Resolving to rebuild Dresden

Resolving to rebuild Dresden I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. It’s primarily because I don’t believe in them. Most people rarely keep these self made promises past three months into the new year. Quite frankly, if you really want to change something, kick an old habit or rebuild a portion of your life, today’s the best day to do it. Why wait? But, I acknowledge that January is a symbolic opportunity for a clean slate. It’s a time of reinvention, taking stock and rebuilding. This type of introspection is usually expected of individuals but it’s an incredible undertaking when an entire city needs to take stock and rebuild. When I need inspiration I think of Dresden, East Germany. In my opinion, Dresden, like the fabled Phoenix, is the epitome of literally rising from the ashes. Towards the end of World War II the city of Dresden was subjected to a series of fire bombings by the Allied Forces, killing over 20,000 people. It also resulted in the city known as the “Florence of the Elbe” being reduced to burning piles of rubble and beyond recognition. Perhaps it would have been easy to clear the remains from what was left of the city and replace it with pre-fabricated modern buildings. It could have been viewed as an opportunity to start over and build fresh and give the city a “new” look. Instead, the Saxons decided to honor their past and considered it a triumph to rebuild what had been taken from them. Today, they are once again, actively promoting tourism. A few years back I was invited to visit the city of Dresden and stayed at the beautiful Kempinski Hotel. It was formerly a Palace, but like everything else in Dresden, it was bombed beyond recognition. Previously known as the Taschenbergpalais, it is now rebuilt and repurposed as upscale accommodations now known as the Hotel Taschenbergpalais Kempinski. The restoration was impeccable and according to “before” photos, the “after” product was true to origin. It may be the only time in my life that I get to stay in a Palace and I enjoyed every moment. It was a great introduction to what I now believe to be one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited. Located on the banks of the Elbe River, Dresden, small and quaint, is a walking town with a magnificent secret. The Old Masters Picture Gallery is relatively unknown to international visitors yet it contains hundreds of works of Old Masters such as Rubens, Rembrandt and Vermeer. The most famous probably being a piece by Rapahel entitled “Sistine Madonna”. The name may not be familiar but chances are good that you’ve seen at least a small part of this renowned artwork that just celebrated its 500th anniversary. At the bottom of the very large painting are two cherubs looking, well, cherubic, and gazing heavenward. It’s the two cherubs that have been excerpted and reprinted on magnets and stationery, etc. The complete piece of art shows that the two are looking up at the Madonna and her newborn. Just a short walk from the Gallery is the Semper Opera House/Concert Hall which, to this day, remains one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen. Even in photos, it still takes my breath away. To realize that it was completely rebuilt after the bombing, knocks my socks off. I was told that during the rebuild process they accessed archival information to determine the accurate mix and tint of the internal paint colors. As a fan of Renaissance style this building brought me to tears. I’m not sure if I cried due to the actual beauty of the city or as an emotional reaction to the effort that was required to restore and preserve that beauty. The Saxony Tourist Board is actively promoting tourism to the city. There has been growth in building public transportation and developing the infrastructure. Yet, despite the history and the agony of the bombings, the painstaking detail in restoring the city to its exacting beauty a reminder remained of what led to the downfall. As I walked across one of the beautiful bridges I was…

Advertisements

“It was twenty years ago, today….

