When we started planning our Dresden excursion, I did what I always do: I sat down and researched. I got on blogs and Pinterest, read all about the history of the city, the main attractions, the smaller attractions and then cool places in that part of Germany that we can quickly hit as bonus stops.
There were two:
Kromlau (or the Devil’s) Bridge: All you have to do is a quick image search to see why this is such a cool spot to quickly run up north to see, which is why I was really bummed when, thanks to getting sick and starting out late our first day, we did not have the time to go. Thanks to a post soon after we arrived home, however, it turned out that this was for the best.
Based on research, it turns out that the lake has been drained or at least mostly empty with some algae overgrowth for over a year. There’s also a fence around the lake and what was described as construction going on, maybe reinforcing the bridge. Of course, this is all hearsay since we didn’t get there, however, it’s not the beautiful area I was expecting so I am not too bummed we missed it.
Leaving Dresden on Monday relatively early – since we knew that things weren’t going to open soon enough for us to do anything – we headed down to the Saalfeld Fairy Grotto.
I will be honest, this time I did not do my due diligence or was far, far too sleepy when doing my research to fully understand what I was looking at. Therefore, this is the Warning:
This is definitely a place to come if you have children. It is silly to come and pay this money if you do not have children. That’s the warning!
Alright, then. Let’s move on.
So what made me confused? These are old mining caves that have a fanciful fairy legend which on the surface is pretty cool – I’ve don’t trips to other cave exploration and actually just booked another in Slovenia, but none ever looked like this. You can rent out specific caves for weddings and other events which also made the cave system seem grander than what Ry and I experienced. Finally, the pictures did not show what this almost themed park/playground really is: a network of children-themed play areas and activities which are centered around the miners’ fairy legend.
Again, I said I researched and the posts that talk about amazing Fairytale places to visit had these caves listed as an amazing, not- to-be-missed wonder, and they are a wonder. But dressed up as this location is, the caves are lovely but that’s all we got out of it.
The tour was fairly crowded even in winter so keeping up with the tour and still seeing things at their best (without all the flashes from cameraphones) was a real challenge. Then of course, not being a native speaker, we were left with audio guides that gave you great information but none of the character we could see our guide definitely had.
If you have kids, one of the very cute things you get to experience is seeing them dressed up. you are all given capes which will keep residue from the cave walls off you but the kids get a little more cutesy costumes to look life storybook gnomes. The kids are also the center of the tour; they were the volunteers; they opened boxes; they were front and center at all times.
But onto practical matters: When talking about clothes, remember these are caves and you are underground, so dress warmly even if you don’t think it will be necessary. The cloaks I said everyone is given as a costume help a little but not as much as you will want if you aren’t properly outfitted – remember these are damp mining caves!
Remember how I said the audio guide had no character? well, it’s true. Audio guides can’t handle jokes because they are just prescripted guides who aren’t doing this day in and day out, but it doesn’t make it any easier when you can tell you have a really interesting and enthusiastic guide. However, this doesn’t mean we didn’t find a silly bit of humor with our English audio guide – even if it was completely unintentional:
In the actual Fairy Cave, the tour stops to take in a light show. We were unfortunately blocked by a lot of tall people, however, the best part was when the guide narrated that the light show would be set to classical German music or music created just for this show in order to give us the proper ambiance for the wonder that is the Fairy Cave. Instead, we got to listen to music straight off The Lord of the Rings instrumental soundtrack, followed by The Sound of Silence by Disturbed….
Yes, very, very German.
Now, if you do have kids and want a stop that will let them get out and play, summer is going to be the best time to come. In the colder months, a lot of the park is closed due to the cold weather. But remember in the warmer months you should still dress appropriately for the caves while also staying prepared for small hikes, fairy themed scavenger hunts and playgrounds – good shoes and layers are key.
As a plus, the adults can definitely enjoy lunch at the restaurant – which felt oddly elegant for the location but with a menu full of troll and fairy themed and named dishes, is really suitable for all ages – but make a reservation! We watched many people who didn’t come in and get turned away because most of the tables were already reserved. if this is an issue, there is also a basic food cart out front which smelled delicious.
This is Leave on the Wind, Warning you off and helping you soar.