. . . and Maritim Dresden the place to stay and meetDresden has become a symbol throughout the world of the horrors inflicted by war. It was the target for two days of carpet bombing in February 1945 and so a first-time visitor might expect to see a very modern rebuilt city.
Astonishingly, a stroll round its spacious squares and a marvelling at vista after vista of baroque palaces and churches gives the impression that it has been totally and lovingly preserved, unharmed, over the centuries.
A local guide can point out tell-tale clues of what the city was like immediately post-war. Some of the stone blocks in the facades are slightly darker, resulting from the smoke of the fires. In one of the most impressive churches, the 18thC Frauenkirche, the cross that originally perched on the highest pinnacle is now a twisted relic inside the building, whilst the shiny new golden cross that has taken its place is a gift from Great Britain as a token of reconciliation. Although boasting an incredibly ornate baroque altar, it has always been a Lutheran place of worship.
Dresden is the main city in the ‘Land’ of Saxony and for centuries was an independent principality. Its succession of rulers, all from the Wettin royal family over a period of 800 years, were intent on leaving their mark by adding to the splendid palaces and churches and memorials that can still inspire today. Their family tree is brilliantly illustrated in the world’s largest mural, the whole length of a street, made in 1876 entirely from 24,000 tiles of Meissen Porcelain (Dresden China). Each of the princes, with his family and retinue, is depicted larger than life on foot, on horseback or in a carriage.
One of the most photographed palaces (now a hotel) was actually designed and built to house a Prince’s mistress. Augustus the Strong – most famous for the number of children he sired – gave in to Countess Anna Constantia von Cosel, who agreed to be his mistress on condition that he provided her with the palace and promised to marry her in the event of his becoming a widower.
Again, it was almost impossible to believe our guide when she said that weeds and even trees were growing in its bombed-out shell right up to the 1990s.
Either strolling around privately or guided as a group, delegates will have no problem enjoying what Dresden has to offer. On the one hand its art gallery has some of the finest and most valuable Renaissance works. On the other, the city offers genuine German cuisine in restaurants full of character.
The Old Masters art gallery (Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister) displays original works by Dürer, Canaletto and Raphael.
In contrast, delegates would also enjoy a tour of the Volkswagen factory in Dresden. It is known as the Transparent Factory as it is built mostly of glass. The VW Phaetons are built to order on a moving floor, each one to the exact specifications of a specific customer who has chosen the fabric, the colour of the car and the upholstery and hundreds of other optional extras. Hard to believe, but the cable of a single car if laid out in a line would stretch 3.5 km. The noise level in the factory is 60db – about the same as in a school classroom.
Maritim’s conference hotel in Dresden
Within easy walking distance of the old city and located alongside the River Elbe, Maritim offers one of the most comprehensive venues in Germany.
We were puzzled at one point when the hotel seemed first full of people, then quiet, then busy again – until it was explained that the building is a restored 1913 storehouse, which is now a monument that welcomes large groups of visitors who enjoy sightseeing combined with a dine-around inside the property.
Pictures of the condition of the building before Maritim took it over – after more than 40 years lying derelict – is another illustration of how Dresden has not only renewed itself but soared to new prosperity.
The Maritim Hotel Dresden has 328 rooms, including 31 suites of varying sizes. The largest of these, the Presidential, 176sqm, was able comfortably to accommodate the whole of our group for a memorable farewell dinner.
The hotel has a remarkable rectangular atrium with panoramic glass lifts. One end serves as a mirror, 10 storeys tall, giving a phenomenal sense of spaciousness, Its Wintergarten Restaurant has a terrace overlooking the river and a lively piano bar that is difficult to tear oneself away from as the evening feeling of well-being sets in.
There is a 1,400sqm Fitness & Wellbeing Centre with a very appealing indoor swimming pool, sauna, Turkish bath and massage rooms.
Within the hotel nine suites can serve as meeting spaces for up to 10 people. However, very large events are accommodated at the conference centre on the same site.
Dresden’s conference centre
The Dresden International Congress Centre is alongside the hotel and, of course, managed by Maritim. It is modern, purpose-built and spacious. There are six large halls that can be used as one to seat up to 3,500 in a plenary session.
There are, in addition, eight meeting rooms and seven further break-out rooms, bringing the total capacity of the centre to 6,500. An impressive terrace overlooking the River Elbe can be used as an outdoor space for all kinds of breaks and events.
Maritim Hotels is one of Germany’s leading hotel chains and the largest privately owned operator of conference facilities. It operates 37 hotels across Germany, in all major cities, and boasts 14 properties worldwide in Mauritius, Egypt, Spain, Turkey, Latvia, Malta and China.
In the Maritim Hotel Dresden room rates start from 114 Euros in a classic-single room, 148 Euros in a classic-double room; Day Delegate Rates start from 49 Euros, whilst 24-hour rates start from 87 Euros.
For further information and bookings visit www.maritim.com or call the UK Sales Office on 020-8545 69 10.