29/05/2011 at 5:17 pm 1 comment

Insane fear grips me and from then on I repeat one simple sentence to myself continuously: “I don’t want to burn to death”. I do not know how many people I fell over. I know only one thing: that I must not burn.

– Margaret Freyer; survivor of the bombing of Dresden.

Before its almost total destruction in World War II Dresden was a European city of culture, art and science. In terms of total tonnage the bombings of Hamburg and Berlin were far worse, however, the carpet bombing of Dresden remains such a controversial topic because the city was of little or no strategic value. Modern estimates put the death toll at around 25,000 people, although the exact figure will never be known.

Today Dresden resembles two cities divided by the River Elbe. North of the river is the Neustadt (New Town) and south of the river is Altstadt (Old Town). The hostel in which Chris and I were staying was located in the New Town. It is a fairly hip and happening area of the city, with plenty of bars, restaurants, books shops and record stores selling second hand vinyl. Even though it was a weekday the area was still alive with activity, which just served to further enforce my belief that Europeans don’t have jobs and instead spend their days sat in bars drinking novelty sized beers and smoking large quantities of cigarettes. Walls and the sides of shops are covered in graffiti and yet nobody seems to mind. The graffiti is very much a part of what gives the area its character and charm. If this was in Britain the Council would have wasted large sums of taxpayers money employing a crack squad of cleaners to remove all the graffiti. Having said this the graffiti I saw in Dresden (and Berlin) is far superior to anything I have seen at home. Aside from being far more artistic it also has a political edge to it rather than simply being someone’s “tag” or crude remarks about the size and shape of someone’s genitalia.

The Altstadt (Old Town) is where most of Dresden’s interesting buildings are located and hence where most of the tourists like to hang out. Considering that the city was almost totally flattened in 1945 the Germans have done a fine job restoring the Old Town to something reminiscent of its former glory. The Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) is particularly impressive. Its reconstruction began in 1993 and took 13 year to complete. Obviously I’ve only seen photographs of the original building but I would say that they have done a fairly accurate job. Where possible, and with the aid of 3D modelling, original materials and plans were used to complete the job. For the doors of the Church the restoration teams where unsure exactly what the carvings looked like and so asked people to send in old wedding photographs that they may have.

The Church of Our Lady

The other main Church in the area is the Katholische Hofkirche (The Catholic Church of the Royal Court of Saxony). It too was badly damaged during the bombing and was restored during the 1980s when Dresden was still part of East Germany. Whilst vastly different in style to the Church of Our Lady it is still a very impressive piece of architecture.

Not far from the Church is the Fürstenzug (Procession of Princes), a 102 metre long mural depicting 35 Saxon Kings from the House of Wettin. Fortunately it received relatively little damage during World War II.

The Procession of Princes

The trip to Dresden was a fitting end to our time in Germany. It terms of its overall look it is far from being a beautiful looking city, but it does have some very striking individual buildings. Given what happened in 1945 it’s amazing that the city still exists at all. The citizens of Dresden can take great pride in the painstaking reconstruction work that has taken part in the Old Town.


Entry filed under: Germany. Tags: , , , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Geoffrey  |  31/05/2011 at 10:46 pm

    Your dad’s right re my views on European trains-they’re no better than UK.

    You deserve a slap for prattling on about Stella Artois in Brussels after all I’ve taught you about the wonderful beers of Belgium over the last few years-why didn’t you try them.

    Incidentally I was in Stockholm on business 2 days after you left for Helsinki-sorry to miss you as I would have taken you both to some really good fish restaurants.

    With your dad, Linda, and Inge on Orkney this week-missing you.


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