Innocence Abroad: Chapter 15



I didn't know I hadn't been invited

Prague: July 21, 1991...




had no time to explore any of Prague, before my 10:14 train to Dresden. But the visual impact of the railway station alone was enough to assure my return. A graceful orchestration of Art Nouveau design - those lovely flowing lines swirling to us from an age more given to gentle ways and beauty idealized than anything we can know at this end of the century. I did have time for a bit of breakfast, and just about enough left for it after cashing the last of my deutschemarks for the rail fare. I headed for the terminal's dining room in high anticipation of a setting to match the elegance of its graceful architecture.

What greeted me was a sorry old assortment of dining room furniture covered with table linen that might have been laundered the week before - one couldn't be sure. The menu offered a choice between ham and eggs, or cold ham with cheeses . . . that was it! I asked for eggs alone, but no deviation was allowed. So it was ham and eggs. But not recognizably; it more nearly approximated thin slices of Spam fried right in with the eggs, served on a plate garnished with pickled something. Salt and pepper were brought to my barren table and then shortly removed for another diner. Rolls without butter were there, if I wanted to pay extra. The service was just about as agreeable as the food.

But my attention was absorbed with the incredible contradiction that was evident the moment I walked into the dining room. It was a huge space that soared to theater height, and looking down on the scene with a suggestion of disdain were sixteen towering panels of ceramic tile that might have been styled by Alphonse Mucha, himself - an assortment of decorative scenes in Art Nouveau motif, each one dated 1903 . . . original works of art, every single piece! The contrast between what this room now was and what it clearly had once been fairly shrieked, like an Edvard Munch painting, the century's insanity and its insensible waste.

It was on this note, oddly appropriate, that I returned to Germany, headed for the city that remains a testament to insensible waste. The fire-bombing of Dresden near the war's end has become legendary in the annals of massive airborne destruction. The image that stays with me from some long ago documentary is a view of the night's blackness punctured everywhere with the bright flash of explosion and flame. Why on earth I wanted to visit there is still a puzzle to me, for I could only expect a sad mixture of eastern Europe's poverty with Socialism's dreary architecture.

I had chosen, at any rate, a magnificent approach. The three-and-a-half hour train ride from Prague along the Elbe River was picture-postcard scenery all the way: castles, wonderfully sculpted rock bluffs on the opposite bank and a fair amount of water traffic including great excursion boats coming up the river from Dresden. I claimed a walkway window for myself for the best possible view of it all.

Hanging out a train window is the ultimate in railroading privacy - a bubble in which to think, dream and imagine while the countryside drifts by. European rail cars have passenger compartments on one side and a long walkway on the other, with no restriction against opening the windows on either side. But the walkway side is best, for it disturbs no one. Leaning out of a walkway window it's easy to lose oneself to the rest of the train . . . to the rest of the world! I was just another graybeard quietly acting my age, in a compartment with four or five others; but facing away from all that, with my hair flying in the breeze, I was beyond time or place . . . ageless. I was Casey Jones at the throttle, or a soaring eagle with a vast view of the landscape . . . or even that old outlaw, Black Bart, making his clickety-clack getaway after a highway robbery of the Wells Fargo stage.

ARRIVING IN REAL LIFE AGAIN at Dresden, it was 1:30 on a Sunday afternoon and I was very nearly flat of coin again. I was back in deutschemark country, but I couldn't do anything about it until the banks opened on Monday. In the meanwhile, I was counting on the host I'd had the foresight to arrange for from Berlin. But once again I was frustrated by the coin-telephone system and couldn't get through. In the face of this, it made easy sense to go directly out to the address by tram.

I must have spent close to an hour trying to relate street maps to posted transit schedules, all in German, to discover the right route. When I finally reached Simone's neighborhood, a quiet old residential section of wide streets and large tree-shaded lawns that certainly pre-dated the war, I found the place without further difficulty - an old frame structure of several floors that looked like a onetime private residence, now divided into apartments. I was hardly through the garden gate, when a smiling young fellow popped out the front door and asked - first in German and then in good English when he got my garbled "No sprechen ze Deutsche" - he asked if I were Simone's guest. Hans was his name, and he seemed to think I was from Norway, but I corrected him on that point. He told me Simone was away on holiday and had left instructions that I should be given the key and could use her apartment for as long as I cared to stay!

