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On Thursday German history was on my side. Thanks to the memory of reunification I was gifted with a Feiertag – and therefore a four day weekend – in which to squeeze ample sightseeing. I chose Dresden.
Parallel in my expectations of Dresden were sadness when I thought of the allied bombing which had flattened it and at the same time scepticism that perhaps overzealous efforts to restore and to move on would have rendered it a botched job of architectural generation conflict.
But the Altstadt surprised me with its understated splendour. The modern haste of the new had been banished to side-streets which ducked out of sight under boulevards, allowing the old to exert uncompromised regency in peace. The bright pastel buildings around the Frauenkirche emanated a triumph of fresh shine which bathed the expanse of square in optimism. In them were housed elegant Italian restaurants which, rather than ward off tourists with pretentious prices and stiff chairs, welcomed them in with sunny arms. Old and new coalesced in the brickwork of the church to form a patchwork which did not seem a forced or inharmonious a mixture; but a reinvention.
A mature grace had blessed the Dresdonians. Tempted were they not to exploit the tragedy of their history by slapping visitors across the face with commemorative plaques and photographs of ruins. Out of their suffering has come not a self-pitying, profit-making attraction. The city has been reborn tastefully and naturally. Tourists there could still orientate themselves by the tat shops and tour guides but there was less goggling and more admiration.
Walking inside the church was a sacred experience, not because I could feel the presence of an almighty, but because I could feel the faith and care of the people who restored it. We sat like groundlings in a theatre, our pupils wide with the purity of the fresh paintwork in the globular roof. The silk wash walls were like porcelain and jeweled with gold fixtures like freckles on the cheeks of a cherub. In here, like in the city itself, there felt a preciousness; a tangible desire to appreciate its beauty lest it be lost again.
By Madeleine Kilminster
The UoB Linguist Magazine
Guild of Students,
University of Birmingham