Scared in Dresden, Germany

I love to travel by train in Germany; it’s the best way to see the beautiful countryside. I once took a train in Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof Station to go to Dresden, a city long on my bucket list, but when I arrived there everything went wrong.

My hotel faced the train tracks. My room had no curtains on the windows, no hangers in the tiny armoire, and the bed looked dirty. I asked for hangers, but only got two; when I asked for more, the lady replied with an irritated “But how many do you need?” I thanked her and decided to forget about it.

The next morning, in the sad-looking breakfast room, a few older couples stared at me when I asked for newspapers in English. “There are none,” the server bluntly replied. Then I noticed something strange about the guests: the men dressed in old-fashioned clothes, and the women had short grey hair in a style not seen in ages.

After a meager breakfast I asked the concierge to get me a taxi, to go downtown, but she suggested I walk. Downtown looked far, on my map, but I decided again not to argue. It then occurred to me that my American passport was the reason for the hostility.

I looked for another hotel, and found one not far belonging to the upscale Relais & Châteaux chain. Checking-in with a friendly concierge, who didn’t even blink when he saw my passport, I explained that I had to go back to get my luggage, and gave him the name of my hotel. He looked surprised: “That’s the hangout of East Germany’s old Communist Party officials, those still alive,” he said, smiling. Then it all made sense to me.

Back at the Commies’ hangout, a new unfriendly lady informed me that I had a two-night reservation, when I was checking out. I said that I had had an emergency, turned around, grabbed my suitcase, and rushed out to the taxi waiting for me outside. “Drive as fast as you can, please,” I asked. I couldn’t wait to get out of that scary place.

My new room overlooked a well-manicured park. While taking a shower in a newly-decorated marble bathroom, I made a decision to forget my first night, to start anew in Dresden as if I had just arrived. It was a good decision; that gorgeous city was about to knock my socks off.

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