After two days of hard travel and a night of dubious rest this was a blessing indeed. The lucky break of failing with the telephone had served me well - for had I simply got no answer to a ringing phone I'd probably have settled for looking up another host.

Hans took me to Simone's apartment in a separate rear unit. While not too large it had every convenience I could ask, even a stall shower, something of a rarity in east Europe. Fine old oak and walnut furniture and lush, oversized pillows suggested an indulgent, sybaritic taste for bygone eras. Homestyle relaxation was an instant temptation, here - but so was the beautiful day outside, in a Dresden that had hardly been destroyed and was now immensely compelling. I left my gear and went back out.

My transit map showed the Elbe River hardly a half-mile further along the way I'd come. A walk in dappled sunlight filtered through great old elms. The houses were gracious ladies of an earlier age, many on the shabby side but all of them aglow with an aura of charm. Or perhaps I was merely feeling the remarkable quiet that was everywhere, as though Sunday in this place was truly regarded as a day of rest. These homes had large yards, veranda porches and endlessly varied wood construction details of a long vanished vogue.

At the river I came upon an intricately laced suspension bridge and a small cluster of neighborhood shops, all closed for Sunday. Drawn on, I crossed the bridge, a century-old structure referred to, I later learned, as the Blue Devil for its shade of paint. On the opposite shore the road curved up a steep hillside. But down along the river a bit was a funicular railway that climbed the hill straight up. They asked only fifty-five cents for the round trip, so I took it, and for a half hour at the top had a spectacular view of all Dresden nestled in a blanket of soft greenery. There was no visible relationship to that image of a black night except for some sections near its heart that seemed bare and still scarred. The Blue Devil, far below, looked like this picture on an old postcard I later found in one of the shops nearby.

When I got back to Simone's apartment, I could tell immediately, on opening the door with the key Hans had given me, that someone was inside - and then I saw her: a refreshingly attractive young woman busily occupied at the kitchen stove. All I could think of, despite her dark hair and complexion, was Hans' mistaken idea that I was from Norway. Had Simone been expecting a Norwegian guest, too, who had arrived while I was off exploring?

"Hello," I said rather hesitantly, to this vivacious young woman who glanced out from the kitchen like she owned the place. "I'm Irv Thomas, who's staying here."

"Hallo," she answered brightly, "I Simone who live here!"

She was a radiant smile from the moment she first saw me - in the captivating effect of which, the information took a moment to sink in as she went on.

"I come back from holiday now. And who you?"

I was finally getting the picture. "My name is Irv Thomas," I repeated. "I'm the Good Neighbors traveler who wrote from Berlin last week. I just got here a couple hours ago, and Hans let me in - it was very generous of you to leave the key for me."

"Oh, no," she said, the big welcome smile still lighting her up. "I leave key for Norway friend."

So it was true!

"But it fine," she continued, "all right for you can stay tonight if you want. Where from?"

Her English was a bit fractured; but she was having a harder time with mine than I was having with hers, as I briefed her on how I came to be traveling in Europe. I figured she just hadn't been able to read the letter of introduction that I'd sent. But the full truth of the matter didn't dawn on me until Hans came by, a half hour later while we were having tea and cookies, to give her the handful of mail that had come while she was gone. And there, as she flipped through them . . . was my letter!

I had brazenly, if unknowingly, taken possession of a total stranger's apartment in her absence, and then let myself in with her keys, confronting her like she were the intruder and not I. Simone had been so cool about it all that I suspect Hans must have informed her before I came back, or else my backpack had cued her for my return.

Her entry on the GN host list indicated a facility with English, but I found I had to speak slowly and choose my words carefully. In the several days she let me stay - for her Norwegian friend never did show up - we'd sit at the big oak dining table, each with our own mini-dictionary, piecing together the more troublesome elements of conversation. The richness of Simone's bookshelves amazed me: Goethe, Rilke, Hesse, Heine, and other German literary figures I wasn't familiar with. She was everyman's image of a lively, attractive, on-the-make young woman of about 30, and yet there was this strong philosophical undercurrent to her world. Around Hans, she was effervescent, frivolous, but when she and I alone spoke the more serious side emerged - until she would embarrassedly put it away as being too deep to be talking about. I gathered it was a very private part of her life.

I wondered, however, if she was familiar with Taoist philosophy, which seemed easily congenial to her spirit. I had difficulty finding the right key-words for my inquiry. Finally, after her virtual insistence that she knew nothing of it, she took from the bookcase a small German text that I could instantly recognize as the Tao Te Ching from its format. It delighted her (as it did me) that her collection held what I was inquiring about, and she insisted that I inscribe the fly-leaf with something appropriate.

