I’d seen film and photos of the destruction of the city, but until I went there, I had no idea of the extend. Before the War, Dresden was known as one of Europe’s most beautiful and cultured cities. Home of the Saxon kings with its Baroque buildings, unique monuments, churches and elegant houses. The Nazi’s believed Dresden would be immune to bombing because it was a cultural landmark and had no military significance. However, it was a major rail transport hub and housed many factories.
During 13-15 February 1945 the British and the Americans dropped more than 3,900 tons of high explosive bombs on the city of Dresden. This was in reprisal for the Luftwaffe’s destruction of the British city of Coventry. It’s been estimated that around 25,000 people were killed in those two days.
I bought a postcard taken immediately after the bombing. A statue of an angel stands on top of a tower with his hand outstretched. He seems to be saying. “Why?”
Dresden became part of the German Democratic Republic until reunification in 1990. I’d read about a Cold War museum on TripAdvisor called ‘The World of the DDR.’ It didn’t get great reviews but I decided to hop on a tram and visit it.
This was a great decision. Rooms were exhibited in the period of the 70’s and 80’s. Every four years new furniture was designed and citizens could purchase it. The downside was all your friends and neighbours would have exactly the same furniture. No choices in the DDR!
Surprising for a Sunday afternoon the museum was packed with people around my age. Probably anOstalgia trip down memory lane for people who lived in the old DDR during that period.There was a lot of laughing as visitors pointed at the exhibits. Trabants and Warburgs had men peering into the windows and wanting to drive one again.
Next day, an early start and off to the Dresden Palace. On my way I past the Princes Procession. It’s the largest mural in the world, made of Meissen tiles and features 35 portraits of the princes on horseback who ruled the House of Wettin (Kings of Saxony) over 800 years. The detail on them is incredible and I walked down the street and videoed it.
The Palace is a huge and impressive building which is currently being restored. Dresden like Berlin appears to be in the middle of a huge construction boom. There is a complicated ticket system, and offers over 13 types of admission! It took me about ten minutes to work out what I wanted to see. I decided on the general admission for 12 Euros. You can view two additional vaults stuffed with treasure if you have the time and money. The Kings loved collecting and amassing treasure. I saw incredible rubies, diamonds, emeralds set into clocks and decorative objects. A little too much ivory for my taste. The highlight of my visit was a replica in gold of an Indian Maharajah’s court. It took the craftsman and his brother five years to create it and it wasn’t a commissioned piece. The brothers hoped the King would like it and pay them. He did and paid top dollar for it.
This collection is Europe’s treasure trove, and I’d never heard of it until I researched Dresden.
I asked an attendant what happened to the collection during WWII. He answered somewhat reluctantly. Germans, I’ve found don’t like to talk about the past. Everything from 1990 is ok, but ask their views on anything which happened before this, they don’t like it. According to the attendant, Nazi’s hid the treasure underground at Konigsberg castle. Some of the jewels and figures are missing from the items. Apparently only a fraction of the treasure was found by the Soviets, which begs the question what happened to the rest? Who took them? Did they pay for a Nazi’s General new life in South America? Did the Soviets repatriate it? What a great premise for a story!
Walking through the Old Town towards Prager Strasse I came across a Cold War mural perfectly preserved on the side of the Palace of Culture. A woman is wrapped in a red flag with her fist raised, while other figures are engaged in working, defending the country, greeting other comrades or hugging children.
Having a spare couple of hours, I thought about resting in the hotel with a book or a visit to the Old Master Gallery. The gallery won out. Among the Renaissance works, I found a series of paintings of Canaletto’s which depict Dresden in the late 17th century. Worth seeing because visitors can take photos.
I took the train back to Berlin,which I’m enjoying apart from the cold. I went to the toilet and there were two buttons on the wall. Guess what? Yep, I set off the panic alarm. Rather embarrassing when the guard rushed to my assistance, as I sheepishly returned to my seat I tried to avoid the looks of horror and amazement from my fellow travellers.
Yesterday I went to see ‘Murder on the Orient Express’in English. The critics don’t like it and I can see why. It has a stellar cast. A great closed setting, with snow and an avalanche but the movie doesn’thave pace. As for Kenneth Branagh, well, directing and taking the lead role probably wasn’t one of his smartest career moves. Save your money, and stick with the book or the original 1974 movie.
Today I went to the eye specialist and she gave me the all clear. This is a huge relief, as I don’t need another operation.