Part III: Dresden-Neustadt


The Ferris Wheel and the Statue of Augustus I at the entrance to the market at Neustadt

Leaving the Neumarkt Christmas Market and crossing the Augustus Bridge over the Elbe one will enter the Christmas market in Dresden-Neustadt. One will not find much information about this suburb in any brochure, as the majority of the cityscape features the slab-shaped apartments that are the signature of East German architecture. There are a few points of interest in Neustadt that are worth seeing if the tourist does not mind the obstructive views of the slab of concrete that are everywhere, like the Church of the Three Kings, for example.
However, when the holiday season arrives, the people of Neustadt make sure that their Christmas market is something for everyone to look at. The key feature of the Christmas market is the 65 meter tall Ferris wheel, located at the south entrance to the market at the statue of Augustus. It is tall enough to be seen from the Residential Palace and Frauenkirche.  But when riding it, one can see Dresden from various perspectives. While one can see the skyline of Dresden along the Elbe River clearly, when looking at the opposite direction and down towards the Christmas market in Neustadt, one can see the layout of the entire market from the Ferris wheel to the Christmas tree about 300 meters away at Albertplatz.  The huts are lined up in a row, running parallel to the shopping areas lined up along Neustädter Markt and the apartment blocks that accompany them.

View of the market and the Ferris wheel

But walking along the rows of huts, one will find multicultural themes at the Christmas market in Neustadt, as businesses originating from Russia, parts of Europe, India and other countries offer a wide array of goods that one will not see in a German retail shop, let alone the local market in a small to medium size German community. This includes specialties like elk roast and mulled wine with currant flavor from Finland, stroganov from Russia, langos (a deep fat fried pastry) from Hungary, just to name a few.  For those who care to stay at the market in Neustadt, there is a small amphitheater located at the halfway point of the market where small choral and band concerts take place. Yet one will have to be aware of the overcrowding that takes place at the market during the holiday season, which for the most part, overshadows the advantages of visiting this suburb. The best time to visit the market in Neustadt is in the daytime and early afternoon, when it is not as crowded as it at nightfall. There one will be able to maneuver around the narrow corridor lined with huts a bit easier.  Yet by the same token as a photographer, the evening does present some gorgeous views of Dresden’s skyline that lights up the sky and can be seen from Neustadt. This is perhaps one of the main reasons why many Dresdners  choose to live in Neustadt year round, which explains the near full capacity of the apartment blocks. And even if the apartments look hideous to the eyes of modern architects and city planners, the residents take care that they look nice for the holidays.

One of the shops at the Neustadt Christmas market selling lamps from the Far East

From the columnist’s point of view, Dresden-Neustadt is perhaps the dark horse of the Christmas markets one can see in Dresden.  While the setting resemble that of the days of Communism with the architecture, the market is multicultural and there is a lot to see while there. But the visit is not complete without the ride on the Ferris wheel, the crown of the market which can be seen from the city’s Altstadt on the south end of the Elbe.

The view of Altstadt (St. Trinitatis Cathedral) from Neustadt (Augustus Bridge)

Dresden Neumarkt: The Medieval Market

Frauenkirche at Neumarkt at night


Moving on from the markets in the outer portion of Dresden, we come to the Christmas market in Dresden’s Neumarkt, one of two major Christmas markets in Dresden’s Altstadt. The market is located between Wilsdruffer Strasse at Altmarkt and the Elbe River and includes the city’s Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady).  The market is  unique for many reasons. The first and perhaps most noticeable of the market is the way it is laid out and the trees and huts are decorated. While most German Christmas markets are in a town square and have a central meeting point where people can stop to eat, drink and watch the entertainment from the benches and tables surrounding the Christmas tree, the layout resembles a round swirled raisin and cinnamon roll, with wide aisles curling past and around the huts and many areas where people can indulge in their food and drink while being awed by the Christmas trees decorated in yellow star lights. At least 10 Christmas trees decorated with these string of star lights (made of paper machete and painted a dark yellow or white color), and many huts carry a yellow star light that shoots out on a steel pole at a 60° angle.

