Dresden, Germany – The Power To Survive And Rise From The Ashes




Crossing Augustus Bridge to old town Dresden, a picturesque landscape of bridges over the river Elbe with boats cruising casually, ornate buildings glistening in the sun, spires of churches, sharp silhouettes of Renaissance and Baroque imperial palaces, overwhelms the senses.  The scene is reminiscent of Canaletto, whom among other famous Renaissance painters, created iconic masterpieces of 18th century Dresden (as well as Venice) when it was known as the “Florence of the North”.



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Dresden (geographically, midway between Berlin and Prague) still invokes images of destruction – the Allied bombing at the end of World War II, which flattened two thirds of the city, destroying ancient monuments, imperial palaces, residential buildings and killing (estimates vary) between 25 and 100,000 thousand civilians.  At the end of the war, Dresden became part of the DDR, East Germany.  Its rebuilding, began after the reunification of Germany in 2000.  Thanks to an international effort, most of the city is again restored to its former glory, often using ancient building materials left in rubble for over 50 years, as well as state of the art technology.


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For centuries, the Wettin Dynasty ruled Dresden, Saxony.  The rulers of this dynasty, exemplified by August the Strong, (1670-1733) collected art as a serious endeavor.  August transformed Dresden into a renowned cultural center assembling one of the finest art collections in Europe.  Only Catherine the Great of Russia, or Louis XIV of France, could rival the lust great works of art, architecture, jewels, porcelain, and opulence.  August was called “the Strong” because he was – he could crush a horse’s hoof with his bare hands, and purportedly fathered over 300 children.


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Today, thanks to August the Strong, Dresden boasts of at least a half-dozen world-class museums (the population is roughly 550,000).  Many of the pictorial masterpieces, including Albrecht Durer, Lucas Cranach (older and younger), Canaletto, and Rafael, are in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister.


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The over 20,000 objects are in the Porcelain Collection at the Zwinger Museum.  This is the largest and finest specialized ceramic collection in the world.  Included are early pieces of Meissen as well as rare Chinese and Japanese porcelains.  Perhaps the most awe-inspiring objects are in the Grünes Gewölbe, the museum housing the collection of jewels commissioned from the greatest European designers.  Their intricacy, beauty, craftsmanship and sheer splendor is rarely surpassed.


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Today Dresden has returned to the art and cultural metropolis it was during the 18th century, offering attractions of visual beauty in landscape, architecture and the arts.  And, as in the 18th century, the symbol of Dresden, The Frauenkirsche, rebuilt entirely from rubble, now towers over the city center once again.


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