Monday, July 15, 2013

An enchanted evening in Dresden

We decided to visit Dresden since both Sally's father and my father often talked about the tragedy of the Allies' bombing of such a special place. The Germans didn't bomb Oxford, recognizing its special history, and didn't expect Dresden, one of Germany's historic centres of art and architecture to be bombed. But it was.

However, if you had been with us during our two night stay, you would have been truly amazed at how the city has been rebuilt...not just the newer buildings and complexes, but the restoration of many of the historic buildings which once gave Dresden the unofficial name of Florence on the Elbe.
We checked into the Swissotel, a 'historic-modern' hotel at the entrance to the old city since it was ranked #1 on Tripadvisor. It was a good choice, although one might question some of the interior designer's decisions! As we so often do, after checking in, we took a 'hop-on, hop-off' tour of the city and when we got off at the main stop, noticed a lot of people walking into a courtyard. We followed.

We soon found ourselves in a most spectacular place...The Zwinger , which I had previously read was Dresden's most impressive complex (our guide book called it 'jaw-dropping' and it was.)

But what added to the experience was on the steps at a far end of the courtyard, a girls' choir was singing.....are you ready? Leonard Cohen's Halleluja!  After the performance I spoke to some of the girls who were all from Dresden. They knew the song was by Leonard Cohen but didn't know he was Canadian. (We should get the Canadian Consulate in Germany to promote would be good for tourism!)

We left The Zwinger and noticed a row of black mercedes, some with flashing blue security lights. We decided to investigate. VIP's were heading into a concert hall, and as we walked away, noticed a sign saying remaining tickets could be purchased at the main box office. Not knowing what was happening, and despite not being properly dressed, we found it. The time was 7:55. We learned we were at the Semperoper, Dresden's magnificent Opera House. And  it wasn't a concert, but rather the closing night gala for the ballet.

We purchased two tickets and rushed up to our seats, just as the orchestra was being introduced. It was a magical event. (Although we were wishing we had been better dressed!)
A highlight for me was the last number "Echod me Yodea" a dance production based on a Jewish song from the Passover Seder.  It was a bitter sweet experience, especially when one considers what happened to Dresden's Jews seven decades ago.

Dresden is truly an amazing city when one considers how it looked after the war. The community efforts that resulted in the rebuilding are legendary. Three final things...there is a statue commemorating the efforts of the women who went around collecting bricks and stones to begin the rebuilding. There is a fabulous Volkswagen plant where you can watch an upper-line model being assembled through the exterior glass wall.
Dresden has either lost, or is in danger of losing its UNESCO Heritage Status for allowing a new bridge to be built! 
And the Guinness Book of Records most beautiful dairy shop is located there!

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