Culture & Art

Lessons from Dresden

Before the incessant succession of the unfortunate circumstances established in the 20th century, Dresden already had an extensively troubled history, serving as the home of the Kings of Saxony. Inevitably questions come to mind: is it still possible to sense relics of the history before the war in the Saxon capital? When nothing in its central area is remotely authentic? Surprisingly, yes.

The remarkable effort put into the city’s reconstruction leaves no space for a visitor’s imagination. Every detail, every sculpture, every tile seems to have been carefully picked out in order to excuse tourists from an uninteresting visit. Today, the buildings that compose Dresden’s spectacular silhouette display, highlighting the dramatic landscape, in such a way that from the first glance the visitor is left jaw dropped. From the top of the Kreuzkirche, it is impossible to miss the Frauenkirche a few hundred meters away, standing splendid as if never having been destroyed. The Kreuzkirche itself was completely lost during the war but the outside still hold to its old appearance, reminding the world it is possible to renovate without losing essence.

That being said, it is necessary to mention that, contrary to what it appears, the Elbe River is not the only part of Dresden that has prevailed after the war. If a visitor looks carefully, it is possible to find some very interesting spots unaffected by the bombings. A fine instance worth mentioning is the Fürstenzug, a large wall in the Augustusstrasse. In normal circumstances this would bring no more touristic attention than usual; except this wall was carefully painted and decorated in porcelain during the 19th century. The figures portrayed on the wall are the rulers of Saxony, all lined up in their glory. When it comes to porcelain art, there is certainly no match for Dresden. Today the Zwinger Palace is home to the most impressive porcelain collection in the world, with over twenty thousand pieces that include vases, plates, utensils and sculptures, make the museum one of the city’s main attractions.

Ancient monuments are not the sole attraction when it comes to the richness of the Saxon capital; traditional habits are also a form of cultural and historical preservation. In the days anticipating Christmas, guests can appreciate the astonishing Christmas Market in the city centre, with its immodest decorations and fairs. It is one of the countries oldest, dating from 15th century Germany. There, they can drink Glühwein and truly enjoy the spirit of Christmas, taking advantage of the exclusive offers of the Dresdener hosting – a city which has led a life comparable to that of the Christian savior, based on the grounds of resurrection.

But Dresden is not only made of antiquities and appearances. Like the rest of the country, it has been affected by recent history. The Prager Strasse, one of its main streets, invites people to walk past dozens of buildings with their typical Eastern architecture of the Cold War. Like many other streets around Eastern Europe, this one wasn’t rebuild to fit the standards of previous centuries; it very much has a touch of the GDR history within the surroundings. Of course, this impression is partially erased by the presence of a few modern buildings and, naturally, several stores in a nod to capitalism, Underneath the architecture and the stains of the Cold War East remain visible.

Overall, the person who sets their feet in Dresden should be able to obtain some valuable lessons after just a short visit. First, that just because something has been destroyed, doesn’t mean it can’t be rebuilt; even if all the evidence says otherwise. Second, it provides an open exhibition to display the outcomes of hard work: with research, dedication and patience what is lost can return. Not exactly as it may have been, but renewed, without all the marks of time that damage both buildings and people. Third, that some things aren’t worth rebuilding; it is best to start fresh in order to fulfill the expectations of modern society. All this information can be obtained without a single word being spoken or gesture being made. It is all in the landscape, in the constructions and places that compose the wholeness of a city that has lived, died and reemerged from its darkest days.

About The Author

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Susana Boatto

Susana Boatto has acquired a degree in Portuguese and German studies in her homecountry of Brazil. She has worked in linguistic fields, namely publishing and translation, and aspires to get a Master's degree in Cultural Studies in Germany - where she currently lives. Amongst her interests are history, languages and diversity, and she is a firm advocate for human rights.