(Tales Told From The Road continues its month-long virtual European journey.)
Today we’ll check out some of the “must-see” places highlighted in our guidebooks.
The first of these is right out the front door of our apartment in Old Town: The Frauenkirche.
The “Church of Our Lady” was heavily damaged by Allied bombers in February, 1945, but has now restored to its original exterior beauty and is open to the public.
Unlike many large churches and cathedrals in Europe, this church is not built in the traditional cross-like pattern. In fact, except for the altar, the entire space within the church sits beneath its lofty dome. And unlike most churches that have straight as an arrow pews on either side of a main aisle, the pews in Frauenkirche are curved to match the pattern of the dome above.
Although Catholicism was prominent in southern Germany and Austria, in Dresden we find a statute Protestant reformer, Martin Luther, in the plaza surrounding the Frauenkirke.
After spending a delightful half hour or so just sitting in the pews, we’ll light a candle in remembrance of those who died here in the Allied bombing of 1945, and head off to the Zwinger Palace.
Along the way to the palace we’ll pass by the Kunstakademie (“Art School”), the “Parade of Nobles” mural and buskers standing in silence, hoping that tourists will toss a few coins or, better yet, Euro bills, into a golden bucket.
We’ll enjoy a relaxing al fresco lunch at a restaurant across the street from the Zwinger, then catch the once-a-day English language tour of the nearby opera house.
Unfortunately for composer Richard Wagner and the building’s architect, Gottfried Semper, they backed the wrong side in an 1849 and then-king Frederick Augustus II wanted to have their guts for garters, or their heads on a pike. Wagner fled to Switzerland, and Semper made tracks for London where he was forced to work on much more menial projects.
When the opera house burned down in 1869, Augustus’ successor, King John, wanted to hire Semper to rebuild it. But Semper was too busy, so the job was handed over to his son, Manfred.
Later in the afternoon, we’ll meander through the many rooms that make up “The Green Vault”, a storehouse of treasures assembled by King Augustus II, known as “Augustus The Strong” (1670-1733).
Although many of the gold and silver pieces from the king’s original collection were melted down and used to finance other endeavors, and the Residenzschloss royal palace containing the vault was damaged during WWII, the jewels and expensive tableware that are left would easily tempt an enterprising thief to devise a scheme to bypass the vault’s security measure and make off with the loot.
Being a tourist on foot is hard work, so we’ll take an “Ice Cream and iPhone break” from our rambles around Dresden. Perhaps we should have toured the town in a rented “Trabi,” the nickname for the Trabant, a car built in East Germany during the Communist era.
If you had arrived blindfolded in Dresden after leaving Prague, and then been allowed to see the light of day, you might have believed that you had boarded the wrong train and had traveled not north, but rather south to Italy.
That’s because Augustus The Strong, a patron of the arts and architecture, left an Italian Baroque stamp upon many of the buildings that still stand today. No wonder Dresden has been called “Florence on the Elbe.”
And to underscore that point, while dining in an Italian restaurant near the Frauenkirche, don’t be surprised if we are serenaded by a waiter singing Italian-American melodies, ala Dean Martin.
Next up: Berlin!