Sunday we were off to see another part of Germany! The real test was packing, a real test for when it’s time to head back to the states. I left the larger portion of my rolling backpack at the Berlin hotel, delaying the inevitable. No money to pay for heavy luggage – something WILL go! That ugly grey suit I brought on this trip, lotions and powder – something will have to remain behind!
The good thing, the weight of our luggage doesn’t matter yet. We traveled in comfort, by bus, to the city of Dresden. Dresden sits in the “Free State of Saxony.” It is sort of a college-town, with manufacturing, a lot of history and a lot of ART! Kinda reminds me of the Triangle! The first piece of art that greeted this group of American journalists was just outside our hotel, representing the area’s famous Boys Choir.
The City of Dresden has undergone a major transformation since wartime and “wall” time. Rainer Hasters, our tour guide and Executive Director of the RIAS Berlin Kommission, our trip sponsor, told us, it used to be hard to get Western media signals in Dresden. It was called “Valley of the Uninformed.” Today, Dresden has rebuilt its population and its famous infrastructure. Carola Bernholz walked us around the city. One of the most well-known and tallest landmarks is the “Church of Our Lady.” For many years, there was only a pile of rubble at this site, leftovers from the bombing and fire during the war. Bernholz says the community treated the rubble as a “monument against war.” Dresden would eventually come together, raise money, mark every stone/brick, and rebuild the church (with the help of computer technology). It was completed in 2005.
Dresden rebuilt many old, ruined buildings. It is common to see an outer baroque facade and a modern facility on the inside.
We visited the Academy of Fine Arts, a high school and a college. I loved the room full of stone sculptures – some antiques, some reproductions. Bernholtz said, in the 19th century, it was as popular to have a “reproduction” as the real thing.
One of the most well-known historic characters in Dresden time seems to be “Augustus II – ‘The Strong.” There’s a large and long mural made of porcelain tiles – “Procession of Princes” – that includes “The Strong” – something to see. “Augustus the Strong” was infamous for many reasons. I remember three things – he became Catholic so he could become the President of Poland, he loved the women and had at least 300 children, and one of his mistresses made him claim her on paper! She was later put in jail, but she was also infamous, her face is on bottles of wine and more!
Our long walk ended with dinner at a well-known spot – “Sophienkeller.” The staff dressed in period costumes, serving a lot of beer, meat and potatoes! My dessert was even some sort of fried potato dumpling, with sugar on top, and apple sauce and cream on the side!
Prof. Georg Milbradt, former Minister President of the German State Saxony, was our guest – along with his wife. He told us about the years when Saxony, a main industrial center, was cut off from its Western market (across Europe and overseas). Today, he confirms the State is back, unemployment is low (about 7%), and exports are on the move. Milbradt says, the test is settling the banking problems of the south (like southern Germany and Italy, etc…) He says the “south” has to become more competitive to pay its debt.