Visit Dresden, Germany By Mouse
Dresden, Germany (Official Web Site), on both banks of the Elbe River, near both the Polish and Czech borders, is 120 miles south of Berlin, 70 miles southeast of Leipzig, and 98 miles northwest of Prague in the Czech Republic.
Dresden had been the target of controversial air raids by both the RAF and the US Army Airforce in which the whole city center was destroyed in a resulting fire storm. The raids were controversial because they took place only 12 weeks before Germany surrendered, and only targeted the cultural center in the old town. Dresden was both a transportation and industrial center, but these area were not in the city center and were not targeted. Some believe that the raids were meant simply to punish, and not substantially affect the city's participation in the war. After the war, and until the reunification of Germany in 1992, Dresden was controlled at first by the Soviet forces and then by the German Democratic Republic. Neither has a reputation for encouraging economic recovery and rebuilding that had to be done in that tortured city.
It was therefore quite surprising to us to see what Dresden looks like today. The old city center looked to us to be what it must have looked like when Augustus II (Augustus the Strong) lived there in 1700. The Elbe River waterfront is grandly decked out with large buildings that look like palaces, there is a large medieval looking city gate and many of the buildings within are large brownstonebaroque structures that look much older than they are. The brown stone is darker than it should be, probably as a result of the acid rain that originates in the industrial areas to the east.
Three buildings are worth mentioning, the Zwinger Palace, precursers of which have been home to royal families since the 1400's, the  Semper Opera House (seen in the photo on the right) , and the Kreuzekirche (Cross Church). All three are large brownstone baroque structures.
The Zwinger consists of several palatial structures with an attached wall enclosing a large open space.  The entrance gate through this wall is capped, appropriately in bygone eras, by a large ornate crown. by a is large structure.  Construction was started by Augustus the Strong who wanted something as grand as Versailles, into which the Sun King, Louis XIV had recently had moved his court.  We are not sure Augustus succeeded equalling the grandeur of Louis' Palace, but it is very grand, and well tended today.
The Opera House looks like it did when it was first constructed in 1841, even though it was reconstructed twice, once in 1869 when it was destroyed by fire, and again in 1985 after it was totally destroyed in the allied bombing near the end of WW II.
Kreuzekirche is a gothic structure, the oldest church in Dresden, Protestant since 1539, rebuilt many times, the last 10 years after it was destroyed in WW II.
There also are some very modern structures in the rebuilt city.  And there are very large pedestrian zones in which to walk.  On one of these we encountered a throwback to the days after the war when Dresden was a communist city: a man carrying a large communist flag holding forth to a small crowd of young people who were listening to his every word with rapt attention.  Another interestin sight, at least to us was nearby, a rolling kiosk selling both crepes and wurst.  Unfortunately we did not ask if you eat them separately or together.  Wurst wrapped in a crepe, perhaps, with a little jelly?  You can see photos of these and other wonders in Dresden on the photos page.
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