Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Dresden - 20th Century Baroque

"Canaletto"-View of Dresden
I took my first night train to explore Dresden over the weekend. As my family and I strolled along the Elbe River, we admired the baroque skyline of Dresden in the first rays of daylight. 

The beautiful baroque-style buildings were cast into breath-taking relief as the glass dome of the Academy for Visual Arts and the impressive Frauenkirche reached into the sky. However, not all buildings are actually as old as their architecture suggests. A bombing by the Allied Forces in March 1945 destroyed great parts of Dresden, killing 35.000 people in a matter of hours. For days the city was on fire, firestorms of up to 1000°C razing through the streets. Rebuilding efforts after the war were slow as people were undecided on whether to restore the former baroque character of the city or to replace the ruins with modern buildings. Thankfully, the preservation committee won out and the baroque monuments were rebuilt or renovated.

Consequently, Dresden boasts such architectural jewels as the Augustus Bridge, the Frauenkirche, the Taschenbergpalais, the Semper Opera House and the Residenzschloss. Each of these buildings holds its own unique history reminding visitors of Dresden’s glory times under Friedrich August I (1694-1733), Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, instead of the horrors of World War II. Nevertheless, the fire of 1945 will never be forgotten. 

Baroque Skyline at Sunset
Being a bit of a history geek, old cities make my writer heart beat faster as I can catch a glimpse of times long past while walking the twisted streets. Dresden let me spy on former mistresses traversing the baroque bridge connecting the Residenzpalast and the Taschenberg Palais. I heard the distant echo of horse shoes upon the cobbled Theaterplatz. Mingling with tourists, the spectres of powdered, wig-adorned aristocrats in extravagant evening frocks alighted from transparent carriages to attend an evening at the Semper Opera House. Street rats and pickpockets rushed through the blended crowd of modern travellers and the upper crust of 18th century society looking for the coins to pay their evening meal. 

Old cities are a blending of worlds, imagination, atmosphere and reality coalescing to conjure a fascinating illusion of now and then. Dresden blurs the lines, invoking the glory days of Friedrich August I. History glints off the baroque buildings rebuilt in the 20th century.

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