Saturday, May 12, 2012

Letter from Germany, part 3

After spending the weekend in northern Bavaria, we traveled to Dresden, the capital of the state of Saxony. We had visited Dresden in early 1990s and although renovation work on many historic buildings had already begun, much of the city still looked drab and neglected from four decades of neglect under communist rule. Not so now. While construction work is still ongoing in places, an immense amount of progress has been made.

View of the Frauenkirche

The most obvious hallmark of what has been achieved is the Frauenkirche, the large Lutheran church in the heart of Dresden which was destroyed during the firebombing by the Allies during World War II. Still a ruin during my 1993 visit, the Frauenkirche was painstakingly reconstructed over 13 years and reconsecrated in 2005. The cost of reconstruction was a jaw-dropping €180 million ($250 million at today’s exchange rate).


The buildings around the Frauenkirche are magnificent, recalling the splendor of the time before the world turned dark in the late 1930s.

Academy of Fine Arts
Pedicabs in front of the Frauenkirche

I’m not a fan of overly ornate Baroque architecture, but I was entranced by the myriad intricate details evident everywhere.


After paying what I thought was a hefty fee of €8 (about $10.50), my brother and I climbed to the top of the cupola…


…in hopes of catching a panoramic view of the city. What I saw surpassed my wildest expectation. It was like flying over downtown Dresden at a low altitude. This view of the Elbe River was my favorite.

View of the Elbe River
Academy of Fine Arts
Academy of Fine Arts
A green oasis on top of the roof
View towards Dresden Castle
I couldn’t get enough of the view
A less charming part of the panorama: a residential highrise built during communist rule

We then continued on past Dresden Castle and the Semperoper to the Zwinger, a Rococo palace built by Augustus the Strong in the early 1700s to house exhibition galleries.

Theaterplatz with Semperoper (left) and Dresden Castle (right)
Trees in front of the Zwinger. I saw many of these but was never able to figure out what they were. A group of Japanese tourists got very excited at the sight of these trees. They called out a Japanese name but I wasn’t even to memorize it.
I hate pansies but I had to make my peace with them because they were everywhere
Architectural details from the Zwinger
Zwinger panorama

Leaving the historic buildings behind, we walked through the pedestrian shopping district. The architecture there is much more utilitarian and drab. Many buildings were constructed during communist rule when esthetics was not a priority. However, the city is trying to beautify the shopping district with public art. I particularly liked these two examples:


And since this is a blog about plants and gardening, here are two cold-hardy succulents I spotted:

Sedum species
House leek (Sempervivum sp.)

Tomorrow, in my final post from my trip to Germany, I’ll take to the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. I hadn’t even heard of this area until recently but it turned out to be one of the most beautiful parts of Germany I have ever seen.

Related posts:

Letter from Germany, part 1

Letter from Germany, part 2

Letter from Germany, part 3

Letter from Germany, part 4


  1. As one who enjoys the contrasts I appreciate seeing the stark lines of the "communist" buildings along with the more ornate architectural styles. While the residential high-rise appears a little opressive at least they look to have balconies!

  2. Beautiful city, and like danger garden I like the mix of the different architectural styles.

    I think the entrance fee to get that view was worth it. :-)