Cheers to “Another” Beautiful City in Germany!!
While we were in our apartment in Berlin the person we were renting our apartment from in Dresden emailed and told us it might be difficult to get to the apartment due to a huge festival in their town. Jurgen was kind enough to offer to pick us up from the train station (which is a very huge deal for us not to have to navigate with our backpacks in tow). He gave us a nice driving tour of the city before we headed to the apartment. As soon as we got out of the car we noticed immediately that our apartment is on a large hillside overlooking the Elbe River (I thought as I looked up the hill that I’m sure the view is going to be nice but getting our backpacks up is going to be a bear). Then I heard Keegan say, “Hey, why don’t we use that thing”, pointing over at what looked like some sort of lift. Jurgen told us that was its purpose so we loaded our backpacks and up they went. They use this lift for anything heavy like luggage, groceries, furniture, etc., anything you don’t want to haul up in you hands or on your back. It was very cool.
When we got up to the house we received another surprise, the 3-story apartment building we are staying in is an official landmark of Dresden – Villa Zwintscher. It was built in 1865 and was the residence of the famous local artist Oskar Zwintscher who lived in the house at the beginning of last century. It’s a very clean, unique and ornate building inside and out. Gardens line the outer rim of the building with everything from flowers, fruit trees, vegetable and herb gardens. Our accommodations are on the top floor (which is actually the attic) it has 1 full bathroom, 1 very spacious living/kitchen area and 3 separate bedrooms. The apartment provides all you need for your modern-day comforts but also provides you with that great European Old World charm. As we suspected the views are beautiful.
As soon as we unpacked our backpacks and got situated we headed straight down to the Elbhangfest. Jurgen had mentioned it to us that it was worth going and since this was the last day we should head over as soon as we could. It was only a block from our apartment. I wasn’t too excited about going, I don’t know why but I just didn’t think it was going to be that great and we had just spent the day travelling. Wow, was I wrong! This was the point I realized that this town is simply a storybook city – a place where you imagine Mr. Disney got a lot of his ideas (once I have time to get the flicker page running we’re hoping to share some nice video). The buildings here date back to the 1800’s and are all well taken care of – there is an obvious sense of pride that the people of Dresden have for their wonderful city. Kendal and I were able to check out a very young and up-and-coming band here from Germany called Café Jazz – they were awesome!! Every direction we turned had some rich authentic European flare and comfort. One week is not enough to really visit this town, we could all easily stay in Dresden for quite some time. But unfortunately this city also has one of the most horrific stories ever imagined, a horrendous occurrence brought on by the evil of war and that will never, ever be forgotten…
NOTE: Historical portion of my blog, some may want to skip.
What I have read about this tragedy is nothing less than extremely tragic and unbelievable and how they have been able to rebuild their city (as I can now see it first hand) after the devastation they endured towards the end of WWII is even more unbelievable.
Three months prior to the end of WWII when the Allied Forces seemed to have reduced their risks substantially and things seemed in-hand the RAF (Royal Air Force) and the USAAF (Unites States Army Air Force) executed a controversial firestorm raid on the city of Dresden. A firestorm was achieved by dropping incendiary bombs, filled with highly combustible chemicals such as magnesium, phosphorus or petroleum jelly (napalm) in clusters over a specific target. With the unity of all these bombs, and after the area caught fire, the air above the bombed area become extremely hot and rose rapidly. The cold air then rushed in at ground level from the outside at a power so great that people were sucked into the fire. I can’t even fathom the terror and it didn’t just last a few hours – it went on for 2-3 days. On February 13, 1945, 773 RAF bombers bombed Dresden and during the next two days the USAAF sent over another 527 bombers to continue the attack. Overall estimates are that these bombers dropped as many as 650,000 incendiaries, together with 8,000 lb. high-explosive bombs and hundreds of 4,000-pounders. More than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices were dropped on the city of Dresden. And even though the estimates (25,000 to 700,000) of how many civilians were actually killed have not been agreed upon – it does seem like most agree it is no less than 35,000 civilians of which many were women and children. The even deeper discussions of this situation are that the politics are huge and still rage on today with why and how this happened, and even though this discussion could continue for many, many more pages of blogging I will resist. (Please don’t take what I write as completely accurate-I read a number of different sources and then read some more to come up with what I believe to be close to the actual occurrence. But with time and politics, who really knows… If you’re really interested, do your own research it’s very fun).
As we travel about this remarkably beautiful city I can’t help but think of how the people of Dresden felt months before, during and after the bombings. As I walk through the center of the city I try to imagine (even though I could never) the intense emotions of terror, relief, despair, sadness and all other emotions that once filled these streets. Then I stop and remember the survivors and feel truly inspired by the character of the innocent people (both military and civilians) from all sides of this war and all wars that simply have the strength and courage to continue…