The last two days have been everything traveling to Europe should be; great wine, excellent beer, outstanding food, visiting amazing cathedrals, castles, and palaces, and sharing good memories with great friends. And that’s exactly what I did in Dresden this weekend. After a bit of a fiasco at the Berlin airport where I accidentally left the baggage area without my bag and had to spend two hours in a customs room the size of a tent with the german police, I finally made it to the hauptbanhof (main train station) where my hotel was located late Friday night. I set off to Dresden to meet up with Courtney, one of my fellow fulbrighters last year for the weekend, but when I arrived for my train it was delayed 100 minutes. So much for German efficiency.
All frustration I may have felt was dissipated the second I arrived in Dresden Saturday afternoon. This is indubitably one of my favorite cities in the world and I was happy to be visiting a second time. I first came to Dresden about five years ago on a study tour with the Goethe institute. Something about visiting a place you’ve already been to allows you to sit back and just enjoy it for what it is, rather than have to go to all the sights and cross them off your checklist. I can’t think of a better way to see Europe. I met up with Courtney at the hotel as planned and we strolled into the Old City.
For those of you who are not familiar with Dresden’s history, the United States bombed the city flat in February of 1945 destroying many historic buildings and churches. After the war’s end, being in East Germany, the communists refused to build the many beautiful Baroque churches and palaces that are the centerpiece of Dresden’s skyline today. Perhaps the most miraculous stories of courage and triumph can be found at the Frauenkirche, the Lutheran Church that was all but destroyed in World War II, but invoked in the Dresden locals a cause to rally behind and fight for. And fight they did. While visiting the Old City we were fortunate enough to run into one of Courtney’s friends from the program she’s doing now who recommended we go watch the documentary of the rebuilding of the church so we could fully appreciate what were looking at, which we did. Well before the reunification of Germany the people of Dresden fought to rebuild this pinnacle structure in their city. After ten years, with the help of donations from locals and abroad, the church was rebuilt from its original materials which were found in the rubble and carefully sorted. One of the most moving stories from this was the fact that the top of the church was given as a gift from the Coventry Cathedral in England which had been destoyed by the Bliztkrieg. Watching the painstaking detail in which these people rebuilt this church seemed unlikely, but proved to me that miracles do happen. Much of the rest of the city has been rebuilt as well, though you can still see some of the stones that were destroyed in the burning rubble of the bombing. A story of true determination and faith.
Later that evening, we walked about 30 minutes out of the city to have dinner at an historic beer hall (also rebuilt), which sat along the elbe river. Our vies of Dresden’s skyline was amazing…as was the beer.
On Sunday, after securing train tickets for our way back to Berlin, a glorious breakfast of croissants and nutella, and attending Mass at the only Catholic Church in Saxony, we took a paddle steamboat up the elbe river to Pilnitsz a home that Augustus the 3rd created for one of his mistress’. Along the way, we saw gorgeous villas, bike paths, and idealistic landscapes that makes one wonder, “why don’t I live in Germany.” Aware that we had to make a 5pm train, we caught the tram back to Dresden and made our way back to Berlin. Just before the train was supposed to arrive we were told “there is a bump at the main station, we are delayed”…So I recommended that we hop out of the train and split a cab to the main station, only Courtney didn’t seem too enthusiastic about my suggestion….perhaps that’s because it wasn’t a “bump” that they found at the train, it was a “bomb!”….about an hour later we found our way to the station and everything seemed normal. I am convinced it was only a “bump” and Mom, if you’re reading this I am safe so no need to freak out:)
In sum, it was great to visit Dresden again, and great to catch up with one of my friends from last summer. Off to Rome tomorrow. Here are some pictures of Dresden.