Wanderlust war bereits ein mittelhochdeutsches Wort und beschreibt die Lust am Wandern, den steten inneren Antrieb, sich zu Fuß die Natur und die Welt fern der Heimat zu erschließen // A middle-high German word describing the joy of wandering, the constant urge to walk through nature and the world far from home.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dresden, old and new // so it goes...

        This weekend we were able to make a second trip to Dresden (significantly longer and less dramatic than our first attempt, this time thankfully excluding riot police and/or bands of political demonstrators). It boasts a beautiful "Altstadt," or old city center, as well as a thriving and alternative "Neustadt," or new city; these two sections of Dresden are appropriately divided by the Elbe River, which cuts a long, picturesque swathe through the center.

        What is perhaps most striking about Dresden is this juxtaposition of old and new. Even within the "Altstadt" you see this mix--buildings that are a collage of periods, styles, and materials; sandstone structures blackened by age and neighbors that still glimmer; and protestant churches facing Catholic cathedrals in the same city square. This mixture within the Altstadt can largely be attributed to the Allied bombing of Dresden during WWII, that not only killed up to 25,000 civilians, but also completely destroyed about 15 square miles of the city center, leveling in one day a historical center that dates back about 800 years. The most famed of these destroyed buildings, the "Frauenkirche," or Church of Our Lady, was only recently renovated, completed in 2005 after significant donations from nations the world over. When the city was rebuilt it was rebuilt with historical loyalty, thus the sandstone architecture is still prevalent.

Outside the Frauenkirche, the black bricks throughout are sandstone bricks recovered from the original structure

The opera house in the old city center

Altstadt plaza

        For me, the most haunting of these reminders within the Altstadt is the land along the Elbe River. When we drove past our tour guide pointed out to us that the land is about 4-5 meters higher along the river than it was originally. Expecting some geological explanation for the heightened land and/or lowered water level, her response caught me off guard: beneath the grass lies the rubble of the Altstadt, a city buried for lack of any other place to put all of the debris. In some cases small remnants of these old buildings were recovered and integrated into the "modern" Altstadt as a remembrance. In fact, if you walk into the Frauenkirche you can still see the original cross, blackened and warped from the bombing, enshrined with prayer candles near the nave. Unfortunately, cameras were not allowed inside, so I don't have a picture of the interior of the church (which is beautiful), or the cross.
        The Neustadt adds a new dimension to this juxtaposition, adding a younger, alternative art scene to the community (reminiscent of some neighborhoods in Berlin, but to a lesser extent and perhaps less volatile, I can't be sure though). I'm finding myself drawn to street art here in Germany more and more, so here are some things that caught my eye along the way:

Some Pulp Fiction

Street art and graffiti meet

Dear Constitutional Court,

And some Darth Vader 

Some fun courtyards

Postage stickers ripped to create a "relief" of sorts

Looking closer--all DHL stickers

My only regret is not having found the Slaughterhouse Five. And for my fellow Vonnegut readers: so it goes...

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