Dresden: Reconstructed Baroque Splendor

I just spent yesterday in the city of Dresden, once one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. It lost that title in a controversial air raid during the second World War. The city’s ornate Baroque center was bombed, theoretically to shut down the train station. However, the entire center of the city was destroyed while the train station was only shut down for 2 days. After the GDR was created, Dresden was rather firmly in their territory and they had no interest in reconstructing the incredibly ornate courtyards, palaces and official buildings that had made up the center. The ruins were covered with the growth of invasive plants and in some cases, roses, when at the time of reunification twenty years ago the city made a goal of reconstructing what was once the pride of Dresden. Today all of the important sites are open to visitors, although reconstruction is still ongoing at some parts of the site. As an American who was only two when Germany became one country again, if that, it is so hard for me to think that in my lifetime, this was two countries. It is comfortable to assume that the world has always held the shape it was when I was around 10 and started noticing these things.

As it was a Monday, the art museum was closed, but treasury vaults of Residenzschloss were open. Also, I had primarily come to Dresden to walk through the city center and just take in the feel of it. I took the tram from my hostel in the Neustadt to the Altstadt where all the old/reconstructed pretties are and was very quickly presented with a gorgeous church, the Frauenkirche. It was entirely destroyed in the air raid and only rebuilt a few years ago. The facade contains a smattering of bricks from the old construction, the blackened ones reminding the viewer of the history of the church and of Dresden. The inside is a beautiful confection of cream, green and pink with round, graceful lines. I quite enjoyed the sanctuary. In the undercroft it is bare stone, with a gorgeous black stone altar at the center with a cross hanging over it that is carved from a square and looks a bit more like a star than a cross. The side chapels are simple bare stone with a rough stone sculpture to contemplate. I really enjoyed the undercroft and I wish that more people had at least respected the silence that the signs requested.

From there I wandered to the Residenzschloss, what was once the home of Electors of Saxony and eventually an empire. This was quite destroyed in the war, but much of it has been reconstructed beautifully, especially the Green Vault which had a splendor to equal the Czars of Russia. So many beautiful objects and most of them with no purpose except to look beautiful. Both the New Green Vault and the Green Vault are full of amazing objects made so cunningly that it is amazing to listen to the audioguides and realize that a very large chunk of it is the work of the workshop of one man, the favorite of Augustus the Strong who swelled the collection as no one else did. I really liked an ivory carved ship that was once a music box as well as the ivory balls carved inside each other. It is always fun to walk through reconstructed rooms and just take in everything. It is hard to imagine real people having the wealth to make, own or live in rooms such as these.

 


After that I was a bit tired and I walked to the nearby Zwinger, a massive Baroque courtyard that was simply impressive. It was a great place to read and rest my eyes from the splendor of the treasury. From there I walked along a walkway along the river as the sun was starting to set. Finally, as German food is not proving to my liking, I had tapas…what can I say, it was tasty. 

 

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