German Word of the Day:
n., fem; history, story
Dresden. As I write this today, Dresden is the place I would most recommend seeing in Germany. It’s an 800 year-old city in far eastern Germany and is the capitol of the state of Saxony. I’m travelling this year through an international exchange program called Youth for Understanding, and I got to spend a week in Dresden at a seminar with 30 other American exchange students. We did all the normal sightseeing things, and also learned loads about the history and politics of Dresden and the area that used to be East Germany. One week later, Dresden is my favorite city in Germany and I would jump at the chance to visit it again. Here are my top 2 reasons why everyone, and especially every American, should visit this city.
1. Dresden is spectacularly beautiful.
Dresden sits only a few miles from Germany’s border with the Czech Republic, and both the surrounding landscape and the unique architecture of the area is stunning. It’s a city I could happily spend hours simply meandering through without a plan, and that’s not the way I usually like to travel. To me, Dresden feels like a fairy tale city. See for yourself:
2. Dresden is living history.
Dresden is more than just a beautiful city – it also has a fascinating history. I had a handful of exciting experiences there that left a big impression on me.
That last picture shows why Dresden is a city that every American tourist should visit. From my first pictures, you can see what a beautiful place it was before WWII. But in 1945, it was subjected to one of the worst bombings in the war. The entire city was destroyed and 25,000 inhabitants were killed within 3 days. The most disturbing thing about the bombing is that Dresden probably wasn’t attacked for strategic reasons. It was filled with refugees fleeing from the east, and didn’t have a large hand in the war – the Allies obliterated Dresden in order to destroy the morale of the German people. The details of the bombing are pretty horrific, and you can read the Wiki article here.
After the war, the citizens of Dresden rebuilt the city one brick at a time – literally. As you stroll through Dresden’s streets, you’ll notice that the buildings are a mix of black and white stones. The black stones are the remnants of the original buildings that were set back in place. Knowing that fact makes it seem like the very architecture in Dresden is alive – a mix of old and new, retaining the designs of the orignal Saxon kings, while showing the marks of time and tragedy that have come upon the city.
My visit to Dresden made me realize that though the Third Reich was a horror not to be lightly passed over, the history we tell about World War II is still simplistic. At least in America, we seem very comfortable labeling the good guys and bad guys in that particular war. Dresden reminds us that there really are two sides to every fight. Even in a conflict such as WWII, can anyone really be innocent?