Thursday, June 23, 2011

In Saxony

Greetings from modern Saxony (Sachsen in German) ( where Gertrud and I have just spend a very enjoyable week with friends. The Saxons were one of the best known of the Germanic tribes and had significant impact on Northern Europe and on the British Isles.  Ancient Saxony was much larger and included parts of today's German states of Westphalia, Lower Saxony, Saxon and Saxon-Anhalt the last two of which were created in the 1990's after German reunification.  Cities visited on this trip have included Dresden, Leipzig, Meissen, Moritzburg and Halle an der Saale.

Dresden, Saxon's capital, is best known today for the heavy and extremely controversial bombings it suffered from American and British Forces towards the end of World War II (   It had long been a cultural center of Northern German.  For most of the war, the Allies had not considered Dresden as strategically important and seemed hesitant to destroy it.  What caused them to carry out these bombings at war's end is still the subject of much speculation.  Estimates of the numbers killed range from 35,000 to 135,000 which included many refugees moving westward to avoid the advancing Red Army.

But like the legendary Phoenix, Dresden has risen up from its ashes to again become one of Germany most beautiful cities. Restored buildings include the Zwinger Palace (,) Das Grüne Gewolbe, which houses many treasures of Saxon's rulers (, and the exquisite baroque Frauenkirche (church of our lady) (  Gertrud and I were in Dresden in June 2004 and were able to watch as large cranes lifted the new cupola onto the top of the church, completing its restoration.  The cupola was a gift from the British as a token of restored friendship between the two countries.

Leipzig ( has regained much of its pre-WWII luster as a center of trade fairs, education and culture.  Johann Sebastian Bach is buried in the city's Thomaskirche where he also spent many years as the church's cantor. Other personalities who performed or preached in the Thomaskirche were Mozart, Richard Wagner and Martin Luther. (,_Leipzig). In the late 1980s, weekely monday demonstrations emanating from Leipzig's Nicolikirche became a major factor in bringing about the collapse of the former Communist Government of East Germany (http://en.wikipedia.or/wiki/Monday_demonstrations_in_East_Germany). We also had dinner in Leipzig's famous Auerbach's Keller 
( which played a key role in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's novel Faust.  And as a final comment, one of Germany's largest monuments, the Volkerslacht Denkmal
( commemorates Napoleon's 1813 defeat at Leipzig. Approximately 600,000 troops fought in this battle and an estimated 90,000 died in the surrounding fields. 

Halle was founded in the 9th Century and is the birthplace of Georg Friedric Händel. Meissen is often called the "Cradle of Saxony" and is famous for its porcelain. (  Moritzburg Castle was built in the 1500s as a hunting lodge (  

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Grüsse aus Franken

Gertrud and I are currently on our annual "pilgrimage" to Franken, or Franconia in English (  It is in the Northern part of the State of Bavaria in Germany and is her heimat\homeland where she still has family and friends.  While this area is not as famous as Munich and the Alps of Upper Bavaria, we think Franconia's medieval cities are much prettier and more interesting than those in the South.  This year we have been joined by American friends Reed and Carol Warnick on visits to Bamberg ( which Bill Clinton said was the most beautiful city he had ever visited; the baroque Basilica and impressive Catholic pilgrimage site of the Vierzehnheiligen (; reconstructed Nuremberg which was badly bombed and is well known for the Nazi trials held there ( (; Bayreuth, famous for its annual festival of Wagnerian Operas (; Würzburg with a Prince-Bishop Residence dubbed by Napoleon as the nicest parsonage in Europe (; and the UNESCO World Heritage City of Regensburg ( which is not really in Franken but which is nearby and feels like its Franconian.

We also spent two nights at Pastorius Haus ( in Gertrud's home town of Bad Windsheim.  It is named after Daniel Pastorious, a native of the area and a founder of Germantown, Pennsylvania, one of America's earliest German settlements.  With Bad Windsheim's close proximity to Germany's famous Romantic Road ( we also visited Dinkelsbühl, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Nördlingen and other beautiful villages and towns along it.