Dresden for the weekend: my first solo trip

Hello everyone! I know, I’ve been really quiet lately. It really wasn’t intentional. I’ve been focusing on paid writing and with the limited time I have, I just stopped making time for the blog. I enjoyed writing when I did it because I wanted to, not because I had to, so I’m going to refocus my energy away from freelance writing and back onto the blog. I don’t want to be a journalist and quite honestly my time is worth more what I get paid to write, so I’d rather just write about what I enjoy.. and that’s travel and food in a casual, honest, informal way- what you’ve come to expect from this blog.

I’m currently in Dresden, Germany, as part of the #youngDresden Bloggers’ Campaign. I’ve been on lots of group press trips where I didn’t know anyone else but quickly made friends, and then of course Rishav is with me on every other trip. Usually, I manage to twist Rishav’s arm at the last minute to join me on whatever escapade I’m planning, but this time, it just didn’t work out because of flight timings and his commitments at school.

This is the first time I’ve travelled completely on my own. Solo travelling is something that has never appealed to me. I generally love the company of other people vs. myself and previously would opt to travel with even not so good friends rather than be alone. However, I’ve been feeling the need to self reflect and to spend some time alone.

I can’t even tell you how much I’ve changed over the past 6 months during my MBA. I think that will have to wait for another blog post. But basically everything has changed- what I value, what I want out of life, my career path, my priorities- everything. I honestly cannot relate to the old me.

So, before I knew it, I was on my way to Dresden, Germany’s second largest city. I didn’t know anything about the city before I came, but I was pleasantly surprised. The weather wasn’t on my side- it was below 5 degrees the entire time, but I came equipped and wore stockings or leggings under jeans, and at least 4 layers on top. I was mostly okay with the cold- but it wasn’t exactly pleasant. I think in Summer the city would be even more beautiful.

I was obsessively checking the weather just before I arrived, but alas, it didn't improve
I was obsessively checking the weather just before I arrived, but alas, it didn’t improve

On the first night, I navigated myself via the subway and trams to my apartment (super easy- Dresden is completely accessible via trams), which is owned by Lollis Homestay, a hostel. Now, you guys know, I do luxury travel and I’ve never stayed in a hostel. In this case, I had the entire apartment to myself, and it was actually really nice. The bedroom had 6 bunk beds which was a bit weird (so the other 5 remained empty), and the bathroom didn’t have towels (I had to ask for these at reception) or any other amenities, but apart from that it was perfectly fine- it was clean, had wifi and a fully equipped kitchen and was pretty spacious. That said, the apartment wasn’t cleaned the entire time I was there which may be a bit gross if 6 people were staying there and sharing 1 bathroom. However, 2-3 people or a family would be fine and the apartment is only EUR100 per night. I definitely think I’m going to lower my accommodation standards in favour of travelling more in Europe. It’s really not necessary to stay in fancy hotels each time.

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For dinner on day 1, I went to a restaurant that was pretty close to my apartment as I didn’t have the energy to get myself anywhere further than walking distance. I chose a cosy, busy restaurant, but ended up in an adjacent room next to just one couple. No one else in the room. Super awkward. I didn’t even have wifi to entertain myself. It was pretty depressing and I really missed Rishav. In the evening, I was a little afraid being in the apartment on my own, but I quickly fell asleep ahead of my first full day in the city.

My solo dinner at La Casina Rosa
My solo dinner at La Casina Rosa

Dresden is split into two- the Altstadt (old city), and Neustadt (new city). It was bombed by air raids in 1945 and most of the city was destroyed, with 25000 people being killed. So sad. It’s since been built up to its original state and the Altstadt area is where I started my touring. It’s such a gorgeous precinct and is made up of a few stunning buildings- the Royal Palace, Frauenkirche, a church, which is the symbol of Dresden, Zwinger, a collection of museums, and my favourite- the Semperoper, where I got to watch Swan Lake that night.

Altstadt
Altstadt
Bridge linking the old city to the new
Bridge linking the old city to the new
The beautiful Semperoper
The beautiful Semperoper
This is the largest porcelain mosaic in the world!
This is the largest porcelain mosaic in the world!

