A side trip to Dresden

posted in: History, Travel | 0
Dresden’s main square

It’s not very far from Berlin to Prague, so when we left Berlin on Sunday morning, we made a brief visit to Dresden, which was famously incendiary-bombed by the Allies in World War II. The city suffered under GDR rule, but has been rebuilt since the reunification.

This was a walking tour, and I’ll confess the details are a bit hazy since it was a while ago – and, you know, sick. However, I remember the bit about Augustus the Strong, who built much of the resplendent architecture in the city. Dresden is a spectacularly over-the-top Baroque confection, with lots of grandiloquent flourishes, in keeping with Augustus himself, who liked to host grand balls and such. He was a bit of a lad, fathering kids by a succession of mistresses. His great ambition, though, was to be a king – in which aim he succeeded, becoming King of Poland twice. He was quite happy to convert to Catholicism to reach that pinnacle, so there are two main churches in town – the Frauenkirche, in the central square, and the nearby Catholic cathedral.

The Frauenkirche, in particular, was effectively demolished in the bombing. For years the residents prevented the authorities from removing the rubble and making it a carpark, while secretly collecting and numbering pieces for an eventual restoration. Which, of course, has happened. I think this achievement is a tribute to the tenacity of the people of Dresden. Here’s the story.

You can see the restored building in the top photo of the post, the tallest one with the dome.

By Deutsche Fotothek‎, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7937907
Part of Augustus’s palace
Beautifully decorated columns in arcadian style
And something a little more Celtic

As you can see from the photos, it was a damp and miserable day in Dresden, but we managed to avoid most of the showers by hiding indoors. As usual, the old town has cobblestones, and you can buy a sausage-in-a-bun from several stalls.

It’s a pretty town, that would have been much nicer in less inclement weather. But that’s Europe in October, I guess.

The porcelain parade of kings
A closer view

Most of the damage in the famous bombing of the city was caused by fire. Because of that, one notable survivor was the magnificent frieze of rulers, which was made of – porcelain, for which, of course, Dresden is famous.

The bombing itself has remained controversial. I’ll let you read about that yourself. In my opinion the Allies usually took care not to destroy places with little strategic value and lots of history, such as Heidelberg and the Rhine castles. War is nasty, whatever happens. Still, February, 1945 was very close to the final days of the war.

After lunch we drove on to Prague, passing along the banks of the Vltava River in the late afternoon. Tomorrow we would visit the castle.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.