By Patricia Keegan
Dresden — The Death of Enlightenment
No place on earth tells the tragic tale of man's inhumanity to man more vividly than the city of Dresden. No place on earth stands as a monument to the glorious affirmation of the human potential for good, than the city of Dresden. In this, the 21st century, with violence still considered an option in international conflict, a visit to witness the restoration of Dresden can only inspire and reinforce the more noble side of our human calling.
The saturation bombing of the historic city of Dresden, dubbed "Thunderclap," occurred on February 13 and 14, 1945, just three months before the end of World War II, and after the meeting of Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin at Yalta. Ironically, though the allies knew the outcome of the war, the Royal Air Force and American Flying Fortresses dumped some 650,000 bombs on the non-military, cultural center of Dresden. The phosphorus bombs fed a raging firestorm that sucked oxygen from the air causing suffocation among inhabitants. Temperatures rose to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, melting steel and cooking concrete and stone to dust. 35,000 city dwellers and an unknown number of refugees fleeing east from the Soviets died, perhaps 100,000 total.
In his book, Dresden 1945 -- The Devil's Tinderbox, Alexander McKee says that in the aftermath of this vengeful bombing there was great controversy on both sides of the Atlantic. It set in motion a number of embarrassing questions on the morality of this form of attack. Winston Churchill, who had wholeheartedly supported the raid, said in a memo to the British Chiefs of Staff, "the destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of allied bombing."
The fire burned for days turning the "city of Saxon Kings" to smoldering rubble. Dresden, fondly called the Florence on the Elbe, and a center of cultural wonders, was demolished. The masterful ensemble of baroque architecture, including the famous Zwinger Museum, the Palace, the Opera House and the Frauenkirche were destroyed. The death of Dresden and its cultural treasures was mourned throughout the world.
Ode to Joy
Fifty-six years later, driving through the heart of Dresden on a lovely April evening in search of theKempinski Hotel Taschenbergpalais, (see Hotel Spotlight), nothing had quite prepared me for the sudden impact of this splendid city. I saw narrow streets leading to a large square surrounded by Baroque splendor. Atop the buildings, along the frieze, were towering statues outlined against the evening sky, their hands and faces lifted in a gesture of trust. As we explored further, I glimpsed a golden dome, the gilded Polish Crown of the Zwinger, shining between two buildings. We could see part of the restored Zwinger, which looked as large as the Louvre in Paris. We passed a wire-fenced area where I could see piles of rubble carefully stacked and labeled, large pieces of figures all together, smaller pieces in their own pile.
Slowly, an overwhelming jubilance took hold until I reached a point when I wanted to jump out of the car to celebrate what I was witnessing and all its symbolic meaning. The rising from the ashes, restoration of hope, stones rolled back, fragments made whole again. I felt like Roberto Benigni in Life is Beautiful. I wanted to be him; I could see him. He would run to the center of the square gathering together an orchestra and filling the entire city with the soaring sounds of Ode to Joy in celebration of the indomitable power of good over evil. I could imagine Benigni smiling, laughing, and bowing many times in honor of all who had lost their lives and in honor of their families, friends and survivors, who, against opposing forces, persisted in restoring Dresden to its cultural heritage. Benigni would bow to all of the women who came with broken hearts, day-by-day, sorting countless piles of left by the bombs. He would praise those who tenderly picked up pieces of angel wings and charred, cracked faces of smiling cherubs, harvesting them in piles, believing that one day, each and every one would find its special place again. Before me was tremendous cause for an exuberant, Benigni-style celebration. But I just stayed where I was, in the car, and silently thanked God for the privilege of seeing Dresden.
Ashes no more, Dresden, its famous skyline almost complete, once the center of Splendor and Enlightenment, shone for us under blue skies and warm sunshine the following day. A sprinkling of tourists added an airy liveliness to the city. Leaving the Kempinski, located across the street from the Zwinger, we took a red and white Stadtrundfahrt bus tour of the city.
The bus was equipped with multi-language headphones and offered a brief history of each building and an overview of bygone days when Dresden was surrounded by moats, walls and ramparts. The city owes its cultural stature to Augustus the Strong (1670 -1733) and his son, Augustus III, (1696-1763), both electors of Saxony and Kings of Poland, who transformed a former modest princely residence into a royal city with a lavish court. In this climate the arts flourished, fueled by the ruler's voracious collecting appetite. During the first half of the 18th century, Dresden became a mecca for artists, craftsmen, architects, and theatrical and musical performers. They came from Paris, Venice, Verona, Bologna, Brussels, and Copenhagen, and from nearby Aussig, Erfurt and Weimar. While Augustus the Strong championed all the arts and industries of his native Saxony, his son devoted himself to the fine arts.