“It was twenty years ago, today. Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play. They’ve been going in and out of style, but they’re guaranteed to raise a smile. So, may I introduce to you, the act you’ve known for all these years…..” “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Beatles!” It was actually more than 20 years ago when the song and album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band made its debut, but it was 50 years ago when the Beatles first landed on our shore. If, like me, you’re a true Beatles fan you’ll notice that I combined the lyrics of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band with Ed Sullivan’s now famous introduction of the original British boy band to America. Even if you weren’t a fan, you couldn’t escape the hysteria that accompanied their arrival at JFK airport. Back in 1964 I was too young to appreciate or even understand the impact the “mopheads” from Liverpool would eventually have on our music and even on our pop cultural landscape. My mother was more of a Trini Lopez fan but we did have a Beatles album in the house. However, it wasn’t until the Beatles broke up that I took notice of their music. Prior to that, I was too enthralled with a band called The Monkees. I assume that they were America’s attempt at a copy of the Beatles and they were fairly successful. But, just like a child who wants what they can’t have, once the Beatles dissolved, I craved their music. I came to have a new appreciation for their songs that was fed by constant tributes and all-Beatles’ weekends on radio stations. I was inspired by their melodies and what I previously lost in time, I later made up for with enthusiasm. I laid claim to my mother’s copy of ‘Something New’, a Beatles album released only in the United States. I later went on to collect about 100 records which were a mix of British and American album releases on both the Parlaphone and Capitol and eventually Apple labels. I also sought out picture discs (albums imprinted with photos instead of being traditionally all black), and assorted other language albums, compilations and a few 45’s of some of my favorite single releases. I was a regular at Beatlefests where other Beatles fans joined together to trade souvenirs, albums and tributes to what we considered to be the Greatest Band of All Time. So, it seemed right that when I took my very first international trip, that it would be to England. Actually, it was more than a trip. For me, it was a pilgrimage. I have previously written about this trip and my unsuccessful attempt to meet veterinarian/author Dr. James Herriott. Fortunately, my visit to Liverpool was more successful. No, I didn’t get to meet any of the “Four Lads Who Shook the World” but I did get to see the sculpture bearing these words on Matthew Street in Liverpool paying tribute to John, Paul, George and Ringo. Matthew Street was the location of the original Cavern Club, the place where the Beatles got their start. At that time, the Cavern Club was permanently closed but just to be able to stand there and touch the bricks of the building and imagine the energy of those early days was heady stuff, indeed. Next, I visited Strawberry Field which inspired the song “Strawberry Fields Forever”. It came as a surprise that Mr. Lennon was not singing about an idyllic park, but instead about an orphanage called Strawberry Field. The ornate gates still stand and the orphanage still operates and people still post Beatles related graffiti on the gate posts. From there, I headed to Menlove Avenue, John Lennon’s boyhood home. The house is still there but visitors are greeted with a sign that reads NO Trespassing, clearly stating the current occupant’s desire for privacy. I’m sure I’m not the first fan with a desire to knock on that door but I didn’t want to intrude or worse be thought of as a “cheeky American”. Completing the pop culture tri-fecta, just a few blocks away you find Penny Lane, a fairly busy intersection. Despite the ordinariness of these locations they were magical as I stood…

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. It’

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. It’s primarily because I don’t believe in them. Most people rarely keep these self made promises past three months into the new year. Quite frankly, if you really want to change something, kick an old habit or rebuild a portion of your life, today’s the best day to do it. Why wait? But, I acknowledge that January is a symbolic opportunity for a clean slate. It’s a time of reinvention, taking stock and rebuilding. This type of introspection is usually expected of individuals but it’s an incredible undertaking when an entire city needs to take stock and rebuild. When I need inspiration I think of Dresden, East Germany. In my opinion, Dresden, like the fabled Phoenix, is the epitome of literally rising from the ashes. Towards the end of World War II the city of Dresden was subjected to a series of fire bombings by the Allied Forces, killing over 20,000 people. It also resulted in the city known as the “Florence of the Elbe” being reduced to burning piles of rubble and beyond recognition. Perhaps it would have been easy to clear the remains from what was left of the city and replace it with pre-fabricated modern buildings. It could have been viewed as an opportunity to start over and build fresh and give the city a “new” look. Instead, the Saxons decided to honor their past and considered it a triumph to rebuild what had been taken from them. Today, they are once again, actively promoting tourism. A few years back I was invited to visit the city of Dresden and stayed at the beautiful Kempinski Hotel. It was formerly a Palace, but like everything else in Dresden, it was bombed beyond recognition. Previously known as the Taschenbergpalais, it was rebuilt and repurposed as upscale accommodations now known as the Hotel Taschenbergpalais Kempinski. The restoration was impeccable and according to “before” photos, the “after” product was true to origin. It may be the only time in my life that I get to stay in a Palace and I enjoyed every moment. It was a great introduction to what I now believe to be one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited. Located on the banks of the Elbe River, Dresden, small and quaint, is a walking town with a magnificent secret. The Old Masters Picture Gallery is relatively unknown to international visitors yet it contains hundreds of works of Old Masters such as Rubens, Rembrandt and Vermeer. The most famous probably being a piece by Rapahel entitled “Sistine Madonna”. The name may not be familiar but chances are good that you’ve seen at least a small part of this renowned artwork that just celebrated its 500th anniversary. At the bottom of the very large painting are two cherubs looking, well, cherubic, and gazing heavenward. It’s the two cherubs that have been excerpted and reprinted on magnets and stationery, etc. The complete piece of art shows that the two are looking up at the Madonna and her newborn. Just a short walk from the Gallery is the Semper Opera House/Concert Hall which, to this day, remains one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen. Even in photos, it still takes my breath away. To realize that it was completely rebuilt after the bombing, knocks my socks off. I was told that during the rebuild process they accessed archival information to determine the accurate mix and tint of the internal paint colors. As a fan of Renaissance style this building brought me to tears. I’m not sure if I cried due to the actual beauty of the city or as an emotional reaction to the effort that was required to restore and preserve that beauty. The Saxony Tourist Board is once again actively promoting tourism to the city. There has been growth in building public transportation and redeveloping the infrastructure.Yet, despite the history and the agony of the bombings, the painstaking detail in restoring the city to its exacting beauty a reminder remained of what led to the downfall. As I walked across one of the beautiful bridges I was shocked to see that…