The Christmas tree with the yellow lights


One can see many young artists singing Christmas carols or playing an instrument, both as a solo or a small ensemble, but there is no official program nor large ensemble group found here at this market. That is found at the Striezelmarkt at Altmarkt or in Dresden-Neustadt.  But for children, there is a hand-powered carousel that is worth riding, if they enjoy horses and swinging. There is also a live manger set located near the church.  What is characteristic of the Neumarkt part of the Christmas market is that there are many shops that offer a wide array of hand-made products made of ceramic or wood with live demonstrations. Most of these products resemble the ones that were common during the Medieval Ages. For those willing to try a homemade specialty or two originating from the Medieval Ages, the market has everything that will satisfy the appetite in a visitor. One can try entrées originating from the Middle or Far East, like beef goulash with olives and couscous (wheat kernels that are boiled and dried before they are cooked and served with an entrée- very popular in the Middle East), date-filled rolls with either a pistachio or a sesame pastry covering, different types of coffee or tea from that region, just to name a few. There are also a few places that serve homemade pastries originating from Dresden and all points to the east, including the pastry tunnel (a Hungarian specialty where the cookie dough is rolled onto a rolling pin and cooked- best served with a coating of sugar on it) or even handmade cookies and Stollen from a local bakery booth where the children can see the whole process live. Yet should they want to become involved with Christmas baking at the market in general, the Altmarkt is the place to go.

The manger set with live animals on display

After trying out all the Medieval specialties and some from other places, and purchasing homemade Medieval products from the booths, one should spend a couple hours visiting the Frauenkirche, which is the centerpiece of Dresden’s Neumarkt. Built in 1726, the cathedral is one of the most common of all the points in Dresden one has to visit, with over 2 million visitors every year minus the time of the Christmas market. During the one month celebration from the end of November to Christmas Eve, the number of tourists during that time matches the ones who visit during the 11 months of the year.  In order to step inside the church, one should plan an hour of waiting time, which may be inconvenient when winter weather hovers over the city during the Christmas market.  If one lives only two hours away from the capital of Saxony, then the summer time is perhaps the best time for visiting the church.  This unique landmark was constructed as a replica to the one destroyed at the end of World War II. On 13 February, 1945, a fleet of British RAF Airplanes pelted the city with 650,000 bombs, creating an inferno which destroyed 80% of the city (including all of the city center), and killing as many as 60,000. This signaled the beginning of the end of the 12 year Nazi Regime as many people who supported Hitler’s cause left and willingly surrendered to the allies, with those supporting him took their own lives in the last months before Hitler committed suicide on 30 April, 1945 and Germany surrendered to the allies on 7 May, 1945. Much of Dresden remained in ruins for three decades as it became part of the Soviet zone and later the German Democratic Republic, which (when the next article on Dresden-Neustadt will explain in further) constructed various multiple storied flats and ignored the true meaning of Dresden, which was its artwork and architecture.
Right after the Fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November, 1989, millions of dollars worth of investment flowed into Dresden and the city center was reconstructed from scratch, beginning with the Frauenkirche and working its way towards the Palace and other Baroque-style buildings that were destroyed.  A section of the old church was preserved and can be seen on the east end of the church when walking toward the river. The reconstruction took 10 years and featured exact replicas of the architecture that was destroyed in the war. When the Frauenkirche was open in 2005, it marked the return to architectural greatness that was and still is the signature of Dresden today.
The Medieval Christmas market at Neumarkt makes the Frauenkirche complete as the surroundings give the tourist a feeling of walking back into the past when there was no electricity, everything was handmade, and the Frauenkirche looked like the church that was never destroyed. This was the impression that came across the author as he and his family passed through the place many times during his recent visit in Dresden.  With its offers and its settings, it is no wonder that the market at Neumarkt is a royal treat for those wanting to know a bit about Medieval culture and Dresden’s unique history; especially when it comes to the market’s centerpiece, the Frauenkirche.

Frauenkirche today after its reconstruction