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A History of Dresden Germany — Places to See and Things to Do

History of Dresden Germany

Saxony, part of former East Germany, remains a secret to most travelers. This article visits a great city of the region: the capital city of Dresden, with opulent palaces and art treasures of the Wettin Dynasty. Saxony is a proud state of Germany with a long and rich history — it is home to

Dresden, a city that attracts millions of visitors each year. The city had a tough 20th century but it is coming back with a special vibrancy!

After WW2, Germany was divided by the Iron Curtain into the free West and communist East. With the fall of communism in 1989, Germany was reunited. Today the city of Dresden shines out in all of its former splendor. It is a major center of culture with a remarkable history and offers

visitors fanciful baroque architecture, along with some the best museum going in all of Germany. It is a city that mixes dynamic history with a delightful to stroll cityscape. At the peak of its power in the 18th century, this wealthy capital of Saxony ruled much of eastern Germany from the banks

of the Elba river. Saxony’s greatest ruler was ‘Agustus’, the Strong. To embellish his capital, he imported artists from all over Europe, especially Italy. Dresden’s grand architecture and dedication to the arts earned it the nickname, ‘Florence on the Elba’.

In spite of its resurgence, Dresden is still known for its destruction during WW2. American and British planes firebombed the city, on the night of February 13th, 1945. The bombing was so fierce, it created its own climate of a firestorm. 25,000 people were killed in a single night and

75% of the historic center was destroyed. Memorials while understated, remember the horrors of war. If you choose to visit the Dresden Bombing Memorial, you will notice an inscription that recalls the air raids and bodies of 6,865 people killed during the bombing. The inscription demarcates the exact spot where these bodies were burnt.

For 40 years, through the Cold War Dresden was part of communist East Germany — it was in what was called the ‘Valley of the Clueless’, one of the only places in East Germany that didn’t have access to western television. Under the communists, Dresden restores some of its

damaged buildings, left others in ruins, and replaced many with modern utilitarian sprawl. Prague Street, bombed-out ruins until the 1960s, was rebuilt as a showcase for communist ideals. It’s vast uniform apartment blocks line the boulevard today. The design is typical of Soviet Bloc

architecture — from Moscow to Bucharest. Today, after a thorough update, they become desirable places to live.

After German unification, the rebuilding of Dresden accelerated. The transformation has been impressive and the city’s once devastated historic center has been reconstructed. The Frauenkirche or ‘Church of our Lady’ is the symbol and soul of the city. When completed in 1743,

this was Germany’s tallest Protestant Church. Then in February of 1945, after the city was bombed Frauenkirche collapsed. For a generation, it was a pile of rubble. Eventually, people decided to rebuild it completely and painstakingly. With the help of international aid, Dresden’s

most beloved church was rebuilt and finally reopened to the public in 2005. Stepping inside, you’re immediately strict by the height of this magnificent building. The color scheme is pastel, to emphasize the joy of faith and enhance the uplifting atmosphere of the services held here. The

curved structures help create a feeling of community. Climbing to the top of the reconstructed dome, visitors are rewarded with a commanding view of Dresden and its river.

Dresden©/Tony Brasier/Flickr


The rebirth of the city is evident everywhere. Neumarkt or Dresden’s central square was once the home of central merchants. It is the heart of the city, alive with people and cafes. The city’s delightful terrace was originally a defensive rampart, a welcoming promenade overlooking the

Elba. It is nicknamed, ‘The Balcony of Europe’ and a fleet of 19th-century paddleboat tempts visitors to indulge in a lazy river cruise. Getting around the city of the tram is easy and a quick ride of the river takes you into a lively district called Neustadt or ‘Newtown’. It’s inviting and tree-

lined main drag Haupstrasse opens in 1979. It was a showpiece of communist urban design, a landscaped utopian worker’s district, filled with affordable apartments and the best shops.

Because WW2 bombs missed most of this district, the New Town has a retro charm This well-worn area has emerged as city’s trendy people zone. Passages between apartment flats are enlivened by art galleries, cozy pubs and crazy decorations. While the New Town boasts no great sights, it’s fun to explore, especially after dark.

Neumarkt ©/Maciek Lulko/Flickr

The Parade of Nobles

The Parade of Nobles is a mural painted on 24,000 tiles of local porcelain. It was built to soothe the pride of Saxony after it was incorporated into the newly formed country of Germany in the 1870s. It celebrates Dresden’s Saxon heritage ad its Wettin family dynasty. The artist carefully

studies armor and clothing — accurately tracing the evolution of weaponry and fashions through the centuries. Way up at the very front of the parade, an announcer with 12th-century cheerleaders, excitedly heralds the arrival of this wondrous procession. There are commoners —

from miners and farmers to carpenters and students. Ahead of them, are the Royals with 35 names and dates, marking 700 years of Wettin family rule. At the year, 1964, stands Agustus the Strong, the most important of the Saxons kings.

The Parade of Nobles©/Jen Wiles/Flickr

The Zwinger

The Saxon ruler was one of the most powerful people in Germany. He was one of the handfuls of nobles who elected the Holy Roman Emperor. In the 18th century, the larger than life Augustus the Strong, kicked off Germany’s Golden Age. His royal festival complex, known as the Zwinger

is an example of how the King’s extravagance made Dresden a European capital of culture. Aristocrats relaxed with royals in the Nymph’s Bath, amongst cascading waterfalls. Today, the Zwinger is filled with fine museums. European’s royal family aspired to have their own porcelain

works and the Wettin family had one of the best. In those days, a king portrayed in porcelain was happy king Augustus the Strong was obsessed with the stuff. He liked to say he had porcelain sickness. Here, you can enjoy some of his symptoms under chandeliers in elegant galleries. You’ll see fine table settings and a porcelain zoo of exotic animals and birds.

The Zwinger ©/Siow-Wei/Flickr

Green Vault

In the nearby Royale Palace, the official residence of Saxon rulers since 1485, is Dresden’s historic, ‘Green Vault’. The glittering Baroque treasure collection is the sightseeing highlights of the city. The collection was begun by August the Strong, and it grew into the royal family’s

exquisite trove of ivory, silver, and gold treasures. Its purpose? A synthesis of the arts as an expression of wealth and absolute power.

Green Vault©/Jim McHugh/Flickr

Today, Dresden is described as the ‘Venice of the East’ — it is a harmony of architecture and landscape, a brilliant work of art!

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