I enjoy traveling by train. Although a rental car provides more freedom to choose when and where you want to go, it also provides more things to worry about like directions, traffic, gas and parking. With the train, you buy your ticket, find your seat and watch the scenery go by.
I traveled along the Elbe River southeast from Dresden to visit Sächsische Schweiz (Saxon Switzerland). If there’s a river in Germany, it’s bound to be lined with hills and plenty of castles. The river was the primary transportation route centuries ago and fortifications along the river could collect tolls.
The town of Königstein takes its name from the Festung Königstein (Fortress King’s Stone) which is a massive fortification looking down on the river. Thankfully, I found a festive express bus to trundle me up the hill.
Königstein served as a formidable defensive fortress for the Kings of Saxony. In the 20th century, prisoners of war were interned here: French and Russian officers from the first World War and later, French, British and Americans in the second.
One exhibit showed how officers were treated (fairly well it seemed). There was a section showing a captured American bomber pilot’s jacket accompanied by a care package from the International Red Cross. The items were displayed opposite a photo of bombed Dresden.
I also paused to read about the German Commandant of Königstein and his family from 1900. The main photo showed his children including four boys and a girl posing in front of the installation. The photos below showed the boys in World War I uniforms. All four of his sons were killed in the war.
Returning to the town below, I wandered past a haunting memorial to German war dead. Virtually every village in Germany has a memorial, nearly 100 years old now, erected to commemorate those killed in the Great War.
You always see more modern plaques and additions to the same memorials for those later killed in the second World War.
As I continued walking, I turned a corner and took in even more history. A tiny, lime-green Trabant was parked in a driveway. More than 3 million of these were produced in East Germany from 1957 to 1990 with very little design changes over 30+ years. The body is hard plastic so there’s no rust.
Trabant loosely means “satellite” in German, a name inspired by the Soviet Union’s Sputnik satellite which made headlines in 1957.
I hopped off the train at several sleepy towns along the river on the way back to Dresden. There are always things to see.
On Saturday morning, I walked down the Albertbrücke (bridge) in Dresden to visit the weekly flea market. Along with the thrill of trying to find something unique, it’s fascinating to see each table filled with relics from the time when this part of Germany was behind the Iron Curtain.
I did score a few trinkets and after a little haggling, put them in my backpack. By this time, I was ready for some lunch. I’d surveyed a small restaurant in the street behind my Airbnb which always seemed to be full of locals (always a good sign).
Although the menu was typed in the old German font, I was able to comprehend it and ordered Bockwurst. German food invariably involves meat (usually pork) and some form of potatoes. Of course I had to order a dark Hefeweizen and finish with warm apple strudel and ice cream.
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