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Frauenkirche Dresden day 2 travelogue by Aidan O'Rourke 30.10.05

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My first visit to Dresden 1980
Dresden in 2005 rebuilt city at the heart of Europe
Sunday 30 October 2005 was the big day for the Frauenkirche - the day of re-consecration after which it would be open for use as a place of worship. At 10am the first service took place, attended by digitaries, heads of state, religious leaders and others. Entry was reserved for some press - unfortunately not us - though members of the public on the square outside were able to watch it on the big screen.

We enjoyed a leisurely morning at our accommodation in the Wilder Mann suburb in north west Dresden. Then our party took the number 3 tram into the city, walked by the Elbe and over the Albert Bridge, most central of several bridges which span the river. We then strolled through the Zwinger Palace, walking all the way around the rooftop promenade to the front and down the steps to the east entrance, where we looked at the Russian inscription from 1945 'Min Nyet' - ' no mines'. After coffee and cake at the nearby Schinkel cafe I went to the Press Centre to work, while the others continued their walking tour of the Altstadt, Old Town.

The Press Centre was set up in the third floor of the Palace of Culture, Dresden's 1960s Communist style conference culture and entertainment centre, with a restaurant on the second floor. At the Press Centre, set up temporarily for the Frauenkirche event, there are working facilities and refreshments for journalists and other media. As well as a room full of PCs with high speed internet access, there is a lounge with excellent free food and drink. Sponsors Dresdner Bank have a stall there, and are giving out free souvenir watches and goodie bags.

At 2.30 I joined others from the media for my scheduled viewing of the interior of the Frauenkirche, gaining entry at entrance C. Walking up the stairs the church looked curiously old and new at the same time. I was impressed by the 'wobbly' window panes, especially created using 18th century glassmaking techniques. Stepping out onto the balcony high up in the church was a breathtaking experience, gazing up and down at the interior, freshly painted in pastel colours, with its tall pillars, arches, wall paintings and complicated balconies with unexpected nooks and crannies.

Most impressive of all was the altar and organ. The colours and paintings looked somehow too fresh and new. The marbling - patterns painted on to resemble marble - and the 'trompe l'oeuil' stone and carving effects, were curiously reminiscent of... of all places... The Trafford Centre. It seems almost sacriligeous to say so, but the Trafford Centre was the closest thing I've seen to the interior of the Frauenkirche. No doubt, over time, the walls and paintwork will acquire a patina, making them look much more like an old church than the UK's largest and in some peoples opinion (not mine) - most tasteless shopping centre.

All in all, the Frauenkirche is an astounding piece of modern architecture - or at least, architecture built in an age straddling the millennium, but using the techniques of approximately 280 years before. People viewing the Frauenkirche in the year 2525 will hardly notice the time difference.

Back at the Press Centre I worked on photos and admin, uploading my newly taken photos of the interior via the high speed wifi internet connection.

Sitting in the loung area, I was very fortunate to be introduced to the man in charge of the Frauenkirche reconstruction, Herr Eberhard Burger. I asked him a couple of questions and took photos. (Vielen Dank an KK von MDR für die Vorstellung!)

Later in the day the ecumenical service took place, to which my colleague Peter Portland managed to gain entry. He described it as quite moving, though rather long and he left before the end.

Later in the evening our party returned to the Pulverturm restaurant in the basement of the Coselpalais, where we had dinner - this time sadly not paid for by the Dresdner Bank but out of our own pockets. I ordered a rice and pork dish which, when placed on the table in front of me, I found instantly disappointing. Peter Portland kindly swapped it for his turkey schnitzel, which was delicious.

Peter Portland made an interesting comment about the German language version of this morning's service, and how languages interpret things differently. In English we have the words 'maker of all things seen and unseen', but in German the wording is 'die sichtbare und unsichtbare Welt' - literally 'the visible and invisible world' - quite a different interpretation of the original Greek, and somehow more metaphysical.

At the next table were two young couples visiting from Bavaria. I was struck by how much the two young and very attractive women were smoking. Germany still has cigarette adverts and many people smoke heavily. It will be a long time before there is an outright smoking ban here, as in New York and the Republic of Ireland, which, incidentally, I don't agree with.

Our bill for the Pulverturm meal came to around 20 euros per person.

We made our way back via the trusty number 3 tram which never fails to appear within a few minutes, no matter what time day or night.

Written by Aidan O'Rourke
Posted/Updated 2005-10-30

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