Monday 13 February 2012

Florence on the Elbe

It was on this day in 1945 that the city of Dresden was fire bombed, leaving approximately 25,000 Germans dead and an 800 year old city in ruins.  Once called the "Florence on the Elbe", the capital of Saxony dates back to 1216.  Situated on a direct path between Paris and Moscow, Napoleon used it for his base of operations in 1806 in France's victorious campaign against Prussia.  In 1839 Europe's first long distance railroad came to Dresden, filling its cobblestone streets with people.  By the early 1900's, its citizens could stroll across the Elbe on the magnificent Augustus Bridge. 

Painters flocked there like Caspar David Friedrich, painting scenes on the banks of the Elbe, the steeples of the Frauenkirche in the background.  Musicians were inspired by the city's cultural centre including Richard Wagner.  Architects were also drawn to the city as Dresden's skyline grew with beautiful structures like the Frauenkirche (church), Zwinger Palace, Moritzburg Castle, and the Grunes Gewolbe (the "Green Vault" is an art museum which contains the largest collection of treasures in Europe).  Dresden became known for art treasures like the Sistine Madonna.  Sadly, many of these cultural buildings were turned into rubble on three consecutive nights in February of 1945.

However, within the past 25 years, especially since the fall of Communism, the Florence of the Elbe has experienced a rebirth.  Many cultural landmarks have been rebuilt including the Zwinger Palace, the Semperoper (opera house) and the Frauenkirche.  Now tourists flock to Dresden, beautiful once again.

Image of Dresden in 1890's courtesy

Photo of Dresden after carpet bombing of February 13, 14 & 15, 1945, courtesy

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