Sunday: Martha Hospiz, Dresden
Anxious to get the Waldidyll in our rearview mirror, we raced through breakfast and pointed the Beamer toward Seiffen, a town that lives on the manufacture and sale of Christmas decorations. From the car, we phoned for a room at Dresden's Hotel Martha Hospiz, $110.
Nearing Seiffen, it became clear we were not alone in wanting to visit the former East Germany's Christmas mecca. In fact, far from the village center, polizei diverted traffic down a side road where one paid $4 to park about a mile from town. We joined a thick stream of bundled-up pedestrians trudging along the roadside into a stiff, icy breeze. The wind pelted us with shards of ice dislodged from tree limbs above. We had all chosen to visit on the Sunday morning of the first weekend of the Seiffen Christmas Market. Streets and shops were packed. In one of several small factories we saw nutcracker soldiers being painted by hand and women carefully carving little wooden Christmas trees. Candle-arches, the principal item for sale throughout the town, were priced from a few euros to more than $8,000. A band played and dozens of booths along the meandering main street hawked Glühwein, wurst, and, of course, Christmas decorations. On a warmer day a visit to the Toy Museum and the Erzgebirge Open Air Museum would have been in order, but given the chilly wind, and the sameness of the merchandise, an hour was enough.
Martians couldn't have attracted more curious glances than we did during a quick lunch stop at a small gasthof on the road to Dresden. Deep in the former East Germany, English-speaking tourists are still a novelty.
The GPS did its stuff again and before sundown the Beamer was parked in a lot ($5 per day for hotel guests) half a block from Martha Hospiz, a comfortable, friendly, urban hotel on the north bank of the Elbe, in a neighborhood of good shops and restaurants, about a 15-minute walk from the center.
Since Martha Hospiz has no restaurant, it technically doesn't belong in this story. However, we're pairing it with a simple trattoria, about two blocks from the hotel. Initial impressions of Casa Grecolatino (Königstrasse 9, tel. +49/0351/8033123) are likely to trigger thoughts of "chain" and "pizza." For sure, it serves pizza, and certainly it is chain-like, with young, inexperienced servers, a youthful clientèle, gaudy décor, and a warren of dining rooms. But Scaloppine Limone ($13.5) and Spaghetti Carbonara ($7.8) were simply delicious, the kind of pasta dishes one hopes for but seldom finds. This is not fine dining, just good food. Salad, pasta, and dessert for two cost $32.3. Add a hotel bill of $110 and our breakfast, dinner, and hotel total was $192.
- Daily Prices: Singles $77-90, doubles $113-121
- Rating: Quality 14/20, Value 16/20
Over six days and six nights, we ate well and slept in rooms that ranged from good to excellent. The only real disappointment was the food at Waldidyll. The best overall meal was Hotel Adler in Bad Wurzach, the best dinner atmosphere at Landhaus Tanner, and, of course, I shall never forget the Zanderfilet at Säumerhof in Grafenau. The best room was at Waldidyll, but if I had to choose one of the six hotels for a weeklong stay, it would be the Landhaus Tanner. If I had to dine in one of the six restaurants every night for a week, it would be the Adler.
In addition to the six-night total of $1,193 for room, dinner, and breakfast we drove some 750 kilometers and spent about $95 on gas. Only once did we have to pay to park, and that was $5 in Dresden. Lunch for us is a light meal, so figure another $125 there. The quantity of wine and beer consumed is privileged information, but jot down another $30 per day for beverages, including tea, coffee, mineral water, and sodas. The total cost for a pleasant, unhurried, sojourn through the German countryside was about $1600. Of course, it can be done much less expensively; but remember, except for the last night in Dresden, we ate in restaurants that take themselves very seriously. And there are many hotels in these same towns where perfectly acceptable accommodations, with private bath facilities, are available in the $45 to $65 range.