Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Rebuilt Dresden Offers Guests History, Charm

What it's like: There are few German cities more pleasant to visit on business than Dresden on a warm summer's day. The city, formerly in East Germany, even has a beach—a man-made strip of sand on one bank of the River Elbe.
European Pressphoto Agency
Steamboats on the River Elbe with the Church of Our Lady in the background.
It's all very different from a few years ago when rain drenched this part of Germany and the Elbe burst its banks. Few of the magnificent buildings in the historic Aldtstadt (Old Town) escaped water damage. For weeks, the magnificent Zwinger Museum and the Semper Opera House, the castle and the cathedral became virtually islands in a sea of devastation. Happily, everything is now back to normal.
Dresden is, of course, no stranger to disaster. Some of the older members of the population still remember the devastation caused by Allied fire bombing on Feb. 13, 1945, when thousands of people were killed. The city still bears grim reminders of that fateful night. But the long and often sad history of Dresden does nothing to alter the fact that this is a very pleasant city to visit on business. The dark days before Germany's reunification are well in the past and there is a new and exciting optimism.
All around the Altdstadt and across the Augustusbrucke—the bridge over the Elbe leading to Albert-Platz and the Neustadt (New Town)—people sit outside bars and restaurants enjoying the sunshine.
It is impossible not to be impressed with the architecture of grand old buildings such as the Royal Palace (Residenzschloss), built in 1530 for Duke George the Bearded, and the Katholische Hofkirche, or cathedral, which dominate the Dresden skyline; the Theaterplatz, designed in 1912 in the New Baroque style, and of course the Semper Opera House, reflecting Dresden's fame as a musical center frequented by famous composers throughout the years.


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