With a 17:10 departure from Dresden by train to Halle, there was a queue of activities to be knocked over. We’d seen Dresden from the hop on, hop off bus on Slothful Saturday, initially missing the commentary about the Zwinger, Kongresszentrum, Taschenberg, and Theatreplatz whilst we sorted out Gary’s ears, and then settling into physical inactivity to enjoy the sights. The Grosser Garten – a mixture of planned and wild foliage is a ‘must walk’ for next time; the Volkswagen factory with its multi levels of production visible to the outside world looked interesting; the Hygiene Museum, both because of its name and posters I saw elsewhere seems worth a visit, and I earmarked the Pfunds Molkerei because of mention of the hand painted Villeroy & Boch tiles in this milk shop.
The topics of mowing and milk have been constantly in our conversations: nothing is mown (some evidence of slashing) so public gardens and verges are overgown and untidy, and acquiring a vessel of fresh milk for Gary’s morning coffee is the proverbial needle in a haystack.
So it is with interest that I read that Paul Pfund traveled to Dresden in the late 19th century with his wife and six cows in order to supply the city with healthy milk. “The ornate Pfund dairy is a symbol of the Saxonians lust for life” according to a gourmet magazine. From the bus, this tiny shop looked crowded and we were incapable of making a decision to alight. So much so that we didn’t even get off to inspect Dresden’s version of a cable car, which is now of special interest having researched it, due to it being a suspended railway.
So Sunday appeared, packs were packed with clean clothes and more printed material, and we hot footed it to the Kreuzkirche to hear the famed Dresden boys choir. It was a normal Sunday service but not normal for us. From the outside the church wears the patina of history – the scars of conflict, the resolve of those who restore, and the filth of industrialisation – but inside it was starkly clean and simple and uncluttered: no stained glass; no gold adornment; no carved woodwork. Either side of the altar were (potted) trees – a life force – and either side of them, simple iron gates through which the children were guided mid-service. (what a good idea…) The procession of choirboys, young and adolescent, gave us a close inspection of the human instruments that would produce the most beautiful sounds as required by the order of service.
The signage at the portal clearly states ‘no visitors’ but we were not alone as tourists were indiscriminately vacating their seats. We sang hymns (in German) (or more precisely, I sang and Gary urged the words to pass by quickly) and we sat through the sermon (in German!) out of politeness, as it followed the reason we were there – to hear Bach’s Cantata BWV 34 O ewiges Feuer, o Ursprung der Liebe (O eternal fire, o source of love) written for Pentecost Sunday, and scored for alto, tenor & bass soloists, 4 part choir and an ensemble of 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 3 trumpets, timpani and strings and basso continuo (organ), in this instance the Philharmonisches Kammerorchester Dresden. The sound exploded from behind us in the gallery with the ‘big’ organ, and it was breathtaking!!!!!! The boys choir had exited the altar when the children of the congregation were led out, but through the opposite iron gates.
Gary’s interpretation of this ‘interlude’ was to entertain the congregation and provide relief; for me it clarified why liturgical music was written, and on Sunday 9 June in Dresden in this plain church of immense beauty, this music was surely a pathway to God for the believers.
The other Dresden pathways were filled with runners and barricaded streets: a ‘fun run’ of varying lengths through the old city; frightfully hot for 22 kms on cobbled streets.
The Green Vault – Grünes Gewölbe – of the Dresden castle had been recommended and we jagged a midday entry. WOW! A highly secured collection of the treasures of Europe; 3,000 items collected by Augustus the Strong and put on display when he opened his private rooms to the ‘public’ in the 1730’s. It is a sequence of rooms displaying objects according to their material: from amber furniture through to extraordinary jewels and immeasurably precious diamonds, and along the way, ornate silverware with polished coral handles; microscopic ivory carving and solid gold vessels – the list is endless and the rooms themselves are a sight. This is not a familiar gallery: this is almost indescribable. And there was strictly NO photography.
Next stop – the Frauenkirche that dominates the square; the church that inspires the world to be a better place; the symbol of hope and a future; the church that was as good as totally destroyed in the bombings of February 1945; the church that the people of Germany rebuilt stone by stone, some 12,000 tonnes of sandstone. The outside is a patchwork of new and original stone and the awesome stone dome is monumental and an awesome architectural feat.
Inside was nothing like what we imagined; the colours were pastel and the design circular – and it was full of happy snappers… We need to return and hear a ‘choir of angels’ emanating from the dome.
Despite the promise of 263 steps we climbed to the viewing platform and were rewarded with a matchless view across Dresden and beyond.
[Our apartment entrance was in the concealed corner of the carpark]