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Berchtesgaden on the German border with Austria - click for more travel photos from Germany
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Berchtesgaden on the German border with Austria - click for more travel photos from Germany
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Germany has convincingly established itself as the social, economic and industrial powerhouse of the European continent - perhaps to the chagrin of its nearest rivals.

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Travelling across the German countryside on pristine, high speed intercity trains and around German cities on efficient urban S-Bahn and U-Bahn networks, it's easy to feel the spirit of efficiency which drives the country forward.

Germany's commitment to the principle of progress has a bit of a track record. For five hundred years the German lands have been a crucible of technological innovation, theological revolution, modern philosophy and radical political movements.

The modern German state, inaugurated in October 1990, is a social and economic bridge between the former Eastern bloc and the European Union, and has firmly set its sights on building for the future.

Berlin, a remodelled capital city with an openly gay mayor, a reconstructed Reichstag, a new city centre at the Potsdamer Platz and a brand new international airport is described today - almost to the point of tedium - as being the biggest building site in Europe, if not the world. Germany's time is coming.

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Dresden and Eastern Germany
© Ben Koschalka, Nordhausen, March 2003

Listen to the backpacker at Berlin Zoo station or believe many a guide book and you'd be forgiven for thinking there's nothing else worth seeing in eastern Germany. Cross the wasteland of twenty percent unemployment, drug-cheat athletes and mass neo-Nazism, next stop funky sexy Prague.

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Or: you could at least get off that Prague train a couple of hours earlier and give Dresden a try. If you're not at least pleasantly surprised, or more likely staggered by the returning beauty of the city that used to be known as the Florence of the Elbe, you'll be in the minority.

Dresden's cultural treasures were famously and tragically all but destroyed by the February 1945 firebombing and again endangered just last summer by the flood of the century, but every time I go there it seems that there are more jewels to admire. The view of the restored Semper Opera House, palatial museum and gallery complex named the Zwinger, and the Brühl Terrace along the bank of the Elbe is stunning, especially illuminated in the evening.   [ article continues... ]

Ben Koschalka, lectures in English at the Fachhochshule Nordhausen in Thüringen.

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Dresden and Eastern Germany
Article by Ben Koschalka

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