Dresden – First Impressions
Dresden was my first visit in the ex-East Germany, if you do not take into account a weekend in Berlin and its mixed history a couple of years ago. I had seen photos of course, but still was not sure what to expect. I was bowled over.
The capital of Saxony, Dresden used to be known as the Jewel Box given the baroque and rococo style of its centre, until it was heavily bombed towards the end of World War II. You would never guess how badly damaged the city was when you look around today. The buildings have been beautifully reconstructed and gave Dresden its old prestige back. Since the reunification, the city also plays again an important role in Germany.
One of the many facets of the town I found interesting was the contrast between the old part and its stylish edifices and the Communist-era apartment buildings, square, grey and depressing-looking. Crossing the Augustus Bridge over the Elbe, it was like arriving in a completely different place. Uncanny.
We arrived on a sunny late afternoon Saturday and after checking into our hotel next to the Kreuzkirche, we had a wander around before dinner. We came across the magnificent Zwinger Palace, an assemblage of galleries and pavilions, one of the many city landmarks commissioned by Augustus the Strong, elector of Saxony who also became King of Poland. It was too late to visit the inside of the Zwinger, so was found a table on a café terrace just opposite it, allowing us to admire many of the details.
As I turned around, I spotted a sign on top of a building: Dresden grüßt seine Gäste. How nice to be greeted by the city you are visiting!