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Saturday, 26 April 2008

Dresden resurrected

It's just a week since I got back from 8 packed days in Dresden.

Why Dresden? you ask.

Well, in 1889 my grandmother visited Dresden with her parents and brothers and sisters and stayed there for a year. She wrote an account of their time there which is interesting, but even more interesting is the diary that her younger sister kept.

Grace was 14 when they arrived, and wrote well. I have her little leather-bound notebook. The leather has begun to fall to pieces, but the pages are all there, and her writing is easily readable - except when she tried to squeeze too much into too small a space.

So, when I planned a Spring break, it seemed a good idea to try to follow some of Grace's footsteps.

It was a good week. It included the Meissen porcelain factory - in fact the town of Meissen is even more attractive than the porcelain. Beautiful!

Then there was Koenigstein, a fortress perched on a naturally precipitous rock in what they call Saxon Switzerland. Napoleon was invited there, but I doubt if he could have got inside without an invitation. The most strongly fortified place I've yet seen. There is a garrison church there that was used as a gym during the communist period, when they kept young offenders in the fortress. Now it's beautifully restored.

Moritzburg is a palace in the middle of a lake, and Grace wrote that the King of Saxony used it for just two weeks in the year - as a hunting lodge. Full of stags' antlers and oil paintings of horses and dogs and poor animals being driven into enclosures where the King and his cronies could pick them off without any trouble.

But Dresden itself is the most interesting. The date 13th February 1945 is referred to everywhere. That was when allied bombers created the firestorm that killed thousands upon thousands and reduced beautiful buildings to skeletons. The buildings are now rebuilt, just as beautiful as before, as far as I can see.

I took in two operas, two organ recitals and a concert of Handel and Tellemann, as well as seeing great pictures in the Zwinger gallery.

There's a pride in their city that we could do with here in Street.

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