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We checked out of our hotel in Gent and caught the train to Eeklo to retrieve our car then drove halfway to Kassel where we stayed two nights. This is where the Brothers Grimm wrote many of their fairy tales and it has many museums and parks. The first public museum in Europe was the Fridericianum which is in the centre of town and dates from 1779 and after wandering around the Orangery and park beside the river Fulda we found ourselves in the New Gallery art museum to escape the unseasonably cold weather. There was snow on them thar hills but it was nice and sunny.
In the afternoon we caught the tram up to the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe. This is a beautiful park on the side of a high hill crowned with the Hercules monument and a series of artificial waterfalls which tumble down the hill that are used for water displays during the summer.
There are numerous restaurants, a huge palace, now a museum and a hot house full of camellias. Beside one of the artificial lakes I photographed a very pretty duck. It is often the case in the duck world that the male is the pretty one!
Kassel suffered during WW2 as it was a military city and some 90% of the old city was destroyed with 10,000 killed and 150,000 made homeless. We discovered in the museum that the first raid was by the RAF shortly after Coventry was bombed. The first time the RAF dropped only rubble from Coventry and the second night they dropped bombs but missed the industrial area completely.
The following day we drove to Dresden. Our satnav, who we call "Daphne", is German and the software was recently upgraded but she did not seem to know Germany very well. Several times we found roads she didn't know about and once she informed us a road was closed but gave us no assistance to find an alternative route so Sue was reinstated as navigator. As Sue has absolutely no sense of direction that is not her favourite task! We eventually found our hotel in the middle of Dresden where, as it was Easter, we parked for nothing.
The photo below is the Dresden old city skyline from our hotel room. When the modern bridge in the foreground was built it was opposed by the city council who lost the fight to stop it being built and, as a result, Dresden lost its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the wilful breach of the convention becoming the first ever European location to do so and only the second in the world.
Dresden straddles the Elbe which reflected the grey skies on our arrival. It was bitterly cold and we had a blizzard on the first day there while the West Europeans were experiencing lovely sunny weather. Most will know that the city was controversially bombed towards the end of WW2 when the city centre was completely destroyed in a firestorm and 25,000 people were killed.
Most of the important buildings have now been rebuilt after German reunification in 1990 including the glorious Baroque masterpiece the Dresden Frauenkirche. The golden ball on the top of the dome was donated by the City of Edinburgh.
We attended a Bach organ recital in the church. We were sat next to a young boy who was obviously there under sufferance with his parents and spent the whole time playing with his mobile phone!
We visited the famous Zwimmer museum and thought that Londons equivalent was better and free.
The castle was still under construction and what was finished was suitably impressive but the city museum was the more interesting where we were interviewed by two students conducting a survey on what sort of people visited museums. We were beginning to get quite museum'd out!
Our final visit was to the military museum which was the most interesting of the lot and told the story of war and why it happens in a factual and unbiased way, particularly the brutal way their own countrymen had behaved during WW2, surprising considering Dresdens experiences of war at its most brutal from their enemy.
We found a really good Tapas bar as we had forgotten how dreary German cuisine is and it was packed with Germans enjoying a bit of Spanish flavour. Likewise all the Italian restaurants were equally popular. On our return we broke the journey at Siegen, the birthplace of Peter Paul Rubens. This city was an important railway junction so was heavily bombed by the allies during WW2 and lost 12,000 (30%) of its inhabitants.
We now needed a holiday.