We passed areas that looked new as the guide spoke of the "devastating wound to the city" and pointed out one side of the street that had been destroyed while the other side retained lovely old villas. He pointed to Hitler's villa which, ironically, had not been hit, while his sister's house nearby was bombed. We left the bus near the Blaues Wunder Bridge and took the cable car up a steep hill to the lovely Loschwitz area and the house at Schillerstrasse 19, now a small museum, where Frederick von Schiller finished his play Don Carlos. We walked to the nearby Luisenhof Hotel and had coffee on a wide terrace offering a panoramic view of the city. In the stillness, broken only by birdsong, we looked across this beautiful valley, with the wide ribbon of the Elbe, winding and curving its way along grassy banks, eternally bringing continuity and hope to this wounded city.
Returning to the old city center, we added a new dimension to a growing appreciation of Dresden by visiting the sprawling, baroque Zwinger Palace, which houses five museums. A walk through the awe-inspiring Old Master's Gallery, home to one of the most important collections of art history in the world, is packed with Italian Renaissance, Italian Baroque, Flemish and Dutch masters of the 17th century. These paintings, from all over Europe, flowed into Dresden after Augustus the Strong took the throne in 1670, interrupted only in 1756 by The Seven-Year War. The acquisition of the 100 best paintings from the collection of the Duke of Modena in 1745 and Raphael's Sistine Madonna, are spectacular. For us, the most unforgettable was the very old, but still clear, Titian's Tribute Money painted around 1516, in which the artist summarizes the story of Jesus meeting with the Pharisee. The angle of the head and hands of Jesus, and the contrasting auras of the two men, tells the profound story. This outstanding collection will draw the art enthusiast back again and again.
The Zwinger was badly damaged during the war, and although structurally rebuilt, finer details like the replacement of sculptures are still in progress. Here again, visitors take photos of the array of broken, soot-blackened statues -- heads, arms, and torsos of sculpted stone, gathered together and ready to be cleaned and returned to their special niche in baroque architecture. The Zwinger's graceful, courtyard fountain is framed by an open-air gallery with several charming portals, one accessible by an ancient drawbridge.
Next to the Zwinger is the completely restored Semperoper, (Semper Opera House), which, with or without the sound of music, is a joy to behold. The first opera house on the site opened in 1841, but burned down three decades later. Magnificently rebuilt in 1878, it was completely destroyed by the allied bombing of1945. Completely restored by the craftsmen of Dresden, costing millions to rebuild during the communist era, it opened again in 1985. The Dresden opera has a tradition going back 350 years, and many works by Richard Strauss, Carl Maria von Weber and Richard Wagner premiered here.
A visit to the Albertinum is more than a walk through a museum; it is an experience. The Grunes Gewolbe(Green Vault) is what visitors remember the most. The museum is softly lighted; even the walls seem brushed with gold, just enough light to highlight a sprawling collection of precious stones set in dazzling jewelry collections, ceremonial weapons and miniatures of every kind. With diamonds, rubies, sapphires and garnets dating from the 1700's, its treasures include the world's biggest green diamond of 41 carets and a stunning group of 137 gem-studded figures entitled Court of Delhi on the Birthday of the Great Moghul. Amazing in its detail, this magical creation was fashioned by Johann Melchior Dinglinger, court jeweler to Augustus the Strong. The display is a magnet for wide-eyed children and people like me, who stand mesmerized, noses pressed against the glass.
The Albertinium also houses the New Masters Art Gallery, with renowned 19th- and 20th-century paintings of leading French and German Impressionists.
In seeing Dresden's amazing collections of art and treasures, visitors might wonder how all this could have survived the war. In Dresden 1945, author Alexander McKee refers to a GDR guidebook that offered its own explanation. "Red Army soldiers and Soviet art specialists recovered the treasures of the Dresden collections which had been hidden underground by Nazi leaders… Between 1955 and 1958, in a magnificent act of friendship, the Soviet Union returned a total of some 1.5 million treasures, which it had preserved for mankind, to the German Democratic Republic."
