Growing up in Germany's Wild West (geographically speaking, not politically), I had more than my share of prejudice about East Germany. The German media paints a picture of poverty, unemployment, homophobia
Apart from East Berlin, I had never been "East" until our trip to Dresden last month. Sure, I can't judge a quarter of Germany by two cities, and actually, my prejudice was confirmed in East Berlin. Dresden was a whole different thing, though.
And as it always goes when you don't expect anything, I was blown away by the city! And I say that with not the least of a pun intended. More than 80 % of the Saxon capital was ruined in WWII air raids, but unlike some cities with a similar fate, you wouldn't guess it today. Yes, outside the city centre, it's mostly communist housing blocks, but the center has been painstakingly and perfectly reconstructed. On top of that, the people were incredibly nice (and Germans are known to be surly and offer terrible service) and food was cheap and good.
Here are just some of the amazing buildings:
Dresden's Opera House is not what it seems! It's lavish inside and outside, but much of what you see is actually an illusion - not because they had to save money on renovations (the building collapsed once before the war, and was also damaged heavily in floods a few years ago). The building is one of the most well-known opera houses, maybe the second most famous after Sydney's. No, it was planned like this by its architect, who wanted the illusion not only to take place on stage. Tickets for the opera and ballet are relatively cheap by Western European standards (they start at 27 €), but you can also join a the daily guided tour for around 10 Euro.
The lavish former palace of the king of Saxony is currently still being restored. The main buildings are ready and now house several museums, but there is still at lot of work to be done in the gardens. Currently, it's free to walk around and pinch the many chubby cherub statue's bums, but I can imagine that they will charge a handsome entry fee when the reconstruction has been finished. Ironically, "Zwinger", means something like "dungeon" or an outside cage where you'd keep dogs in German. P.S.: It's pronouncer with a hissing "z", not "Swinger", like some people I won't mention here said ;)
This is not really a building, but a giant image along a building wall that has been made out of over 20.000 porcellaine tiles (nearby Meissen is famous for its porcellain). I stumbled across it by chance and was very impressed!
I'm not usually into churches, but the Kreuzkirche has a particular meaning: it was one of the Lutheran protestant churches in Germany. Most protestant churches look rather modern and bare, but this one has stunning Baroque features!
The Kreuzkirche's Catholic equivalent was built much later, but is the central point of Dresden's New Market, providing an impressive backdrop to one of the city's Christmas markets we visited during our stay.