Reflecting Beautifully Rebuilt Dresden
By Patricia Keegan
An unforgettable evening in one of the world's most beautiful ballrooms will take place in January, 2006 just across the plaza from the Hotel Taschenbergpalais. The Saxon State Opera hosts the revival of the Semper Opera Ball on the night of January 13, 2006 in the splendid halls of the Semper Opera. The Taschenberpalais is a sponsor of the event that promises to offer a brilliant program and atmosphere like no other in Europe.
The Semper Opera Ball was initiated by the Director of the Hotel Taschenbergpalais who is president of the Semper Operaball, along with the artistic Director of the Saxon State Opera and Dresden's Semper Opera.
More information on the Opera Ball is at www.semperopernball.de or phone: 49 351 4912-503.
Looking out any of the five huge windows of my room at the five-star Hotel Taschenbergpalais, I thought how this had to be the perfect location in Dresden. I could see the Theaterplatz, one of Europe’s most beautiful squares with a panoramic view of Dresden’s cultural splendor. In the shadows of a soft twilight evening, I could see spread before me the courtyards of the Zwinger, and the surrounding baroque architecture, including the Semper Opera House, the Catholic Court Church and the Residential Palace. All this, on my very doorstep, was cause for exhilaration.
The history of this unique setting is turbulent. It began in the 18th century when Augustus The Strong, the Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, had a palace built for his mistress Countess Cosel. However, when she fell out of favor and was sent to the Stolpen Citadel, he repossessed the palace and made it the residency of the Wettiner Crown Prince. For almost 250 years the Taschenbergpalais was one of the primary attractions of Dresden, a center for social life, attracting royalty from all over Europe. Taschenbergpalais thrived as a landmark adding its own spectacular beauty to the Theaterplatz until the Bombennacht (night of bombs) on February 13, 1945. Like almost all of Dresden it was destroyed by the Allies three months before the end of WWII. Only parts of the walls remained standing for the next 48 years among the ruins of this once magnificent palace.
In February 1993, meticulous reconstruction began using as much of the original structure as possible. Costing 250 million DM, the reconstruction preserved external baroque walls, stuccowork, sculptures, fountains and staircases. The palace opened as the first five-star luxury hotel in Saxony on March 31, 1995.
In our own exploration of the hotel, late in the evening, we found elegant, wide halls interspersed with alcoves filled with sculptures, sitting areas with columns and a 13th-century cellar turned into a restaurant, all adding to the palatial atmosphere of this lovely hotel. Especially remarkable are fountains in the courtyard where guests enjoy elegant outdoor dining surrounded by a sense of history. The sweeping baroque staircases have been faithfully reconstructed.
All 213 guestrooms, including 25 suites, are spacious with soaring casement windows and high palatial ceilings. It was surprising to find a modern interior motif, but it works well as a blending of baroque style with contemporary elegance. Rooms exude an ambience of crisp clarity with the royal blue fabrics contrasting with hand crafted, red elm wood furnishings, red scatter pillows and silken sheets. Black granite bathrooms have heated towel racks and floors to keep your toes warm. A large desk conceals phone jacks with ISDN lines, fax and PC connections.
Buffet breakfasts are fabulous and can be enjoyed outdoors among the fountains, downstairs in the vestibule among baroque columns, or in the Intermezzo restaurant, you can try a different ambience each day.
One of the best evenings of our visit to Germany was spent in the Sophienkeller, located in the original, 13th-century cellar vaults of the palace, a very popular Dresden restaurant. Hearty Saxon food is served at large tables that encourage conversation and German 'gemutlichkeit.' Seated at our table were two women from the Black Forest and a doctor and his wife from outside Munich. In an atmosphere of fun and spontaneity, people trade stories and drinks and join in the singing. A King and Queen are chosen and paraded around the hall to the sound of trumpets. Waitresses dressed in Dresden folk costumes participate in the hilarity of the evening while serving from an extraordinarily varied and scrumptious menu.
The hotel also has a very inviting, well-equipped fitness center, spa, solarium, sauna and large indoor, heated swimming pool. There are opportunities to play golf nearby as well as hike in the mountains.
The Kempinski Taschenbergpalais has received numerous awards for excellence, including two Diner’s Club Service Excellence Awards, and is listed among Germany’s top three Grand Hotels. Its business and banqueting facilities offer every amenity that would be expected of a five-star hotel.
For more information, including packages highlighting the opera, Christmas and other special occasions, call Leading Hotels of the World at (800) 223-6800, or call the Taschenbergpalais in Dresden at 49-351-49-12-601, or visit them on the web at www.kempinski-dresden.de