrote and illustrated a great many children’s books, the most famous featuring Mikeš, the Josef Lada village mapitinerant and talking cat.  However, he is best known internationally for his illustrations of Jaroslav Hašek’s, The Good Soldier Švejk.  Copies of these cartoons are seen constantly in Prague, especially in restaurants catering to tourists.

To reach Hrusice takes some planning.  It is less than 20 miles from Prague but can only be reached easily by the motorway.  By public transport it takes an elaborate combination of modes of transport or, as we did it, by walking about one mile from the nearest train station.

Once here you are up front and personal with Lada and his art, especially the church on the hill that shows in many of his country scenes. Though it does take imagination to Lada church on the hillsee the village as it was in his time and mind.

 

 

Lada Museum and Memorial, HrusiceThe museum is on a small scale and is very well done. It brings the man, his art and his milieu to life. We stocked up on several items at the museum store at low country prices.
We enjoyed browsing the village streets admiring the well maintained residences.  Our lunch at the local hospoda was a poor experience but you may want to chance it because it is the only choice in the village.
An example of art versus reality:
Lada birthplace location

2015 Location

Lada birthplace cottage

as painted

actual Lada birthplace

old photo

My favorite Lada:  Pig Slaughter

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