The Phoenix of Germany
Dresden, the capital of Saxony and known as "Florence on the Elbe," was during the first half of the 20th century a leading European center for art, classical music, culture and science. And then, the bombs rained down on February 13, 1945 resulting in the complete destruction of Dresden. This moment in history is both controversial and criminal – as thousands of people perished as well as this city of artistic splendor.
Dresden could be a monument to tragedy, courage and triumph, as it has been lovingly resurrected from the ashes of war. A UNESCO World Heritage Site for five years, its status was revoked after the construction of a highway bridge across the Elbe Valley. This is only the second time the committee has rescinded this honor. Dresden, it seems, is more compelled to build toward the future than hold onto its woeful history. And to that we say, "Prost!"
The city has meticulously been rebuilding since the end of World War II. The Dresden Frauenkirche, a Lutheran Church built in the 18th century, is one of the comeback kinder. Reconstructed as a landmark symbol of reconciliation between former sparring enemies, the façade was completed in 2004, the interior in 2005. After 13 years of rebuilding, the church was reconsecrated on the Protestant observance of Reformation Day.
The exceptional Royal Palace of Dresden was built around 1200, and extended during the 15th and 16th centuries before a fire in 1701 destroyed much of the structure and was rebuilt in the Baroque style. Until that fateful day in 1945 turned the castle into a roofless shell. Many of the artistic collections were saved, having been moved to the Konigstein Fortress in the early days of the war (another must see in Dresden.) During the 1960s, reconstruction began on the Palace, and finally, in 2005, the famous Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault) was reopened. Containing some of Europe's finest treasures and priceless items, including a 648-carat sapphire, a gift from Czar Peter I of Russia. The rebuilding of the castle is not yet complete – but knowing the resolve of those in Dresden – it will be.
Dresden has two rail stations: The Bahnhof Neustadt and Hauptbahnhof, which was another faithful exterior renovation. Inside the station you'll find modern conveniences whether arriving from Berlin (a little over two hours to the North) or Prague (a little over two hours South.) The porcelain center of Meissen can be reached in just 45 minutes. Travel to the music city of Leipzig in a little over an hour and hear Bach sung by the world famous Thomanerchor, a boys choir founded in 1212. See it all with a German Rail Pass.
Thankfully, residents preferred to rebuild the architectural glories of their city, rather than raze and replace with grandiose, soulless, Socialist-era edifices. From the ashes, the capital of Saxony has slowly, slowly started to rise.
Contributed by: Eric, Specialty Desk Agent, loves to frequent European events on visits with family in wonderful Kassel and Dortmund.