Some Places We Visited in Germany That Are
Associated With Important Historical Events
(we also include Prague in the Czech Republic here)
Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle in English) the first German city liberated by Allied forces in WW II, home of Charlemagne, King of the Franks
and crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III in 800. Charlemagne is buried in the church he built there, and which part of the Aachen
Cathedral. His conquests are credited with providing western Europe with a unifying identity and his reign is associated with the
so-called Carolingian Renaissance, a rebirth of art and culture under Catholicism.
Cologne, always a vibrant commercial center since before Roman times, was the target of the first so-called millenium air raid in
WW II, in which more than 1000 British bombers left 59,000 people homeless and the city a pile of rubble. It is now a newly rebuilt
modern city in which its history is largely contained only within many museums. Of course there is also its magnificent cathedral
in which there is a reliquary purportedly containing the bones of the Three Magi.
Frankfurt-on-Main's history is similar to Cologne's. It, too is ancient, named for the ford (furt) over the river Main used by the
Franks. And it also was destroyed by Allied bombing in WW II and rebuilt after the war. Another of Frankfurt's claims to important
history is that it was the seat of the first German democratically elected parliament in 1848. This experiment in democracy was short-lived,
however. Its task was to write the first German Democratic Constitution, but the kings of Prussia and Austria objected and sent troops
in 1849 to end the parliament by force of arms.
Mainz, on the Rhine River, is very close to Frankfurt, and shares with it and with Cologne most of their ancient history from pre-Roman
times as well as their WWII experiences. But a very important additional claim to historical importance is that this is the city where
Johannes Gutenburg developed the western world's first moveable type printing press. You can see a replica of this press and several
Bibles printed on the original in the Gutenburg Museum there.
Berlin. Of course, Berlin, the capitol of Germany, and before that the capitol of the Kingdom of Prussia, of the German Empire, or
the Weimar Republic and infamously, of the Third Reich. Although severly damaged in WWII, the city is full of historically important
locations, like the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, the Holocaust Memorial, the Reichstag, and the headquarters of the former
German Democratic Republic.
Leipzig, in the former East German zone, is the location of St. Thomas church where the composer Johann Sebastian Bach worked and
composed for many years. It is also the location of Auerbach's cellar, made famous in Goethe's opera "Faust. And it is where the first
protests against the government of the German Democratic Republic led to the destruction of the Berlin Wall and the reunification
Dresden, like Leipzig is in what was Eastern Germany after the war. Formerly it was the seat of government of the Kings and Electors
of Saxony, most notably, in the 17th century, of Augustus the Strong. He brought artists and architects to the city to build what
he wanted to be a court as fine as the French Versailles. This became the glorious baroque center of Dresden and stayed that way until
World War II when it met the fate of other German cities in a controversial bombing raid (only this center was targeted, while the
industrial part of Dresden was spared completely). But this was rebuilt after the war in all its pre-war glory, complete with the
Zwinger Palace, and the Semper Opera House, and the Church of the Cross, the oldest in Dresden and Protestant since 1539.
Munich. This city is the capitol of in the Bavarian region in the south of Germany. Its history includes abrupt swings between extreme
left and extreme right wing political forces and between Catholicism and Protestantism. The swings in religion started as Catholic
in the middle ages, then Protestant in the reformation, and in the 15th century, Munich was a center of the counter-reformation. The
political swings started in the early 20th century when the social unrest after WW I forced the temporary end to the Weimar Republic
which was replaced Bavarian Soviet Republic. But this was overthrown in 1919 and replaced by the Republic once again. The period following
saw the rise of the National Socialists under Adolf Hitler who attempted unsuccessfully to take power in the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923.
Success came in 1933 when the Nazi's took power over all of Germany. Nazi control of the city lasted until the end of WW II. One of
the most infamous concentration camps, Dachau, is situated just to the north.
Prague, Czech Republic. Prague is historically important in many ways, but for us, its role in classical music is central. Mozart
lived and worked here, and his opera Don Giovanni debuted in Prague. Later Prague was where Bedrich Smetena studied music. There is
a museum devoted to his life and works on the banks of the Vlatava River, a.k.a. the Moldau. Antonin Dvorak is also associated with
Prague. He worked as an organist in St. Adalbert church and as a violist in an orchestra conducted by Smetena.