Due to getting into Frankfurt a few minutes late and a very tight connection . . . so tight that when I went through customs, moments before my next flight to Dresden was boarding, the agent told me that I better "run fast!" Needing no more prompting, I did an "OJ" running through the Duty Free shop, sprinting down several moving sidewalks and an escalator. Reaching my gate as Lufthansa personnel were give seats away to standby customers, I waved my ticket and was directed to scan it before dashing down the gangway.
Having passed through customs in Frankfurt, I had only to pick up my luggage in Dresden, which surprisingly were some of the last to appear on the carrousel. Frankly, with the tight connection I'm amazed they even came with me!
Waiting for me outside the baggage area were Juli and her beau Konstantin. How wonderful to be greeted with such big smiles and heartfelt hugs! And, how fortunate for me that while Konstantin is a native German, Juli speaks with the authority of someone who has a firm command of the language and mannerisms for navigating in contemporary Germany!
The view from my room (#522) looks out onto Neumarkt, a large central square that was once ringed by homes of rich merchants. Today, after many years of reconstruction, it is a vibrant plaza surrounded by cafés, hotels and shops. The centerpiece of the plaza is the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), which when originally completed, in 1743, was Germany's tallest Protestant church standing 310-feet high.
The history of the Frauenkirche is extraordinary . . . On the night of February 13, 1945, this Lutheran church was firebombed and reduced to rubble at the end of WWII. The next morning, after the smoke cleared, the Frauenkirche was smoldering, but still standing. It burned for two-days before finally collapsing. Left in a pile of rubble, it became a peace monument. It was only after reunification that a decision was made to rebuild it completely. It was reopened to the public in 2005. I am told that the the darkened stones are original, while the lighter ones are "new."
Its history, however, dates back 1,000 years. Originally built, in the 11th century, as a missionary church to convert the surrounding Sorbian villagers to Christianity, it became the parish church for the city after the founding of the City of Dresden around 1175. The church was transformed into a Gothic hall church in the 13th century, and then rebuilt in a late Gothic style at the end of the 15th century. Due to disrepair, the Gothic church was temporarily closed at the beginning of the 18th century. In 1722, the City of Dresden Council commissioned the city master carpenter George Bähr to build a completely new church. He planned a masterpiece with an unmistakable dome that was to become a Dresden landmark. The stone, bell-shaped dome is unique and is the largest building of its kind north of the Alps. The foundation stone was laid on August 26, 1726 and it was completed eighteen years later (1743). Sadly, Bähr died before seeing the completion of his masterpiece.
As previously mentioned, on the morning of February 15, 1945 — two days after the devastating bombing raid on Dresden — the burnt out Frauenkirche collapsed. Although it “survived” the direct attack and fire storm, the extreme heat generated took its toll. In the early hours of Valentine’s Day, when the fire reached the church, the wooden galleries and pews were consumed by the blaze, sandstone exploded from the piers until they could no longer bear the immense weight of the done — 12,000 tons!
The ruins of the church became a reminder of Dresden’s destruction and the horrors of war, and though it was always the wish of the people to rebuilt the Frauenkirche, it wasn’t until the early 1960s that the idea of preserving the ruin as a memorial against war and destruction caught on. The ruins were officially declared a memorial and a commemorative plaque was erected. Since 1982, it has become a symbol for the peace movement in Eastern Germany and a place for non-violent protest.
After the peaceful 1989 revolution, a citizens action group was founded to rebuild the Frauenkirche. Four years after the 1990 Reunification of Germany, he Frauenkirche's next incarnation began. Today’s massive baroque-style church rose out of the huge heap of rubble. Funded by donations from all over Germany, as well as internationally, the church was resurrected using as much of the old material as possible. The rebuilding project was based on the principle that George Bähr’s Frauenkirche should be rebuilt using its original structural substance to the greatest extent possible and in accordance with the original construction plans. The reconstruction, however, was aided by modern technology as well as modern theories and methods of structural engineering and physics. The project was completed in 2005.
After lunch, we visited the Frauenkirshe, walked to the Altmarkt for yummy gelato, and then meandered to the Zwinger.