Here's a report from a Blue Book-certified destination that doesn't seem to get as much attention as some of the others.
I've lived in Germany for more than three and half years, but this is my first visit to Freistaat Sachsen. Probably for some of the same reasons that it isn't on everyone's German itinerary, it's somewhat geographically isolated from the main rail network, and it sits in a far corner of the country. So, I haven't gotten around to visiting yet.
First off, here's a question for those who are reasonably familiar with Germany, and have also visited Dresden. Is it just me, or does this part of the country have a very different feel? Starting with a positive, this is probably the cleanest city I've encountered in Germany. The only grafitti I've seen anywhere was on a few derelict buildings. Germans are generally known for their fastidious rubbish disposal, but the streets of Dresden seem practically litter-free. Now moving to the not-so positive, the communist influence still feels very pronounced here (although this is my first time in Saxony, it's far from my first time on the territory of the old DDR). I've seen virtually none of the townhouses that are common in other German cities (even Berlin, to an extent). All of the housing seems to be appartment blocks, which range from stylish and modern to Soviet and soul-crushing. I don't see nearly the extent of the little shops, beer gardens and restaurants that you see in every neighborhood in other German cities. Just apartment block after after apartment block with the occassion kiosk here and there. Of course, there's a downtown shopping district, and even though it has much of the same stores... it just feels different. Also, Dresden has a surprisingly empty feel about it. Both from automobile to foot traffic, it seems that this city has a lot of excess capacity. I just don't feel the crush of people that you experience in, say, Frankfurt, Munich, Köln, Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Berlin, Hamburg, Mannheim, etc. I suppose that's a consequence of the population shift away from the former DDR, but it feels particularly pronounced here. Finally, there seems to be a very different personal vibe. The German spoken here is very formal ("Auf Wiedersehn" as opposed to the more informal "Tschuss" you hear in the old BRD), although I find it refreshingly easy to understand compared to Bavarian or some of the far northern dialects. People generally seem more reserved. Is Saxon culture just different, or is this still the lingering ghost of the DDR? I couldn't say.
Now, onto the restored Old Town and it's sites (cont).