Dresden a town to visit

Dresden Travel Blog

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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.

Dresden claims to be one of the greenest cities in Europe, with 63% of the city being green areas and forests. The Dresdner Heide to the north is a forest 50 km² in size. There are four nature reserves. The additional Special Conservation Areas cover 18 km². The protected gardens, parkways, parks and old graveyards host 110 natural monuments in the city. The Dresden Elbe Valley is a world heritage site which is focused on the conservation of the cultural landscape in Dresden. One important part of that landscape is the Elbe meadows which cross the city, 20 kilometres long.

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.

Therefore, the bombing of Dresden by the Royal Air Force and by the United States Air Force between February 13 and February 15, 1945, remains one of the more controversial Allied actions of the Western European Theatre of war.

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.

Compared to West Germany, the majority of historic buildings were saved.

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.

Restoration of the Dresden Frauenkirche was completed in 2005, a year before Dresden's 800th anniversary. The urban renewal process, which includes the reconstruction of the area around the Neumarkt square on which the Frauenkirche is situated, will continue for many decades, but public and government interest remains high, and there are numerous large projects underway — both historic reconstructions and modern plans — that will continue the city's recent architectural renaissance.

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.

After being placed on the list of endangered World Heritage Sites in 2006, the city is most likely going to lose the title in July 2007 due to the construction of the Waldschlößchenbrücke. UNESCO stated in 2006 that the bridge will destroy the cultural landscape. The city council's legal moves to prevent the bridge being built failed.

Chokk says:
I totally agree, it is a wonderful city.
Posted on: Jun 04, 2011
dahling says:
I spent 2,5 days in Dresden and loved it. too bad they built the bridge, I was there before that though. Very nice city...
Posted on: Jun 04, 2011
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Dresden
photo by: aloneinthecrowd