Dresden a town to visit
Dresden Travel Blog› entry 5 of 117 › view all entries
Dresden lies on both banks of the river Elbe, mostly in the Dresden Elbe Valley Basin, with the further reaches of the eastern Ore Mountains to the south, the steep slope of the Lusatian granitic crust to the north, and the Elbe Sandstone Mountains to the east at an altitude of about 113 meters. The highest point of Dresden is about 384 meters in altitude. With a pleasant location and a mild climate on the Elbe, as well as Baroque-style architecture and numerous world-renowned museums and art collections, Dresden has been called "Elbflorenz" (Florence of the Elbe).
The incorporation of neighbouring rural communities over the past 60 years has made Dresden the fourth largest urban district in Germany after Berlin, Hamburg, and Cologne.
Being the capital of a state, it also had garrisons and military industry during the Second World War. None of all these garrisons’ military sites had ever been targeted on 13th February 1945 by the Allies.
The inner city of Dresden was completely destroyed during what later proved to be the final weeks of war in Europe. While the inhabited city centre was literally wiped out, larger outlying villa and industrial areas outside the city centre suffered little, relatively speaking. Some of the Allies described the operation as the justified bombing of a military and industrial target whilst others say it was "Terror", like British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (in his famous memorandum in which he tried to distance himself from the attack he had ordered himself).
Several researchers have argued that the February attacks were disproportional. Dresden was attacked seven times between 1944 and 1945. It was completely captured by the Red Army after German capitulation.
After the Second World War, Dresden became a major industrial centre in the German Democratic Republic with a great deal of research infrastructure. Many important historic buildings were rebuilt including the Semper Opera House, the Zwinger Palace and a great many other historic buildings, although the city leaders chose to reconstruct large areas of the city in a "socialist modern" style, partly for economic reasons but also in order to break away from the city's past as the royal capital of Saxony and a stronghold of the German bourgeoisie.
However, some of the bombed-out ruins of churches, royal buildings and palaces, such as the Gothic Sophienkirche, the Alberttheater and the Wackerbarth-Palais were razed by the Soviet and East German authorities in the 1950s and 1960s instead of being repaired.
From 1985 to 1990 the KGB stationed Vladimir Putinin Dresden. On 3 October 1989 (the so-called "battle of Dresden"), a convoy of trains carrying East German refugees from Prague passed through Dresden on its way to the Federal Republic of Germany. Local activists and residents joined in the growing civil disobedience movement spreading across the German Democratic Republic by staging demonstrations and demanding the removal of the non-democratic government.
Dresden has experienced dramatic changes since the reunification of Germany in the early 1990s. The city still bears many wounds from the bombing raids of 1945, but it has undergone significant reconstruction in recent decades.
Dresden remains a major cultural centre of historical memory, owing to the city's destruction in World War II. Each year on 13 February, the anniversary of the British and American fire-bombing raid that destroyed most of the city, tens of thousands of demonstrators gather to commemorate the event.
Since reunification, the ceremony has taken on a more neutral and pacifist tone (after being used more politically in Cold War times). In recent years, however, white power skinheads have tried to use the event for their own political ends. In 2005, Dresden was host to the largest Neo-Nazi demonstration in the post-war history of Germany. Between five and eight thousand Neo-Nazis took part, mourning what they call the "Allied bomb-holocaust".
In 2002 torrential rains caused the Elbe to flood 9 m above its normal height, i.e. even higher than the old record height from 1845, damaging many landmarks. The destruction from this "millennium flood" is no longer visible, due to the speed of reconstruction.
The United Nations cultural organization UNESCO declared the Dresden Elbe Valley to be a World Heritage Site in 2004.