McKee writes that this grand gesture was not unconnected with the East German revolt of 1953, and a need to conciliate the population.
The scaffold-wrapped Frauenkirche, (the Church of Our Lady), is, for many, the most poignant symbol of the destruction of Dresden. The city's famous skyline had always been dominated by the cupola, turrets and enormous dome of the Frauenkirche, Germany's most important Protestant church until its destruction in the bombing of 1945. Finished in 1743, the Frauenkirche was an architectural and engineering masterpiece. Its most outstanding feature was its huge, bell-shaped dome of solid stone, a monumental edifice comparable in importance to Michaelangelo's dome for St. Peter's in Rome. The church's organ was built by famed organ builder Gottfried Silbermann and played by Johann Sebastian Bach. Works such as Mahler's "Eighth Symphony" and Wagner's "Love Feast of the Apostles", were written for the Frauenkirche and performed with 1,300 singers and musicians.
It had been built as a Protestant cathedral, even though King Augustus the Strong was a Catholic convert. His support of the Church's construction made the Frauenkirche an important symbol of religious tolerance. However, the bombing raids of February 13-14, 1945, annihilated the civilized world's growing sense of common cultural values for some time. The ruble of the Frauenkirche lay untouched in the middle of the city for over 45 years, a reminder of the destruction of war.
With the unification of Germany came the decision to reconstruct the church. Beginning in 1992, the pieces were removed, matched to a virtual model for placement, sorted, labeled and stacked on long shelves across the street as reconstruction proceeds. The people of Dresden are looking forward to completion of the Frauenkirche scheduled to coincide with the 800-year anniversary of Dresden in 2006. In the morning light of the 21st century, this could be one of the world's great celebrations, but only if we learn something from the destruction of war and begin to conceive of a world without war.
Leipzig: Mecca of Fun — History of Genius
Leipzig has contributed richly to the intellectual and cultural life of Europe over its 800-year history. It was home to Bach, Wagner, Mendelssohn, and to Goethe, who set Faust here while he studied law at Leipzig University. Since the granting of trade fair privilege by Emperor Maximilian I in 1497, Leipzig's importance as a city of trade fairs has grown steadily. During the communist era such trade fairs provided a key East-West interface that became pivotal in undermining the government.
With the discovery of rich silver mines in the nearby Erzgebirge ( Ore Mountains) in the 16th century, Leipzig's continued prosperity was assured. Today, it's an important business, banking and transport center and considered the most dynamic city in eastern Germany.
Arriving without a Leipzig city map, our first challenge was to find our hotel. The outskirts of the city seemed a bit gray and drab, but as we crossed the Ringstrasse encircling the old city center, a beautifully restored jewel came into view. We found the Seaside Park Hotel, a refurbished art deco hotel, located in the historic center close to all the sights. The old city is compact and pro-pedestrian, a great place to explore on foot. The Seaside Park is a model of efficiency, with elegant, comfortable surroundings and a gracious staff helpful with our unfortunate need for umbrellas. We especially enjoyed the sumptuous buffet breakfasts, offering a wide variety of quality fruits and cereals, homemade breads, jams and fresh juices.
Leipzig's liveliness is palpable, with many options open to enjoy an entertaining evening. This is foremost a vibrant university town, the cabaret capital of Germany, home of the "Laughter Fair" and host to Europe's biggest pub festival, "Honky Tonk," offering a musical journey through pubs, clubs and bars hosting 130 bands. This is also a city of music, arts, books, buildings and parks, and its residents can proudly list the many "firsts" of world history that originated in Leipzig.
We chose to have dinner at the Krystallpalast variety theater followed by an opera at the Opernhaus. The dinner theater is spacious with a warm, casually elegant atmosphere. Taking its lead from the city's cabaret history, Krystallpalast walls are lined with photos of the 20's and 30's dominated by Marlena Dietrich, and entertainers bring the tradition to life in programs that change every two months. Strewn on our table between candles and flowers were several empty test tubes. Managing Director Rudiger Pusch, (Rudi), serenely informed us that somebody would pass by to pick up samples of our blood. This was Dracula night, with spiders and witches dangling from the ceiling; we had to be prepared for anything. The only thing we used the tubes for was sipping red schapps after dinner.
Leipzig has an opera tradition dating from 1693, the third oldest in Europe. The Leipzig Opera held a premiere opening of Falstaff. Although the Opera House itself is disappointing, a communist era, functional style building with little flair, the opera was first class with a superb cast of characters.