I felt a rapport between us stronger than with anyone since Evelyne in Paris - both rewarding and frustrating, since I knew our contact would be so brief. I correctly guessed Simone was a Scorpio, something I can occasionally do when the connection is good. She worked as an optician - an "eye optikon" as she called it - in a neighborhood shop, but was unhappy at it. It hadn't been her own choice of career and was far too confining for her. And it was true, Simone's spirit needed room to soar.

On Monday I canvassed every bank in the center of town before I was willing to accept that my VISA card was as useless here as everywhere else in the eastern zone. I fell back, once more, on the backstop travelers checks, cashing my first big one for £50 worth of deutschemarks, thankful that I was no longer in 'spend it or lose it' territory. The rest of the day, and all day Tuesday, I roamed the city until I knew Simone would be home from work.

In sharp contrast to the hype-and-flash rebuilding of Berlin, Dresden is carefully laying out a new cityscape with an eye cast back to the grandeur of her past - working the space with a conscious awareness of its potential for magnificence. A remnant remains of the architectural extravagance of old Dresden in the heart of town, right at the river. They are reconstructing it as it once was, using old plans and photos. Saddening, to be sure, as a reminder of all that was lost - but at the same time, inspiring for what it lends to Dresden's future. This will oneday again be a Great City of Europe.

But large perimeter sections of old Dresden were never touched by the bombing and these were the areas I found the most enchanting. Here was a grace of style that is hard to put one's finger on. . . an atmospheric sort of thing - somewhat as with Krakow, but differently. Residential Dresden seems to luxuriate in an air of leisure. The subtle sense of another kind of city soul lingers here, in wide streets sheltered by great trees, in the oft-encountered bench that invites one to pause from the crush of whatever urgency is in the saddle. It's here in the long twilight of late July days, among folks relaxing at outdoor cafe tables in the very midst of comfortable old homes - cafes that never seem to be crowded, either with clientele or in that more intimidating way: the streams of people that surge by on the usual mid-town avenue, making gauntlets and obstacle courses of sidewalk service.

Simone took me, on our weekday evenings, to a couple of the cafes, and the mood I found there felt like places on a small college campus where students gather. The sense of leisure I experienced in Dresden wiped out any condescending pity I ever had for the sorry condition of life behind the iron curtain. Granted, their lot has not been an easy one; but it is the Western way of life that should be pitied, not theirs.

Wednesday morning I was on my way again, more than a bit sorry to be leaving both Dresden and Simone. But I had stretched my week in eastern Europe to the tenth day, and I was feeling the pressure of other promises. A third and final Quest awaited in a city called Kassel; and then visits with old friends in Wurzburg and Munich.

SIMONE HAD SUGGESTED one more stop in the old east zone on my rail route to Kassel: the historic city of Weimar. She had a friend there who might put me up for the night. It was mid-afternoon and raining when the train pulled into the Weimar station, and I trudged up wet streets to a midtown tourist office where I could get my locational bearings. Had it been a GN host, I'd have called from the station, but that felt awkward on a personal recommendation. Tourist map in hand, I walked a half mile to a section of old frame flats - San Francisco style - where they lived, having no idea what kind of reception I'd find . . . but hardly able to imagine the one I got.

Two children answered the door, a boy about twelve and a girl maybe nine, neither of whom could speak any English. But they had an equally young friend upstairs who did speak a bit of it and he became our interpreter. Through him I explained that I was looking for their mother because I needed a place to stay for the night. They forthwith invited me in for a cup of tea, served with the grace of a hostess by the little girl, and to watch TV with them while they phoned their mother. But they never let me speak directly with her; my request went through the translator to the telephone go-between and thence to mother. I was advised, by return transmission, that they had no bed for me, but that I should come down to the music store they manage and they'd see what could be done. So when the TV cartoon had run its course the three kids and me, like some Disney crew of adventurers, trooped out midtown to the music shop.

It was their Dad I met there (who, for all I knew, had been on the phone). His name was Andreas and his shop radiated refinement and high taste. It was entirely devoted to lovers of classical music, the connoisseur trade. He thought perhaps he could help me out, but I'd have to return at closing hour, 9 p.m. The process had become something of an uncertain intrigue by now, but it felt like things were flowing and I decided to trust it. I left my pack with Andreas, and - having only this single day's time for Weimar - set out to see what I could of the place.

