One of the fun things we did in Germany is take a short excursion on the Harzer Schmalspur Bahn, a narrow gauge railroad running through the Harz Mountains. The tourist train is an hour and a half run up to Brocken, the highest point in the Harz mountains. The fun thing is you get to take one of their restored steam trains. It's not often you see a fleet of 25 steam trains working every day. Other tourists liked the trains, too. quite serious. It's not just a tourist rail - it's also the most direct route through the Harz mountains, Deutsche Bahn doesn't serve it. The mountains are beautiful, full of hiking trails and forests.
Dresden was the most surprising part of my trip, astonishingly beautiful. I only knew about the firebombing, followed by 40 years of communist architecture. What I didn't know is that the city is truly beautiful, with a lovely waterfront on the Elbe. And the old center of Dresden, the showpiece palaces and promenades, has been completely rebuilt with a very traditional restoration.
The pride of Dresden's reconstruction is the rebuilding of the Frauenkirche, the Baroque church that was left in complete ruin after the destruction in 1945. The restored building is beautiful, using the traditional stonework techniques. As you can see in my photo above, they reused the old (blackened) stones where they could.
Yesterday was the symbolic conclusion of the reconstruction, hoisting the cupola with a British-donated cross to crown the church. The cost is enormous: $175 million or more. Imagine the pride in this restoration, coming after reunification.
Hello everyone, I'm back! Many thanks to Marc for writing the guestblog while I was gone, lots of interesting things.
I took a two week vacation to the former East Germany. It was an excellent trip, very relaxing and interesting. I took some notes on the trip that I'll play out here over the next while. The quick itinerary: