Sunday, September 4, 2011

How the Other Half Lives - East Germany 2011: Dresden

In 2004 when I studied abroad in Germany I was living mostly in the town of Weimar in the former East Germany, or the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR). Since we were in the eastern part of the country anyways we took several long weekend trips to major cities in eastern Germany such as Erfurt, Dresden and Berlin. Since living in Germany we hadn't taken any return visits to these places and Marisa had never seen them. I had a lot of fond memories from my time there and when my mom came to visit us in August we had a good excuse to go and see them.

My mom, Melonie, was making her first trip to Europe and had actually studied some German back in the day so she was eager to see some of the places that she had heard about in school. We spent a crash course day touring Frankfurt, then took a relaxing day on a Rhein river cruise complete with a visit to Rudesheim, then took a long train to Dresden for a couple of days before ending our trip with a few days in Berlin. Sure, it was ambitious; but we pulled it off in style and had a great time. This post features a few pictures from Frankfurt and the Rhein cruise with an emphasis on our stay in Dresden.

My mom, Melonie, and I on our Rhein river cruise. This is an awesome thing to do in West Germany because it's relaxing and the views are spectacular with all of the castles (literally every few kilometers) and vineyards that line both sides of the river.

Dresden is the beautiful capital of Saxony and sits on the Elbe River near the border with the Czech Republic. It is easily distinguished by its blackened stone buildings which are made from locally quarried sandstone. The black color comes from a natural chemical reaction with the surrounding air (oxidation), making it appear to be older and burnt. It was arguably the most demolished city in Germany during WWII meaning everything was reconstructed fairly recently. In many cases, such as the Frauenkirche, the buildings were left in rubble and not reconstructed until after reunification in the early 1990's.

Dresden on the Elbe River with a view of the Augustus Bridge and the Frauenkirche in the background.

View of the Royal Palace, Dresden.

Frauenkirche or "Church of Our Lady" as I would loosely translate. This is amazing because 20 years ago it was nothing but a pile of rubble.........literally. It collapsed due to Allied bombing on February 13th 1945 and wasn't rebuilt during the good ol' days of the DDR. It wasn't until the early 1990's that a few citizens pooled together and committed to the rebuilding of the church to the exact specifications as before and using original stonework whenever possible. This is why there is a checkerboard appearance to the outer walls which include older sandstone that is blackened by oxidation, and the newer white sandstone that will eventually reach the same hue.

Frauenkirche - Restoration completed in 2005........60 years after its destruction!

die Fuerstenzug or "Procession of Princes" is a huge wall of Meissner porcelain tile that depicts the princes of Saxony from 1127 up until 1904. It's awesome to see the change in style over the centuries and the detail simply must be seen in person.

Close-up of the Fuerstenzug.

die Semper Oper - Dresden's opera house. It's probably the most famous opera in Germany and when I studied abroad I was able to see a ballet version of Don Quixote there. Pretty rockin' windmill scene if I remember correctly.

Marisa and mom in the Zwinger Courtyard, which is an old palace that was built between 1710-1728 simply to compete with Louis XIV's Versailles. The inauguration was on the occasion of the wedding between Frederick August's marriage to Maria Josepha, which united Saxony with the Habsburgs. Today it houses a few collections of weapons and armor, scientific instruments, and porcelain.

Dresden palace of some sort.

The highlight of the palace was this tough-looking joker and his partner that guarded the passageway into the old city.

The Elbe has flooded Dresden on numerous occasions, the most recent being in 2002 and 2006. To have an idea of the extent of the flooding look no further than under the Augustus Bridge at the water line that cleaned off the older sandstone.

We took a gander in the modern art museum which had an interesting sculpture collection including this guy which was one of the "Three Bersekers". Now there's a word that doesn't get used enough.

While the Elbe does flood from time to time, there haven't been any reports of tsunamis - just this one on the Augustus Bridge.

Dresden was great for a couple of days and just as lovely as I remembered it. We headed north from there to visit Berlin to round off our trip.

--Justin

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