The rain had settled down to an intermittent drizzle. My larger problem now was the sheer profusion of eye-catching attractions and tempting avenues down which to walk. Weimar has possibly the richest cultural history of any German town its size, east or west. Home of both Goethe and Schiller, the locale also figured prominently in the lives of Franz Lizst, J. S. Bach, Kafka, Rudolf Steiner, Richard Strauss, and Walter Gropius - to list merely the few names I recognized on building plaques.

I practically got lost, to begin with, in a great park that takes up much of the southeast quadrant of town, a place of seemingly endless paths and hidden stairways, with vine-encrusted stone ruins like etchings of a lost romantic age. Then I walked back toward Andreas' home and found myself in a trove of early-century Jugendstil architecture. Up one street and down another I went, and even into the outer hallways of a few apartment houses, in search of every hidden detail I could find.

High on a hillside slope the ambience quite suddenly shifted and I thought I was in the Berkeley hills of the Bay Area. All else of what I'd seen had the musty, age-weary look of systemic poverty - as I had come to expect in the old East territory; but here in these few blocks were tended lawns, painted fencing, even a backyard barbecue smoking away! These, I later learned, were the homes of the political elite. It brought to mind George Orwell's sly aside in Animal Farm, his parable of the Socialist state: "all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others."

Returning, I happened upon the headquarter barracks of the small Soviet military contingent that remained in Weimar. I was fascinated to find it situated on Abraham Lincoln Strasse!

By 8 p.m. the thunder showers had resumed with a fervor, and I made my way back to the music shop, ducking from one doorway to another. After locking up, Andreas took me back to their home - perhaps his original intent. The young son had been sent to stay with a friend and I had his room for the night. I met Ulrike, Andreas' wife and the friend to whom Simone had actually sent me, and the three of us had a great evening of dinner and conversation that lasted well past midnight. So late, in fact, that Andreas overslept his usual departure time and I consequently missed the train that would have taken me directly to Kassel. I had to settle, instead, for a two-hour layover in the junction town of Erfurt, still in the old East territory - a place I'd never heard of, and a gift from Andreas that he never intended or knew about.

The historic range and preserved quality of Erfurt's architecture took me totally by surprise. Jugendstil building embellishment, alone, excelled that of Weimar; but it was only the iceberg tip of a veritable museum of architectural history going back to Medieval times. I even saw mud-and-wattle adobe structures on side streets - of heaven only knows what age. The prize was an 800-year-old stone bridge of five arches across the Gera River, overbuilt completely with small shops on both sides so that it presented just a narrow, lane-wide crossing. It couldn't even be seen as a bridge without going upstream a bit for the broadside view.

Rushing through all this in two hours between trains was tourist banality in the extreme. The amazing thing was that the time passed with a magical slowness, even permitting a degree of leisure: I lingered in a small cafe savoring a local pastry with tea. On the other hand, if I had been in less of a rush to get to Kassel, and waited for the next direct train out of Weimar, I would never even have known what I missed in Erfurt, for nothing had alerted me to the town's exciting display of architecture.

I WAS HARDLY PREPARED, by the time-warp experience of eastern Europe and in the immediate afterglow of Erfurt, itself, for the futuristic rail terminal at Kassel. Up along swift escalators, surrounded by gleaming aluminum and great curving panels of glass . . . I had seemingly gone too far forward in time, to find myself debarking at a Star Trek space station. The jarring disorientation was almost physically painful - the psychological equivalent of coming up from a deep-sea dive with the bends.

I worked my way through four potential hosts on the phone before finding one who could take me in. And when I saw the grab-bag blessing I had drawn, it was too late to back out of it. Michael and Hildegard were absolutely charming people - he, a long-haired computer aficionado, and she the perfect radiant picture of a doting mother and housefrau - but their household was a total disaster area. To begin with, it was undergoing major reconstruction, walls torn out everywhere and the disarray of unsorted possessions at every hand. But these folks were blessed with an absolute unconcern for the trivia of household order, so that a table to be cleared for dinner (for mere example) was simply brushed of its clutter in one sweeping motion to the edge and over. One did likewise for seating space. Nobody ever had to clear the floor, of course. In this setting, they were raising four small children in the best alternative tradition: without restraint.

