Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Day 4 - Dresden, Germany


This morning we loaded our suitcases onto the bus and began our two and a half hour drive to the town of Dresden. Last year was the first year we had stopped in Dresden, as in prior years we had traveled by train from Berlin to Prague, and we loved the city and decided to make this a regular visit. As we entered the city, Olaf told us that Dresden, which means “the people living next to the forest”, was a traditional medieval city, first mentioned in 1206, and was the capital of the principality of Saxonia, now the state of Saxony. Dresden has a population of about 500,000 and is famous for its Christmas market, the historic young men’s choir, Cross Choir, dating back to 1300, and is the city where the first European porcelain was manufactured.

We learned that in February 1945, shortly before the end of the war, the Allies (Britain and the United States) bombed Dresden reducing almost everything in the city to rubble. Why did the Allies decide to do this so late in the war when it was already apparent that Germany was eventually going to lose the war? Partly in retaliation for the German bombing of the British city of Coventry, we were told, but also, as Shalmi would later tell us, to break the German spirit, inasmuch as the city was so symbolic to the Germans. Most Dresden residents, Olaf would tell us, felt that this was an unnecessary measure of war and was purely an act of revenge. After the war, the city of Dresden was rebuilt as closely as possible to what had existed before the bombing, including the historic buildings. In the square, Olaf showed us a picture of a portion of the city of Dresden, showing almost total destruction.

We had learned from Olaf that Germany now has 16 states, but Shalmi said that in order to form the German nation, in the 19th century, it necessitated the unification of more than 400 ‘units’, such as Saxony (Dresden), Prussia (Berlin), and Bavaria (Munich). One of the main forces for unification of these units: there was one culture. As he said, culture cemented people before politics. Saxony became so important in the 17th and 18th centuries because it epitomized the Age of Baroque. The Baroque style of architecture was characterized by lots of ‘movement’ – many angles and decorations, but nothing really symmetrical. The baroque style was quite ‘busy’ he said. It was highly decorated both inside and outside because it was also one of the first architectural styles that used plaster and not stone so that it could be decorated. The Palace of Versailles in France became the standard against which all other buildings of this period were measured.




It had been raining throughout most of our drive from Berlin, but the rain let up enough for us to walk through large square where we could view the Catholic Church of the Cross and the National Opera House as well as the beautiful Lutheran church and statue of Martin Luther. In this new nationalism of the 18th century, we were told, museums, theatre and opera, became institutions that expressed culture so that every country needed to have a national symphony or a national museum - by which the cultural identity could be expressed. We walked along the Elbe River lined with its day excursion boats moored at the sides, until the rain decided to start up again so we headed to lunch.


We ate lunch in a charming medieval-style restaurant, where we were joined by our Prague guide, Kamila who would be talking over for Olaf as we continued our journey. Following a brief stop for those who wished to purchase a souvenir of Germany or the town of Dresden we headed to our new bus. During our time in Dresden, Bettina, our Berlin driver and Milan, our Czech bus driver, had met and transferred all our luggage and personal belongings onto the new bus. We made a brief stop at the train station where we said goodbye to Olaf, our Berlin/Dresden guide and to Jeff, our security guard, and then headed south to Prague.

As we drove into Prague, the sun came out and the rain stopped. We checked into our hotel, located in the center of the city, and then headed off to dinner at the Hotel U Prince, located in the Market Square.

12 comments:

  1. It was very sad that the town of Dresden was destroyed i hope this never happen again anywhere else in the world.

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  3. I bet that it took years to rebuild Dresden.

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  4. It was very surprising that the Allies would bomb Dresden. I hope that something as tragic as this will never happen again.

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  5. It is very sad that Dresden got destroyed and I
    hope it never gets destroyed ever again. Also, I can't wait for the next post.

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  6. How exciting to see the city of Slaughterhouse 5! We look forward to hearing your comparison of the real life city and your English reading :)

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  7. Were there many Jewish families living in Dresden at the beginning of the war, or was it mostly a Christian city?

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  8. It's pretty cool that theres a mlk statue in the natniolism musem.

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  9. Its surprising how the cemetery are still there and how good they taking care of them.

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  10. For the juniors on the trip, it is a very relevant time to go to Dresden because we just finished reading "Slaughterhous 5", which describes the fire bombing of Dresden in order to satirize the destruction of war. It is so terrible that such a hearth of German art and culture be destroyed unnecessarily at the end of the war when it was known Germany would already surrender. It seems like a great experience to be able to see an important place where so much destruction took place and recognize its occurrence. Also, I love seeing all of the pictures of the students and beautiful cities!

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  11. These are such gorgeous pictures! I remember reading about Dresden in Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut. In the story, however, it had been bombed. IT is nice to see it now with its beautiful architecture.

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  12. Nice post! I remember reading Slaughterhouse 5 as well and all the images shown above (as a result of the fire bombing) are exactly how it is described in the book. The fact that the city of Dresden was fire bombed after the war shocks me because the Allies were taking part in revenge and crushing the spirits of the people of Germany.

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