East Germany's Pastor of Peace
On a quiet Sunday morning we met our guide, Birgit, at the famous Nikolaikirche, (St. Nicholas Church), where she was a godmother at a baptism. The church was filled with families. At the baptismal font three babies wrapped in bundles of lace waited patiently for the big moment, secure in the arms of their sponsors.
The Nikolaikirche has a history that the babies will be proud of someday. Built in 1165, originally designed in the Romanesque style, in the early 16th-century the Nikolaikirche was enlarged and converted to late Gothic, the lovely classical interior of today. Johann Sebastian Bach was responsible for church services and special festivities as the master organist and choir director from 1723 to 1750.
The pastor conducting the baptisms was another famous man who made a huge contribution to the freedom of East Germans -- Reverand C. Fuhrer. Our first glimpse of this activist and peacemaker was to watch him hustling visitors out of the church and closing the doors in preparation for the next service. A busy man, with white hair, he had an eternally pleasant expression of preoccupied surprise. In a flurry of activitity, he hurried away with his briefcase, but over his shoulder he agreed to meet me for a few minutes a bit later.
Twenty minutes later, he reappeared. As we stood in the middle of the square next to the church, I heard his inspiring story of how his years of peaceful activitism culminated in a climatic showdown with the East German government in October, 1989. It began, he says, during the "Peace Decade" of the 1980's, among young people who started coming to Monday Prayer services. After the prayer meeting, discussions began about the arms race and the proposal to install cruise missiles in Europe. This was a burning issue in West Germany at the time, provoking huge demonstrations. In 1981 a group came from West Germany for a 10-day religious service. St. Nicholas was crowded, he remembers. "Many young people came, some with orange hair. They all wanted to pray and talk about peace and human rights. I announced that St. Nicholas' Church would be open to everyone."
In the autumn of 1983, after a celebration in honor of Martin Luther, a gathering of students with candles stayed outside the church all night. Forty students were arrested and imprisoned. They were beginning to stir up the consciousness of East Germans. By 1985 the Stasi (State Security Police) began using psychological pressure by coming into the church. They went to the Bishop to try to stop Pastor Furher who had become a thorn in the side of the secret police. He was having problems at the prayer meetings; young people were getting into heated arguments with each other. Many wanted to leave the country, others wanted to stay and change the system. He said it was not always easy to maintain a clerical atmosphere in these meetings made up of Christians, communists and unbelievers. Realizing people needed to discuss urgent social problems and to ask God for support and guidance, he would listen, provide spiritual guidance and offer topical and prophetic scripture.
The Decade of Peace continued, non-violent demonstrations were modeled after Martin Luther King and Gandhi. They eventually flowed into the streets and arrests climbed. On May 8, 1989, access to the church was blocked by police determined to stop the Monday Prayers. But the meetings, arrests and detentions continued, the Stasi always present in the church. Word of what was happening in Leipzig spread throughout East Germany and more people came to support the demonstrators.
In September, 1989, Western journalists were in town covering a trade fair. They managed to film Stasi police suppressing demonstrators and ripping apart posters of the peace movement. The film was shown on western television while people continued to be arrested.
On October 7, soldiers and industrial militia police made a show of force as they battered defenseless people who responded peacefully. They were taken away in trucks. Hundreds were locked in stables. The government press said it was high time to put an end to what they called "counter-revolution," if necessary, by armed force.
On October 9, six hundred Stasi and party members filled the church. Pastor Fuhrer conducted the Monday Prayer service as though they were not there. He took special delight in knowing that Stasi members were listening to the gospel. Where else would they hear the Beautitudes? The prayers for peace took place in calmness and concentration and the names of people who supported the call for non-violence were read aloud. Kurt Masur, then conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, now of the New York Philharmonic, was among those supporting the call. Pastor Fuhrer says the solidarity between church, art, music and the gospel became important in the threatening situation of the time. The service ended with the Bishop's blessing and an urgent call for non-violence.
"Then," Pastor Fuhrer says, "the miracle occurred." More than 2,000 people leaving the church were welcomed by tens of thousands outside with candles in their hands. Then the troops, military brigades, and police were drawn into the crowd. They became engaged in conversation and then withdrew peacefully. There were no winners, and none was defeated. It was, says Fuhrer, an evening in the spirit of our Lord Jesus. There was a tremendous feeling of relief. The non-violent movement lasted several more weeks, but the party and ideological dictatorship was now destined to collapse.
