Friday, 25 October 2013

Dresden - Baroque Capital of Saxony

The Baroque opulence of late 17th century Dresden owes its existence to one man, August II der Starke (The Strong), Elector of Saxony and twice King of Poland.

Or to give him his full Latin title: Augustus Secundus, Dei Gratia rex Poloniae, magnus dux Lithuaniae, Russie, Prussiae, Masoviae, Samogitiae, Livoniae, Kijoviae, Volhyniae, Podoliae, Smolensciae, Severiae, Czerniechoviaeque, necnon haereditarius dux Saxoniae et princeps elector etc. That's quite something to fit onto your driving licence.

Here he is, depicted as Goldner Reiter in a golden equestrian statue just north of Augustusbrücke on the Neustädter Mark in Dresden.

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour
Goldner Reiter, Dresden
We visited the city August II had created on a sunny October Saturday with My Beloved's Mother and Sister who were over to stay with us for a few days.

We have been to Dresden a few times since moving to Berlin, first of all back in 2009, and each time we return the City has built and renewed and renovated itself immensely. There is no need to point out that the centre of Dresden was totally, and shamefully, flattened by British and US bombing in February 1945 and the resultant fire-storms is there? Well, read about it on Wikipedia if you want to know more.

Our first tick on the must-see list was Pfunds Molkerei, 'the most beautiful dairy shop in the World'. Then we walked back across Augustusbrücke, passing the Goldener Reiter, and headed to the famous Semperoper, home of the Sächsische Staatsoper Dresden (Saxony State Opera).

Standing in Theatreplatz in front of the opera house is another equestrian statue, this time showing King John of Saxony (Konig Johann I. von Sachsen).

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour
Statue of King John of Saxony
The Semperoper was built by the architect Gottfried Semper in 1841, and again in 1869 after it burnt down. There have been many operas that were premièred here, including Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer (the Flying Dutchman) and Tannhäuser, and loads by Richard Strauss, such as Der Rosenkavalier and Elektra. I would so love to go and see a performance here one day!

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour
Semperoper
Also overlooking Theaterplatz is the main Catholic Church (Katholische Hofkirche), where August II The Strong's heart was interred (the rest of his body was buried at Wawel Cathedral, Kraków, Poland).

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour
Statues on the skyline of the Katholische Hofkirche, Dresden
From the Semperoper it is just a Katzensprung to the Zwinger, a palace, orangery, and fun place to hang out for the Dresden Court back in the day. It still is today, though probably much more sedate and now not requiring membership of the Saxony nobility and hangers on. A 'Zwinger' by the way is the name for the outer wall of a mediaeval fortress, the bit where the cannons were put on; it's not the name of someone who goes to parties where they put their car-keys in a bowl.

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour
Französischer Pavillion at the Zwinger, Dresden
The main entrance into the Zwinger gardens is through this neoclassical portal in the long Sempergalerie, built by that Semper guy again.

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour
Sempergalerie, the Zwinger, Dresden
I like the Frantzösischer Pavillion (French Pavillion) best at the Zwinger; it uses light so playfully and has witty adornments of no use whatsoever except to give pleasure.

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour
Französische Pavillion
Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour
Französische Pavillion again
Even more fun, it has hidden behind it the Nymphenbad (bath for nymphs) who can be found seductively disporting themselves whilst having a good scrub down.

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour
the Nymphenbad
Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour
the Nymphenbad
Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour
entrance to the Nymphenbad from above the Bogengalerien
From on top of the walls you get a good view of the Zwingerteich, lovely in its Autumnal colours.

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour
Zwingerteich
Another entrance to the Zwinger, over the Zwingergraben, is the Kronentor (Crown Gate). Sadly it is still being renovated at the moment, but it is topped with an impressive golden Polish crown symbolising August II's accession to the Polish throne.

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour
Kronentor, the Zwinger, Dresden
From up here you also get great views of the Sempergalerie:

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour
Sempergalerie
... and also the Wall Pavilion

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour
The Wall Pavillion.
Walking along, you soon get a view of the Deutscher Pavillion (German Pavillion):

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour

And there in the background are the towers of the Dresdner Schloss (Dresden Castle).

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour
Dresdner Schloss, behind the Deutscher Pavillion
The Deutscher Pavillion is adorned with playful statues too, though not as many as on the Französische Pavillion :

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour

From up here there are great views back into the Zwinger ...

