• Germany's news in English

Getting baroque with Barack in Dresden

Mark Belcher · 5 Jun 2009, 12:00

Published: 05 Jun 2009 12:00 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

In the centre of Dresden, in the shadow of the much vaunted and splendidly reconstructed Frauenkirche, or Church of our Lady, there stands a curious fragment of wall. On closer inspection, this curve of sandstone reveals itself to be part of the remains of the original church.

The history of this piece of masonry is something like as follows: in the 1740s, the stone was cut from the banks of the Elbe River nearby, sculpted and lofted high above the city. It presided over the baroque metropolis for two centuries, and witnessed the Allied bombing of the city in February 1945. Over the next two days, tens of thousands of the city’s inhabitants died. The stone was weakened by the intense heat until eventually the whole structure collapsed.

The stone fragment spent the next four decades under rubble; East Germany came and went. Then it was dug up, cleaned and set next to the reconstructed church, but without a plaque; leaving it a riddle for the countless tourists that now come to visit just like President Obama.

Click here for a photo gallery of Obama’s visit to Germany.

Though his trip to Dresden is being billed as part of commemorations for World War II, the city has done its baroque best to rebuild the damage from the 1945 bombing. Its reconstruction began behind the Iron Curtain and quickly gathered pace after German reunification in 1990. Nowadays Dresden is an entertaining mix of breathtaking architecture by day and Berlin-style cool by night.

The old heart of the city built over the last three centuries is a phantasmagoria of baroque highlights, including the Semper Opera House, the Zwinger Palace, which also houses the Old Masters Picture Gallery; and the Dresden Castle, which includes the Green Vault, or Grünes Gewölbe, containing the treasures of the Saxon monarchy and the site of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chat with Obama. Many of these wonders are best taken in while strolling around eating an ice cream bought from one of the many nearby stalls, but guided tours are also on offer for around €10.

But Dresden also has a pearl on display for fans of socialist buildings. The East German Kulturpalast boasts some huge, terrific murals of red-clad workers creating the socialist paradise that Obama certainly won’t see during his short time in town.

A leisurely stroll across the Elbe River takes you to Neustadt, or New Town, district, which was spared by the allied bombing raids and is therefore, somewhat ironically, home to the oldest buildings in the city. And its narrow, cobbled streets are packed with trendy little bars and restaurants.

For those who like their high culture, Dresden also has much to offer. During a recent weekend visit the city’s State Opera played selected Chopin sonatas and nocturnes while an actor recited the composer’s letters. But there’s also the famous Semper Opera House built in the 19th century. Destroyed in the war and rebuilt during by the communists, it is a building of superlative beauty. The fine, painted interiors are worth a visit even if you cannot see a performance, and the auditorium is a rhapsody in cream and gilt.

The Frauenkirche, which Obama will see, remains the focal point of the city. Some fifteen years ago, a lobby formed to rebuild the church, which was painstakingly re-assembled. A computer program was used to estimate where the fallen stones had been in the building and old wedding photographs were requested, so that carvers could reconstruct the wooden doors. The massive undertaking was completed in 2005.

Story continues below…

The church is now surrounded by cafes and designer boutiques. On the square itself, horse-drawn carriages are available for 45-minute tours of the old town for €10.

Dresden can be reached in just over two hours by coach from Berlin, for €18 return if you book more than a week in advance. The train is slightly more expensive, but there are special fares via Deutsche Bahn’s website. The city also has air connections to Frankfurt and Düsseldorf with Lufthansa.

Obama, of course, has Air Force One waiting for him.

Related links:

Mark Belcher (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

03:49 January 8, 2010 by sc123
I'm glad that jerk didn't get to see these great things, now I can :)
Today's headlines
Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German town, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe
Photo: DPA

The percentage of the German population which identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is higher than anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study.

'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd