city slicker dresden
Monday 13 February 1995
Best-known (and most popular) politician: Kurt Biedenkopf, the energetic prime minister of Saxony. The former west German university professor remains popular at a time when other Wessis are still widely distrusted. He has helped to boost his image by being almost permanently at odds with his party leader, Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and sees himself as the "attorney of the east".
Most famous product: The Dresden Stollen, an oblong, ultra-rich Christmas cake, much copied by other Germans. Dresdeners are trying to protect it by judicial decree, la champagne, so that only a Dresdener will be allowed to bake one.
Drink of the moment: Radenberger Pils. Local patriotism plays an important role in Saxony, not least because it was so completely suppressed during the Communist years. The advertising for Radenberger emphasises the beer's Saxon qualities.
Label best forgotten: "Valley of the Clueless", a Communist-era phrase for Dresdeners, because they were unable to receive west German television in Dresden, which is surrounded by hills.
Publications of note: Sax (short for Saxony - patriotism again), a self-confident Dresden listings magazine and a reminder (which many west Germans badly need) that being forced to live with Communism for 40 years does not mean that all east Germans were lobotomised. About to celebrate its fifth birthday. The biggest local paper is Schsische Zeitung. Like most of the main east German papers, this is a Communist organ that reinvented itself. Apart from the mass-circulation Bild, the German equivalent of the Sun, next to no one in east Germany reads the west German press.
Most ubiquitous item of clothing: Anything that makes Dresdeners look the same as people elsewhere in Germany. In other words: respectable wool and/or black leather. The stonewashed jeans that were the east German uniform when the Wall came down, have vanished. Only one difference remains: west German males still tend to wear colours a circus clown would reject as too loud.
How they stay different: Dresdeners still believe that your job doesn't have to destroy your life, a very un-Western attitude. Also, it is no longer dumm to be an Ossi. The old Trabbi, much mocked and discarded at the time of German unity, has become hip among young people unimpressed by the new Western ways of doing things. Earlier this year there was even a Trabbi rally.
Ugliest hotel: The Hilton, built by the Communists as a hard-currency earner (Stasi and foreigners only), opposite the Frauenkirche. As aesthetically charming as an Arndale Centre, it was probably built to make the rubble look beautiful.
Hottest ticket in town: Not least because of the tourists, opera tickets are the most sought after. The local political cabaret, popular with the Andersdenkende, the "different thinkers" in Communist days, known as the Herkuleskeule - Cudgel of Hercules - is patronised by curious west Germans as well as locals. Its current show is called Genius and Mad Cow Disease.
Most popular venue: In a recent poll in Sax magazine, the Brenzwinger, or Bear Cage, a student club which often organises concerts,was the hands- down winner. The Star Club is regarded as the leading venue for indie music in east Germany.
The eating places: The Villa Marie, near the Blue Miracle bridge, is visited by media folk and Dresden's new yuppies. Irish pubs, which have sprung up in every German city, are enormously popular with students and suits alike. In Dresden the best-known is the Ha'Penny Bridge.
Traditional tourist sights: The bits and pieces of Dresden's former glory have been or are being rebuilt. These include the 18th-century Zwinger, whose art gallery is choc-a-bloc with old masters; the ornate Opera House, whose gala reopening in 1985 was attended by Erich Honecker; and the Castle, which is still being restored.
Less traditional sights: The Stasi headquarters on Bautzener Strasse, which was stormed by demonstrators at the end of 1989. It now houses the Hollywood Discotheque.Construction cranes are the most notable sight. There are said to be 200.
Latest fad: Like lots of other Germans, Dresdeners love collecting telephone cards. Individual designs are marketed for their alleged rarity value in years to come, and the connoisseur can gather piles of specialist magazines stuffed with abstruse facts.
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