Today, we all loaded up the bus and said our farewells to Prague. It was time to go back to Germany. The first stop? Dresden. Dresden is the capital of the Free State of Saxony, in Germany, and the second largest city in the state. It is a city full of culture and business, and one that has a bit of controversy attached to it. Near the end of World War II, the allies flattened Dresden with bombs. What had happened is they flew up to bomb Berlin, but couldn’t see it due to the fog. Because of that, they decided to drop the bombs over Dresden on their way back. It’s a decision that is still controversial today. However, the city has been rebuilt and is once again a lively and economical place to live in and work.
I (Max) knew very little about Dresden before visiting it, so I was unaware of the part that it played in the war. I found it incredibly interesting how it was destroyed, as well as how they were able to rebuild it so well. If no one had told me it had been leveled a mere 70 years before, I wouldn’t have been able to tell. However, there was something that was very cool about the way they rebuilt some of their buildings. For those that still had bits and pieces of them standing, they used the old pieces and found out where their place was, and then added the new onto it. This was most evident in one of the churches we looked at. It was very easy to tell what was old and what was new, because the old parts of the church were made out of a blackish stone, while the new part.
We didn’t encounter too many cultural or language difficulties in our short time in Dresden, as the only Germans we spoke with was an English speaking waitress. However, Dresden is a place I’d like to visit again. It was a cool city, and we only got a couple of hours to spend there. I’d like to explore the shops, and see what some other food options are there.
After we left Dresden, we continued to Leipzig. Leipzig, the largest city in the German state of Saxony, has some similarities with Dresden when it comes to the history. It, too, was hit by bombs near the end of WWII although it was not as devastated as Dresden was. Since that time, Leipzig has been one of Germany’s fastest growing cities and it has been voted as the most livable city in Germany. It has come a long way since it was bombed.
One of the really cool things about Leipzig are the churches that it has. We looked at two in particular shortly after we arrived, St. Thomas Church and St. Nicholas Church. These two churches date back to the 12th century when they were founded as Roman Catholic churches. Today they are Lutheran and Protestant respectively. The biggest thing that we learned about these churches is that they both had their choirs led by the great composer Johann Sebastian Bach. From 1723-1750, he led both choirs and lived right in the heart of the city. The other thing that was cool to learn was the role that St. Nicholas Church played in ending communism in eastern Germany. Although it was not the church’s idea, they helped house the Monday Demonstrations. These demonstrations were peaceful protests that started in Leipzig in 1989 to push for more rights in eastern Germany. They went on for two years and they eventually prompted other places to push back against communism and get rid of it.
The time we have spent in Leipzig has been very unique and the city almost seems like it was never affected by WWII. It is full of life and lots of cool places that we didn’t have near enough time to check out. Getting voted the most livable city in Germany has to bring with it some merit, but unfortunately we don’t have enough time to experience Leipzig to understand what makes this city so great.
Max Kuik, Reuben Huizenga