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour
The oldest Zwinger in town
There, I've said it.
... and also over the walls towards the Dresdner Schloss. That will be our next visit.

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour
Dresdner Schloß from the Zwinger
Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour
Part of the Dresdner Schloß


Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour
Inside the Dresdner Schloß, near where you buy tickets for the exhibitions.
The Dresdner Schloß has some wonderful and fascinating exhibitions (I hear), not least the sometimes over-the-top bonkers treasures of the Grünes Gewölbe. They would need a day to look around though, and we are already short of time, so we shall leave a visit there until another day. Instead, we head off towards the Frauenkirche, looking at the sights of Dresden on the way.

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour

One piece of mural art to check out is the Fürstenzug, or 'procession of princes', showing a horse-mounted procession of all the rulers of Saxony back through time. Originally commissioned in 1871 to mark the 800th anniversary of the Wettin dynasty, it depicts the ancestral portraits of the 35 margraves, electors, dukes and kings of the House of Wettin between 1127 and 1904, all hand-painted onto 23,000 Meissen porcelain tiles. It is considered the largest porcelain artwork in the World.

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour
The Fürstenzug
Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour
Fürstenzug: detail
Soon we come upon the impressive Frauenkirche, its dome towering high above us.

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour
Frauenkirche, Dresden
The 12,00 tonne sandstone 'steinerne Glocke' dome of the Frauenkirche is echoed in the 'lemon squeezer' glass dome of the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts, topped with a golden statue of Pheme (goddess of fame and renown).

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour
Pheme/Fama on the dome of the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts (HfBK)
The Frauenkirche is certainly an impressive building. And to think it was totally razed by the bombing of 1945, and the foundation-stone for its rebuilding finally laid in 1994. It was finished in 2005. The golden cross on the top of the dome was funded by "the British People and the Royal House of Great Britain" and was crafted by a goldsmith whose father had been one of the bomber pilots responsible for the destruction of the church. It would be trite to say 'it was the least we could do'.

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour

Standing outside this protestant church is a statue of Martin Luther. I am reminded that August II The Strong converted rather cynically from Protestantism to Catholicism  in order to be eligible to become King of Poland.

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour
Statue of Martin Luther in front of the Frauenkirche in Dresden
We had a not particularly satisfactory meal at the Bistro Ecke Frauenkirche (ask me about it - bad though the experience was, I am not going to publish anything about it in case of getting tangled in litigation. Just to say, this bistro that is part of the Hilton hotel is not recommended), then wandered around the Frauenkirche and to the Elbe and the Brühl Terrace, which Goethe gave the name 'the Balcony of Europe'.

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour

Brühl's terrace gives a lovely view across the Elbe to the Saxony Finance Ministry (left) and the Staatskanzlei (right of the bridge):

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour


And here's another view of the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts:

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour

From a photographer's point of view, Brühl's terrace could have done with facing South instead of North, as the buildings are always in shadow and a bit chilly from the river. Anyway, it was a nice stroll and back again to the Frauenkirche.

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour

This is the Transport Museum:

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour

And then we are back again at the Frauenkirche, just in time to catch the light of the setting sun.

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour

We finished our visit off with a horse-drawn double-decker carriage tour of the inner city. Sitting on the top, our other travellers were a family of Chinese. The German (only) speaking guide joined us on the top deck and began giving us the tour 'spiel', only to find none of his customers were fluent in German. He was very sweet about it though, and we had an enjoyable but strange tour of the Innerstadt where we translated his German description of the sights into English for my Mother- and Sister-in-law, whilst the Chinese mother translated into Mandarin for her family.

One last photo before we leave back to Berlin. I have concentrated on the Baroque part of Dresden that was built (and then recently rebuilt) to the vision of August II The Strong, but the legacy of the DDR years has not been wiped away. For example, here is a Soviet Era mural, preserved on the side of the Dresdner Philharmonie 'Kulturpalast', a protected building from those times. I believe that it is important to preserve not just the architectural fantasies of a 17th century Saxony noble, but also the socialist idealism of Dresdners who contributed just as much to the spirit of a city that rebuilt itself from the horrors of the Second World War.

Dresden. Photo by Andie Gilmour

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