We’re off - from London on the lunchtime Eurostar travelling to Cologne for an overnight stay close to the station and cathedral.
We rail clean across Germany today using both regional and modern express trains (ICE). The best bit of this journey is the scenic Rhine route between Bonn and Mainz passing castles and vineyards in the morning sunshine. It is slower than the high-speed route we go home on but well worth doing. We’ll arrive in Dresden late afternoon, check in, and then head off into the city by tram for a familiarization jaunt.
Staying local to Dresden we kick things off this morning with a paddle down the river to nearby Meissen aboard an historic steamer (if our boat is the destinations namesake it dates from 1885). Time here to wander the streets, perhaps buy some breakables, and lunch, before we return to the city for an informative guided walking tour and the excellent transport museum.
Lots more “local” stuff today with steam in the park, trams, and funicular railways. Our afternoon is spent with the Lossnitzgrundbahn. This railway operates steam trains on a lovely rural route that starts in a wooded valley before trundling past fragrant marshes, farms and villages.
On the Czech/Polish border to the east of Dresden is a small town called Zittau. From here a steam railway runs out into the countryside and climbs up to an authentic junction station in the forest. Here the line splits and continues uphill to two resort villages nestled in the mountains and we will, of course, travel the whole system. It is a great photographic spot as well - the double departure must not be missed, and the bonus of an included lunch in one of our favourite restaurants will enhance the whole experience.
After many years since some devastating floods the “local” steam railway is once again running its full length between Freital-Hainsberg and Kipsdorf. Whilst we have other treats in store today we concentrate on the Weisseritztalbahn - what a wow! Glorious steam train journeys along a stunning gorge and past a serene lake – this, it has been said, is the most exciting steam railway experience in all of Saxony.
A classic Inside Track day explores the Elbe and Saxon Switzerland – an area of dramatic rocky outcrops. We go out on the north bank via Pillnitz Castle to Bastei, an incredible viewpoint perched 1000ft above the Elbe, overlooking the craggy landscape. Later in the day we return to Dresden with the longest, and most enjoyable, paddle steamer cruise from Bad Schandau, near the Czech border, through all this lovely landscape, back to Dresden – this “paddle” is the pick of the bunch!
We leave Dresden behind and travel by rail across Germany to Wuppertal. Here, after checking into our hotel there is opportunity for a ride on the famous Schwebebahn. This is a (modernised) 120 year old suspension railway that runs for over 8 miles between Vohwinkel and Oberbarmen, hanging 40 ft above the River Wupper. It’s great fun and a great way of seeing the city.
Alas, it is time to head for home. We track back across to Brussels via Cologne and board the Eurostar back to London arriving late afternoon.
One of Dresden’s top hotels, we stay in the four star Pullman Newa on Pragerstrasse, the pedestrianized thoroughfare that links the main station (2 mins walk) with the historic centre (10 mins). This is a truly top-notch modern hotel with luxurious rooms, cocktail bar, and a fine restaurant, serving an excellent buffet breakfast.