I was fairly well exhausted by the time I got there, for I had been under one and another sort of pressure ever since leaving Dresden; and I could feel the push of this environment against my buttons with each cry of assault or demand uttered by one of the four youngsters. In the interest of self-preservation I excused myself for a bit of sight-seeing in the neighborhood, my real agenda being the search for some cafe retreat where I could reconstitute my sanity. Even at this I was frustrated, for Kassel virtually shuts down at the close of the working day. Nor was it even a pleasant walk to find this out. This is another city rebuilt completely after the war, and the result is a sterile modernism that has left it feeling like a city without a soul.

I finally came to a tiny eatery, closed and being cleaned for the night, but able to sell me a sandwich. It hadn't the relaxing atmosphere I sought, but I was somewhat compensated by the gift of a free second sandwich, wrapped to go, from a proprietor who perhaps took my look of utter resignation as the down-and-out misery of a homeless transient - and he was not far off the truth of it.

Had I not a very good reason for remaining awhile in Kassel I'd have left the next morning. But I was here on a quest: the third and last of my needle-in-a-haystack searches, and by a long margin the most likely to fail. Finding Jim Hall's sister in small-town Scotland took no more skill than playing Blindman's Buff. Finding the Boulevard of Broken Dreams music in Amsterdam was a relatively simple matter of tracking down its creator. But this time the quest was in search of someone more than two hundred years dead - or of what he may have left behind, to be more precise.

I was put to it by a young Michigan friend, Glenn Rouse, a writer I'd met in the mid-'80s, drawn to him by his passion for Thoreau. Glenn had once carried out, for an entire year, a daily morning reading of each entry for that date in the full 24-year journal Thoreau had kept - so that he could frame his own day in Thoreau's nature-focused perception of it. Glenn had since become interested in an early 18th Century German mechanic and inventor, Johann Bessler, who claimed to have built a perpetual motion machine.

This, of course, is a heresy in the orthodoxy of science and it was no less so then. But the record indicates that Bessler built a large scale model of his device that apparently worked. Careful to shield its mechanism, he demonstrated it convincingly to critically qualified observers who were suitably impressed, though still unwilling to take it at face value. His object was simply to sell the secret rather than reveal it for nothing; but he could find no one interested enough to pay his price, so he eventually destroyed the machine.

Glenn became convinced of the man's sincerity when he learned of a series of 141 woodcut engravings prepared by Bessler, or for him - a thorough survey of the likely approaches to perpetual motion for a book that he, Bessler, was writing on the subject. No simple charlatan would go to such lengths, was Glenn's reasoning. All the further he knew of it was that these engravings were "kept in the Kassel library." He wanted me to find them, if possible, or whatever else about them I could turn up, and he was willing to stand a cost of up to $200 for my time.

I didn't see much chance for success. Not reading German at all, therefore not able to play around in the library on my own terms, I couldn't quite see how a grey-bearded, somewhat unkempt and not very scholarly-looking old goat with a pack on his back was going to get into the requisite archives to find what was wanted. If it was even to be found, in a city that had been rebuilt from the ground up. But Glenn was a friend and he seemed to have some inexplicable confidence in me.

Exactly what was meant by the "Kassel library," I wasn't even sure. But the obvious place to begin the search was at a local science museum, the Hessisches Landesmuseum. I walked out there on Friday morning and encountered, first, someone who spoke no English at all. He turned me over to someone who spoke a little English - enough to grasp the nature of my inquiry. And he, in turn, called someone on an internal phone system, turning the telephone over to me when they answered. I realized at once that this was a qualifying hurdle, for the fellow on the phone - besides speaking excellent English - knew of Bessler and was putting questions to me that seemed intended to discover how much I knew about him. So I put on my best scholarly act, and hoped I wouldn't put my foot into it. Fortunately, Glenn had sent me good briefing material.

It worked. At least, to the extent of getting me past the telephone barrier. I was taken up an elevator and through a series of doors beyond the working laboratories of the museum's inner sanctum, and finally into the office of Professor Dr. Ludolf von Mackensen, in charge of the astronomy and physics section - or kabinet, as it said on the door - the one I'd been speaking with. A man of middle maturity with glasses and a well-trimmed beard, he greeted me with some congenial reflection on time spent, years earlier, at the University of California in Berkeley, and then asked what part of the country I was from. I managed to roll off the names of a few professors from the University of Washington, where he'd fortunately never been, and it served to establish my credentials. When I showed him the documentation Glenn had provided, Dr. von Mackensen went at once to a glass-enclosed bookcase and pulled out a 1719 volume with a long Latin title - the very book from which one of Glenn's copied pages had come! By what seemed sheer Grace, I had found the one man with enough instant background on Bessler to give me the help I needed.

