Dresden: no trace of the bombing

Dresden was meant to be one of the highlights of our December trip to Germany. I had read up so much on the infamous 1945 bombing, when British and American planes essentially flattened the baroque jewel of the Elbe. A town that, a bit like Oxford, had spent the better part of the war in the certainty that its beauty would protect it from an air strike.

How tragically wrong they were. 

Photocredit: Bundesarchiv, through wikipedia.org.

Now I won’t go into the gruesome historical details – suffice it to say that I had read and listened up on the tragedy (references below) and that, you know what, for history buffs like my son and I, it felt as significant a visit as any major sight or museum in Berlin. So it goes, as my beloved Kurt Vonnegut so often writes. 

As it turned out, though, our trip didn’t turn out quite as planned. Our time walking around historical Dresden did not elicit the kind of emotional connection I so often had in Berlin during that week – which, in hindsight, is a nice reminder that emotional connections can be dreamt of, but hardly planned. 

Nothing wrong with the Baroque Alstadt, really

To put it plainly, by lunchtime we were googling alternative ways of returning to our hotel in Neuköln, as the planned 7 pm train ride now seemed depressingly far down the road. 


But what went wrong, you may ask? Well, it was cold and wet but, unlike in Berlin, our wandering felt dreary and claustrophobic. Being outdoors was tough, but no plan indoors was appealing or inexpensive enough, so the only occasion for relief involved yet another coffee or hot chocolate. 

And, guess what. No museum or even simple exhibit devoted to the bombing. One of the most momentous events of arguably the most significant war of the 20th century. Puzzles me to this day. 

Out of things to do, we decided to cross the bridge and visit the Neustadt, which, despite the name, is only slightly newer than the medieval Alstadt, only there are less historical buildings that have been restored. It was there that it started pouring freezing rain, and so we sought refuge in a Vietnamese noodle shop. It was there that, sipping hot pho, we gathered our thoughts and considered the option of a swift return to our comfy Neuköln digs. 

Luckily, by the time we left the rain had stopped and there was a hint of sunshine. Better still, turns out that we had actually hit a cool neighborhood full of trendy cafés and street art. We spent some time in a record shop. They had all sorts of great vinyl and, surprisingly, an album by Spanish 70’s progressive band, Asfalto. So it goes.

The walk in Aussere Neustadt managed to cheer us up, and by the time we crossed the bridge on the Elbe again, we were able to take a couple of pretty photos, you know, the kind you post on Instagram and that just scream, oh just what a great travel day we’re having – please like. Well if only likers knew. 

The last couple of hours in Dresden went surprisingly well. We discovered the Albertinum museum – or, shall I say, its lounge, where we had another hot chocolate before chilling in its comfortable seating area. 

So much art….but why so little history?


Want to know more about the bombing?

Gregg, Victor. Dresden: A Survivor’s Story. 2013.

This one’s short, and will help you better understand the sheer “thoughtfulness” of the massacre

And if you’d rather listen, this podcast episode is phenomenal:


And, of course, check Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-five, inspired by all this. 




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s