Come along with me and share the excitement as I explore the world researching freelance articles. These blog posts offer short chunks of travel that you can digest quickly. You'll have some fun, make discoveries, and pick up great ideas and information for your own vacations. Think of me as your canary in the coal mine. For even more travel inspiration, visit my BERKELEY AND BEYOND website at http://www.berkeleyandbeyond.com.
In the Old Town, Münzgasse (between Frauenkirche and the river) recreates the lively café scene of prewar Dresden. Here you'll find Las Tapas, where the tapas are as delicious as any I’ve enjoyed in Spain--especially the roasted potatoes—and the beer, of course, is better. Las Tapas Munzgasse 4, 0351-496 01 08.
Saint Peter's Cathedral is Eastern Germany's only historic interdenominational church edifice. It dates from 1909 and has both a Catholic and Protestant door, as well as both a Catholic and Protestant organ—which are tuned so they can play together.
Diners here are greeted traditionally with a large tray of fresh bread and salt, then seated in a cave-like room with and arched stone ceiling. Food is traditional Sorbian fare, perhaps a broth soup with tiny meatballs and egg whites, followed by beef slices with horseradish gravy and boiled potatoes. A phrase in one of the traditional Sorbian songs goes, “We’ll never meet as young as we are again, but we might meet as happy as we are again!” Hotel rooms are also available. Wjelbik restaurantKornstr. 7, +49 3591 42060. L-D daily.
The medieval walled town of Bautzen is situated on the Spree River just 30 miles from Dresden. It has 17 towers and more than 1,000 years of history--it dates to 1002--and is the center of the Sorb minority (formerly the Slavs), which makes up 5% of the town’s population. They are mostly Catholic, though a few are Protestants. All signs in Bautzen are bilingual, and the town has Germany´s only bilingual theater--the German-Sorbian People´s Theater. The compact medieval town centre features an ancient city wall as well as many well-preserved churches and towers plus one of the oldest waterworks in central Europe (built in 1558). The Spree River winds through the town and on to Berlin. The Sorbs have kept their traditions, language, and cultural heritage, and it is found nowhere else in the world. Through the years, the area has been claimed by Poland, Germany, Hungary, Prussia, and Austria; in 1635 it became part of Saxony. When Napoleon fought one of his last battles near here, it is said he sat on the town wall and watched. The Sorbs are famous for their hand-painted Easter eggs, and the area is famous for its mustards (68% of German mustard is made here). Also, Eule pipe organs and trams are made here.
Located in the central settlement area of the Sorbs, the town of Ralbitz-Rosenthal is a pilgrimage site dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. This pilgrimage church and Sorbian cemetery is administered by the Order of Cistercians. “Welcome to the most democratic cemetery in the world,” says Nawka, the village priest. “Before God, we are all equal, and everyone buried here is treated equally. Since before 1840, everyone gets the same crosses.” The wood crosses are white, because white is the color of innocence and the color of God, and it was also once the color of mourning for Sorbs (now mourning is black here). After 20 years have passed, the cross is removed and given to relatives and a new person is buried in the spot with a new cross.
Founded in the Middle Ages in 1248 (762 years ago), this catholic refuge is home to an order of sisters that lives according to the rules of the Holy Benedict (only nuns, no monks). The gates are locked at night, and no one is allowed in or out. A self-contained village, it has a lake, gardens, farm land, and a bakery that is its specialty (it had a brewery until the 1960s, when it was delegated to a nearby business). The surrounding area is 98% catholic (though nearby Dresden has more protestants). Since the 1970s, the order’s social work has included helping and housing mentally disabled people. Visitors come here to see the nuns and the art in the Treasure Chamber, which beautifully displays its 13th- to 19th-century relics and art, including the famous “Expectant Madonna.” St. Marienstern Cistercian Convent (means The Star of Mary) Cisinskistrasse 35, Panschwitz-Kuckau, +49 35796 99-30; . E2.
The first and oldest porcelain manufactory in Europe, Meissen celebrated its 300th anniversary in 2010. It has the oldest trademark in uninterrupted use in the world—crossed blue swords. Guided tours of the visitor center begin with a short film introduction and provide access to an exhibition hall, demonstration workshops, and an outlet store with sky-high prices. The factory itself is only open to the public one day in April and one day in October. Do stop for refreshment in the cafe, where snacks are served on Meissen porcelain. Meissen State Porcelain Manufactory and Museum of Meissen Art Talstrasse 9, +49 (0) 35 21 468-208; . Daily; hrs. vary. 8.50 euros.