...(and maaaaaybe a bit of a photo dump too). AKA where my mom's side of the family hails from. And the reason I spent some time there recently. Have you ever visited somewhere for the first time, yet somehow felt like you were home? That's Dresden for moi. And I blame that phenomenon on my Oma, the native Dresdener of our family. Hildagard Rosa Otto...
"Oma and her Sisters"
(l-r: Kathe, Ellie, Hilda)
A woman who left Dresden and came to America in her teens, went completely deaf in her early 20's, and yet somehow managed to hear everything you were saying. She never learned sign language or to read lips. Communication with Oma was accomplished via speaking VERY slowly or spelling out words for her. In ENGLISH. Had to be challenging when your native language is German. But I always loved her stories of her family, and of Dresden. How she use to lifeguard and took her life guarding test by jumping off a bridge into the Elbe River, how money was tight in pre-war Germany for the Ottos, how these dolls in the photo were their special dolls and they rarely were allowed to take them outdoors. How she left parents, sisters and brothers behind in Dresden. How her brother was killed during WWII on the Russian front, fighting for the Germans. And thru it all I always got the impression that yes, my Oma must have been "quite a handful" in her teen years.
"Florence on the Elbe #1"
(Dresden, taken from atop the Frauenkirche)
"Florence on the Elbe #2"
(Dresden, taken from atop the Frauenkirche)
I miss Dresden already. And like MacArthur said, "I shall return!". Yes, there is a definite WWII theme here in this post about Dresden. And for good reason, as you will see. Here is a quick stroll thru town, and a few interesting "sumpin' sumpins" for you about my home away from home...Dresden, Germany.
1. Dresden was known as the "Florence on the Elbe" right up until February 13, 1945 (I'll tell ya a little sumpin' about that date in a moment). Why Florence? Because of it's ornate Baroque city center. It was regarded as one of the world's most beautiful cities due to it's architecture and museums. It is the capital of Saxony and situated in a valley on the Elbe River, not too far from the Czech border.
The Procession of Princes. A mural of a mounted procession of the rulers of Saxony painted on 23,000 Meissen porcelain tiles.
"Another Street, Another Christmas Market"
"Neumarkt at Dusk"
"Just Another Alley"
"Semper Opera House"
2. Looks pretty old and ornate, right? WRONG on the "old" part of the equation. Why? Because of February 13, 1945. That's the night when the British and American air forces leveled Dresden via three waves of saturation bombing. 722 RAF bombers and 527 American bombers dropped 2,431 high explosive bombs AND 1,476 tons of incendiaries resulting in the complete firebombing of Dresden. Kurt Vonnegut's novel "Slaughterhouse Five" is loosely based on his first-hand experience of the raids as a POW.
25,000 are estimated to have been killed. Most of which were civilians. The entire city center was destroyed. And then? WWII ended, Germany separated into East and West, and Dresden fell into the clutches of Communism. In the ensuing years, little was done to rebuild. And the little that WAS done, was done in a modern style to distance the city from it's history of association with Saxon rulers and royalty.
"The Remains of the Frauenkirche"
1952 (7 years after the bombing)
3. 1989. Twas a very good year. Reagan implored Gorbechev to "tear down this wall", and with it...so fell Communism when Germany was reunified. And all the beautiful architecture I saw on my walk thru town is the result of rebuilding since the 1980's!!!!! With the most important structure being the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady). Left in rubble and to rot by the Communists as an anti-war statement. Rebuilding began in 1994 and was completed in 2005. As much of the original pieces that could be salvaged were methodically used in the construction. You know us Germans, we are STUBBORN when we put our minds to something.
I was blessed to have been able to participate in an evening church service, conducted in English, while I was in town. The fact that it fell on the second anniversary of my father's passing wasn't lost on any of us. And yes, I felt the presence of my Oma too. One of the more amazing experiences of my life...so far.
For those of strong leg muscles, you can climb to the bell tower of the Frauenkirche. Which is from where I took the first two photos in this post.
4. Yes, everything look so old even tho it's relatively new. Thank you SANDSTONE. Dresden was rebuilt to it's pre-WWII glory via the use of a special sandstone that ages pretty quickly. Let's just say "I" would NOT be happy to age this quickly! That black you see on the buildings isn't from pollution. It's from the sandstone's natural aging process. Gotta love science when it isn't happening in a classroom! This is one time where aging is a GOOD thang.
5. And one last little sumpin' sumpin' about Dresden. You see a LOT of what "we" call Moravian stars during the holidays. However, in Germany they are called "Herrnhuter Stern".
From the cupola atop the Frauenkirche...
To the streets below...
And everywhere in between...
The star was named after the Moravian Mother Community in Saxony, Germany where they were first commercially produced. The star originated in the Church school as part of a geometry lesson, and was soon adopted by the Moravians as a symbol of Advent.
I've always bemoaned the fact that I'm not Italian. I swore God played an evil trick on me by not giving me a space in the "Italian" line at creation. But I have to admit, I'm pretty proud to have roots in Dresden. A city that's taken a licking, and keeps on ticking big time. Just a little sumpin' sumpin' I learned about myself after my trip. Vielen dank Oma! German and dang happy about it.
(click on image for description of Song-ography)
Next Tuesday's Song-ography title suggestion is **YOUR CHOICE**.
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