As a passionate believer in non-violence, Pastor Furher quotes scriptures. "He dethrones the mighty ones and enthrones the weak ones… You will succeed, not by military power or by your own strength, but by my spirit, says the Lord."
"This is what we experienced," says the Pastor. "There were thousands in the churches. Hundreds of thousands in the streets around the city center, but not a single shattered window. This was an incredible experience of the power of non-violence."
A Visit to Faust's Underworld
During my trip through Germany, I again read Goethe's Faust, which I enjoyed even more than the first time. When Birgit, our guide, took us to Auerbach's Keller, it held special significance, knowing that it was Goethe's favorite place to write. In Part I of his story there is a scene in which Mephistopheles and Faust carouse with students at Auerbach's Keller before they ride off on a barrel. The historic section of the restaurant includes the Goethe room and more humorous satirical scenes from Faust. There is a remarkable display of line drawings from many artists over many generations, each with a fascinating, original interpretation of Faust. What is particularly memorable is the restaurant itself. The quality, presentation and flavor made it one of the top meals of our eight-day trip. A fabulous place to visit -- when your appetite is large!
City of Bach
Before leaving Leipzig we visited Thomaskirche (St. Thomas church), built in 1212 and extended and converted to Gothic style in 1496. In front of the altar was a touching sight of fresh flowers on the tomb of Johann Sebastian Bach. This is also the site of the baptisms of Richard Wagner, Karl Liebknecht and all of Bach's large family.
Since 1212 there has also been a St. Thomas Boys Choir. Under the directorship of choirmaster Johann Sebastian Bach for many years, the structure of Germany's most famous boys choir has remained the same for almost 800 years. The choir performs in St. Thomas on Fridays and Saturdays. Bach was not the city council's first choice for the position of St. Thomas Cantor. He only got the job after Georg Phillip Telemann turned it down. From 1723 until his death in 1750, Bach was responsible for church services and festivals at both St. Nicholas and St. Thomas, as well as musical director for the city and head of the collegium musicum,a group of professional and student musicians.
Since the 19th-century, Leipzig has been the center of comprehensive efforts to explore and interpret the works of Bach. A number of institutions were founded around this effort: the 1900 founding of the New Bach Society, the 1950 founding of the Bach archives, and the 1964 start of the biannual International Bach Competitions.
Weimar - Home of the Beaux Spirits of the 18th Century
When I first visited Weimar in 1991, shortly after the Berlin Wall came down, it was like a small weary city, frozen in time, slowly awakening from a bad dream. People were leaning out of their windows watching long lines of cars from the west pouring into their quiet town. Roads were bad, few people spoke English, and we were lucky to find a room for the night. However, its relaxed ambience and reverence for its great cultural legacy dominated small inconveniences. We were rewarded in unexpected ways: every corner we turned we could hear a piano or violin playing classical music, we admired the architecture, the Weimar children, we walked in Goethe's garden, and I fell in love with a bust of poet Friedrich von Schiller, and brought him home.
Today, Weimar is polished, its character is intact, its roads couldn't be better, and its hotels are worth bragging about. The Dorint, a five-star property in Beethoven Platz, is conveniently located within walking distance of all historic sights. The hotel is ultra modern, yet cozy. The buffet breakfasts are a veritable banquet of high quality selections that give you incentive to rise early. Weimar has become a popular destination for cultural travel, and along with some fine hotels, it has outstanding restaurants like the Scharfe Ecke. This is a happy place to spend an evening. The English menu, with dozens of pictured possibilities to choose from assures there can be no mistaken choices. I really enjoy the typical German fare -- sausages, wiener schnitzel, red cabbage, potato soup and home made bread.
Like a gigantic open museum dedicated to art and culture, Weimar immortalizes many of history's beaux spirits, the great intellects and artists who lived there from the 18th to early 19th century. Most notably Goethe, Schiller, Liszt, Nietzshe, Van de Velde, architect of the Bauhaus School of Art and from 1708 to 1717, Johann Sebastian Bach. Art museums, archives and castles are reminders of the spirit of that era as Weimar quietly guides you back through time.