I spent most of the day wandering around the cobblestone streets, admiring the architecture and found my way to a local farmers market, had lunch at a traditional restaurant and also went on a city sightseeing tour that was a good way to see Dresden without freezing. The city is fairytale like, with castles and meadows and an ancient bridge crossing a narrow river. I’m not much of a museum person but I did visit the Albertinum, known for its sculptures and modern art.

Restaurant area in the Altstadt
Restaurant area in the Altstadt

Dresden is known for its coffee, and I  can definitely vouch for it. Everyday I enjoyed a cappuccino with some form of cake, including the signature dessert, eierschecke which is like a custard tart and super tasty. Foodwise, currywurst is the signature dish, but I don’t eat meat so skipped it.

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The highlight of my trip was visiting Semperoper. It would have been a treat just to go inside, but to watch Swan Lake was incredible. I was constantly in awe of the theatre and the performers. It was actually burnt down in 1841 and reopened in 1878, after which it was destroyed during the bombing in 1945. The most recent renovation was completed in 1985 and the result is a theatre almost identical to the original one. I can’t tell you how magnificent it is- the pictures don’t do it justice.

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IMG_0301IMG_0297I went to bed on a high and was ready for my next day of travel. I decided to venture out of Dresden and explore Meissen, the home of European porcelain. It was a bitterly cold day, with each drop of rain feeling like an icicle on my face, but I was determined not to let the day go to waste. Meissen was beautiful but felt somewhat like a ghost town. Again, I think it would be very different in Summer when all the shops are open and there are more people around. I visited the porcelain factory and got a very interesting overview on how porcelain is handmade, and then made my way to the Albrechtsburg, a 15th century castle. I wasn’t prepared for that many steps (and only later found out there is a cable car that takes you to the top!) so was a bit disappointed when I arrived at 4:30pm only to find out that the cathedral closed at 4pm, not 5pm as the website specified. Nevertheless, the views were pretty. I always like imagining life there all those years ago.

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My apartment was situated in Neustadt, a very trendy, hip area. Think lots of bars, restaurants, boutiques and many students (Dresden’s population is 40% students!) It’s quite happening and vibey. Drinking on the streets is legal (the observation of which takes some getting used to for visitors- but surprisingly I didn’t see any obviously drunk ppl) , and the nightlife is great.

The Kunsthofpassage- an arty, quirky little street with boutiques, galleries and restaurants
The Kunsthofpassage- an arty, quirky little street with boutiques, galleries and restaurants

So what was solo travel like for me?

I enjoyed being selfish with my time. I usually take on the role of trip organiser and I’m very aware of other people and if they’re having fun, often feeling stressed if things don’t go according to plan. This time, I just had myself to answer to and it felt gleefully selfish. Rishav and I have the same travel personality and similar interests, so it’s usually fine travelling with him, but he gets hungry a lot quicker than I do, and while I can happily be out for 10-12 hours, he prefers to have a break in between. There were times I was sad because I know how much he would have enjoyed certain things, like the VW museum for example, which I didn’t end up going to, but at the same time, I was super proud of myself for doing this, and being happy during the trip. Would I do it again? If the opportunity arises, I wouldn’t be as opposed to it as I was previously. However, I think that travelling alone for more than a few days would get really lonely- I’d just miss human conversation and I’m not at the place yet where I can make friends with strangers.

Thank goodness for FaceTime!
Thank goodness for FaceTime!

Back to Dresden- I really enjoyed myself, despite the weather. Dresden is one of those places (like Paris) where you don’t necessarily have to do anything, you can just walk around and admire the architecture. It’s really easy to get around, and I found it very cheap vs. other European cities. Lunch never cost me more than around 8 euros, while dinners (with a glass of wine) were around 15 euros. It’s only 3 hours from Berlin by train, and it’s really worth adding to your Germany trip. It’s also halfway between Berlin and Prague, making it the ideal stopover.

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A huge thank you to the Dresden Marketing Board for taking such good care of me and making sure I had everything I needed for an incredible stay. And a special thank you to Melvin from TravelDudes for helping to arrange the trip. I’ll be back!