Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dresden, Germany

Dresden is Germany's 14th largest city. It's the capital city of the Free State of Saxony. The city is on the Elbe River, near the Czech border. Dresden is 200 km (124 miles) south of Berlin and west of Wrocław, and 150 km (93 miles) north of Prague.

Dresden became a city in 1206 and in 2006 it celebrated its 800th anniversary. In the 18th century it was called the "Florence of the north" when it was an artistic center. During the 20th century it was a leading center for art, classical music, culture and science until it was destroyed in 1945.

Today Dresden is one of Europe's greenest cities. Over 60% of the city is filled with green zones and forests.

Over 90% of the city center was destroyed during WWII. On February 13 - 14, 1945, the city was bombed twice by the Royal Air Force and once by the U.S. Army Air Corps. To this day, it is still one of the most controversial Allied actions of the war. 1,300 bombers dropped over 3,900 tons of high explosives and incendiary devices causing a firestorm that destroyed 39 sq km (15 sq miles) of the city center. Dresden was bombed 12 weeks before the end of the war. The city had become a haven to over a half-million refugees and was not a high value military target. Some people think that the attacks were revenge on Germany for the Luftwaffe's bombing of London. Others think it was more of a warning to intimidate the Soviet Red Army that would arrive in Dresden within a few days.

There has been lots of restoration work and now the historic city center is quite impressive. There's a good deal to see here. Unfortunately, we only planned a couple of hours for Dresden but you can be sure that I'll be back once it warms up.

The Zwinger Palace is the town's most famous landmark. The Baroque complex of pavilions and galleries was built between 1710 - 1732.

The Semperoper is home to the Saxon State Opera. The original opera was completed in 1841. The opera wasn't rebuilt until February 1985.

The Katholische Hofkirche (Church of the Court) was built to counter the Protestant Frauenkirche. The Baroque church was built between 1738 - 1751. Reconstruction began in 1979 and in 1980 it became a cathedral.

The Frauenkirche (Church of our Lady) was originally built in 1733. For almost 50 years, the church was nothing more than a pile of rubble. I know that resources were sometimes scares in the days of communism. But damn!! It seems like it took forever to rebuilt this town. The new church was finally consecrated in 2005.

The Dresden Elbe Valley was a UNESCO World Heritage Site for five years. In 2009, it was removed from the list due to construction of the Waldschlößchenbrücke highway bridge across the valley within 2 km (1.25 miles) of the historic city center. This was the first location in Europe ever to lose its status and only the second ever in the world to be de-listed.

In East Berlin they have Ampelmännchen, the little traffic light men. In January 2005, Dresden installed the first of ten Ampelfrauen traffic signals.

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