Heard of an Oxymoron, yes we all have; “thunderous silence” was the first I had come across during my childhood days. Upon asking, my mother explained the concept of an Oxymoron to me. But the true depth of the idea dawned on me when I read the term “Morale Bombing”. This was during graduation and we were studying the second world war and aftermath there-off. The irony of the phrase was intriguing. The fate of the war was sealed, the allied forces had all but won the last known great battle, then why would civilized nations descend upon a small and beautiful city and crush it to debris in an overnight carpet bombing spree. Was it a demonstration of the worlds’ anger at what Nazi Germany had concocted or was it sheer arrogance of the victorious!!
Yes I am referring to the Morale Bombing of Dresden…All this interest and blatant wanderlust compelled us to set foot upon and explore the city of Dresden. A number of bus services run from Berlin to Dresden, a comfortable 2&1/2 hours journey at rates as low as 9 Euros.
We had planned to return on the same day. Hence decided to seek out a good walking tour. In our experience walking tours are a great way to explore European cities, its like taking a walk into history and witness the kings and queens of yore come alive and play out their story. Also its a good way to make an apatite to sample the food and drinks of the region.
All buses drop you off at the Dresden hauptbahnhof (main station). A short tram ride took us to the old town center. The walking tour flag was easy to spot. Jana ( pronounced as Yana ), our guide greeted us. Was pleasant to know that the English group was small, just 5 people including us. The 3 others were from Georgia, on various working assignments in Berlin. Jana enthusiastically informed us that their guide company has an Indian Origin guide named Seema amongst them.
Our tour started with a short introduction to the history of Dresden, interesting facts about King August the Strong, his rule, his love affairs and tales there off. It was also interesting to know that Dresden had been a part of the Hapsburg empire. Our recent travels to Vienna, Cesky Krumolov, Krakow actually show that the Hapsburg Kingdom was spread across a large portion of the modern-day Europe.
After the bombing of the city in 1945, 90% of the city structures were reduced to rubble. Decades of reconstruction have restored most of the bygone era or at-least attempted to do so. One can see the difference in the original stones and the rebuilt portion of the buildings. Quite evident in the walls of The Semperoper which was reopened in 1985. There were some miraculous escapes as well such as The Fürstenzug ( Procession of Princes ), a large mural depicting the rulers of Saxony. It survived almost intact.
The real show stopper of Dresden is the Zwinger Palace. There is something about its rococo style that it seemed more awe-inspiring than the Palace of Versailles in France. Although the intent was to use it, to strategize and plan for warfare, ironically the Zwinger Palace has seen more parties and fun times. ( real fun times if you know what i mean ). The King and his son were connoisseurs of all kinds of fun. Maybe its the happy times that still reverberate positive vibes from the palace walls despite so much destruction.
Another important site to mention is The Dresden Frauenkirche ( Church of Our Lady ), magnificent structure standing tall right in the city center. Was completely destroyed but has been restored to its hitherto grandeur and has been visited by illustrious people such as Obama himself.
All this walking made us crave some good food. There are excellent options, the town center is full of cozy restaurants serving German specialties. You can also sample Gluh Wein at the stalls in the city center. We treated ourselves to a quick tomato soup with minced beef, it was warm, spicy and hit the spot. The local Dresden brew is the Radeberger Beer, it comes in various forms, Pils, Pale and Dunkel. The city also offers vibrant nightlife, the new town offers a number of exotic food joints and watering holes. We sampled a Tapas Bar for Dinner and were impressed by the service and taste. The squid and crab Tapas were to die for.
At dusk the city is draped in all its sheen. A stroll across the Elbe river is one of the most romantic and serene experiences. The water reflects the grandeur of the city; was freezing but fun to feel the water just slip through my fingers. Sit on the bank and watch the sun go down…. sheet beauty. Gets you thinking, yes it took time and money to resurrect these walls but it did happen, what about the lives lost in the war, can any amount of money and time bring back loved ones from the dead!!! The city is a standing reminder of the greatest lesson in recent history.