Weimar was first documented in 975, declared a town in 1254, and chartered in 1348. Ruled by the counts of Weimar-Orlamunde from 1247 to 1372, it passed to the Saxon house of Wettin and became the capital of the Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach in 1815 (until 1918). On February 6, 1919, after the revolution of 1918-1919, the German National Assembly met in the National Theater and drew up the first Constitution for the new Republic. Weimar was chosen because of the seething unrest in Berlin, and so the republic itself borrowed the city's name. Weimar would be known as the birthplace of the first German democracy.
Like the rest of Germany, the weight of history fell heavily on Weimar as it suffered through wars, revolutions, defeat, terror and dictators. But it has also been bountifully blessed. Until 1748, Saxe-Weimar had been ruled by Ernest Augustus, a petty prince, who believed his money and that of his subjects would be well spent by building monumental and lavish edifices and by acquiring paintings and art objects, many of which were housed in Weimar's museums and castles.
Today, as we walk through the streets on a guided tour with Sigrid, our guide, she tells us how important his daughter-in-law, Anna Amalia, was to Weimar's becoming the center of German intellectualism. After the death of her husband in 1758, Anna Amalia, a refined woman with an interest in the arts, assumed the throne. In 1772, the widow, fascinated by the French Enlightenment, invited the poet and publicist, Christopher Martin Wieland, to tutor her son Charles Augustus. Wieland was the first of the 'Big Four' to come to live in Weimar.
Standing in front of the home of Anna Amalia, our guide tells us to imagine that day, in 1775, as a carriage pulls up in front of this very house and in the carriage sits the young poet, Johann Wolfgang Goethe. Anna Amalia grew to love Goethe and encouraged round table intellectual discussions that became famous among writers and artists throughout Germany. Later, young Charles Augustus gave Goethe his small summerhouse in the park as a gift, hoping to entice the great poet to stay in Weimar. Goethe was to remain in Weimar until his death in1832.
Friedrich von Schiller, the Apollo of German Classicism, subsequently came to Weimar to be near Goethe, the Zeus. Schiller, author of the Robbers Wallenstein and Wihelm Tell, was renowned for his mature treatments of the themes of idealism, freedom and heroic achievement. The same idealism can be found in Schiller's Ode to Joy, which Beethoven set to music in the last movement of the 9th symphony.
Just one year after Goethe's arrival in Weimar, Charles Augustus, at Goethe's request, summoned Johann Gottfried Herder to the city. Herder, a philosopher with social and humanistic ideals, completed the quartet of titans. They met regularly to exchange their thoughts on literature, science, and the arts. Through the work of these great artists, Weimar became known as the center of German classicism
Goethe & Schiller
The central square in Weimar has park benches where you can sit, relax and enjoy a delicious charbroiled sausage from a street vendor. Opposite the park is the Goethe House, and on the same street, further down, is the house where Schiller lived. Around the corner on quiet, cobbled street is the Franz Liszt College of Music. Passing this school provides a living testimony to the town's vibrant cultural richness; a beautiful aria floats from an open window. People linger awhile to listen.
Behind Goethe's House is a wonderful flower garden perfect for meditation. After touring the house and seeing were Goethe ate, slept and wrote, it is easy imagine the inspiration he derived from this lovely, enclosed garden. Although Goethe's house in the park is smaller, it is there that he worked on some of his universally acknowledged greatest works of world literature.
The Goethe and Schiller Archive is the oldest and largest literary archive in the world, preserving more than 100 handwritten estates of writers, philosophers, musicians and artists from the middle of the 18th to the beginning of the 20th century. Among the treasures are the first drafts of Goethe's Iphigenie, the second part of Faust, a complete manuscript of Schiller's Don Carlos and the diaries of Friedrich Hebbel. Although everything is in German, it is possible to get an English guide to make everything come alive. It is well worth a visit, but hours are limited.
Lovers of Lucas Cranach, the most famous painter of the German Renaissance will find moments of great pleasure when visiting the ground floor of the Belvedere Castle. I was struck again by the beauty and freshness of three paintings by Cranach, one was Christ on the Cross, another shows Christ holding the hand of Mary Magdalene, and the third a portrait of Martin Luther. Lucas died in Weimar in 1553. Martin Luther, whose doctrines would later revolutionize the church, preached here in 1518. Luther's footsteps are large all through the three major areas of Germany in which we traveled.
I will always remember Weimar as a place of inspiration and my first introduction to the depth of Germany's rich culture. Like Dresden and Leipzig, but on a much smaller scale, its music, art, architecture and literary accomplishments are living testimony to the magnitude, and boundless reaches, of human aspiration.
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