He was puzzled, however, by the reference to 141 wood engravings. He didn't know of any such. He put through a call to a colleague in the library nearby - telling me, almost as a confidential aside as he waited for the connection, that he was calling the only person in the archives section with the imagination to know where any such material might be hidden. But it went nowhere; the man was away for a full month. I would just have to search the archives myself, he said, and then gave me the library catalog number of the Bessler papers that he, himself, had gone through at some prior time - but which, he assured me, contained no such engravings as those I sought.

The Murhardsche Bibliothek was practically next door to the museum. My English was understood at the reception desk, from where I was escorted upstairs to the manuscript room and turned over to a large, stolid-looking guardian of its treasures, who brought out for me a huge and ancient bound volume of papers, easily five inches in thickness and maybe twelve by eighteen inches in flat measure. It held hundreds of hand-written pages - separate documents of diverse size, almost all of them in German, a few in French. All equally obscure to me.

I could tell a bit by the format: many were letters, some were inventories and others appeared to be legal documents. The dates I saw ranged from 1712 to 1746 and a good many were signed by Bessler himself, but in the curious affectation of an anagram he used: Orffyreus. I couldn't immediately see how any of it could possibly be of use to Glenn. I might arrange to have a few copied and sent to him - though on what basis of selection I wasn't at all sure. Nevertheless, I stayed there patiently for an hour or more, going carefully through them page by page.

I was about done with it, hurriedly flipping pages toward the back binding, when I reached what certainly looked to be the engravings! Their smaller page format was almost tucked under the larger material above and might have thus been missed by Dr. von Mackensen. It had to be what I came for, for they counted out to 141 exactly, annotated extensively, perhaps by Bessler himself, and their subject matter was quite clearly what Glenn had expected. Hardly able to contain my excitement, I had now to deal with the language problem, to discover whether, and how, I might get copies of the entire batch.

The amazing Grace that hovered over me that day hadn't yet run dry: the woman in charge of document reproduction was a transplanted American! I was able to arrange, with complete confidence in the details, for a full set of photo-negatives to be sent and billed to Glenn . . . at the surprisingly low cost of about fifteen cents each.

I felt light as a feather when I walked out of the Bibliothek and crossed the avenue to reward myself with soup and salad. Nearby was a woman playing the flute, and a vaguely familiar melody piped up from her skilled fingerwork: Que sera, sera . . . I tossed her a deutschemark and headed toward the restaurant. But just before I got there I was waylayed by the display in a bookstore window: a German translation of one of my favorite I Ching resources, an insight-packed commentary by Carol Anthony on the sixty-four hexagrams. Here it was in German, the perfect gift for someone back in Dresden - if only I could afford $25. But I was sure I had already overspent for the week.

It was a good moment, in the restaurant, to bring my accounts up to date and see where I actually stood, as I savored my victory feast. When I drew the balance for this seventh week on the continent it came in just under the budget line: $99.68. My average still held nicely at $89.94. But it hardly warranted starting a new week with a $25 deficit, much as I was tempted by that book. Still . . .

That was when I remembered Glenn's offer to pay for my archival detective work. I'd had no intention of taking anything at all for it, but $25 seemed a fair price and it was the key to a win/win/win triple-header: engravings for Glenn, a book for Simone . . . and for me, the satisfaction of making the gift without compromising my budget. Que sera, sera.



"...on my rail route..." The train to Weimar took me back through Leipzig. Too wilted by the increasing pressures of a peaking summer, I remained aboard and made this journal entry: "Possibly summer is fully upon us. Possibly it is just [my] being cooped up in a train. Either way, I marvel that I've gotten this far, through this summer, without overwhelming intensities - yet! There are three intensifying weeks to go."

The " of Dresden..." once referred to as "the loveliest rococo city in Europe," drew worldwide attention and rebuke. It destroyed the entire inner city as no bombing of London ever did. Conservative estimates say 135,000 were killed - almost twice the Hiroshima death toll! Later efforts to determine the justification found it indefensible and had trouble pin-pointing who was ultimately responsible for it.



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