Just before leaving the USA, I had joked that a benefit of being away during most of October was not being subjected to the presidential campaign. I do check into the news each day, but since I don’t expect to get a current events quiz on my return, I pass through campaign stories quickly. Sunday, Nancy and I set out for the Zwinger, an 18th century palace in Dresden that now houses museums. Something about the layout of buildings and grounds struck me as slightly familiar, perhaps a bit like Versailles, on a minor scale. I soon learned on Frederick Augustus, Augustus the Bold, Elector of Saxon and Emperor of Poland, had toured the capitals of Europe and had been particularly impressed with the early stages of Versailles. On his return to Dresden, he said “I’ll have one of those.”
His domaine was not nearly as extensive as that of the Louis he visited, so on his return to Dresden, Augustus settled for something a bit more modest.
took a fancy to Chinese and Japanese porcelain and gathered together what is now the most outstanding collection of porcelain artifacts in the world, from the everyday to the purely decorative. Augustus was also responsible for the development of the Meissen porcelain industry in Saxony.
While browsing the rooms of porcelain, I heard sounds of muffled shouting and chanting, clearly marking a street demonstration. From the walls of the Zwinger, we could see a large crowd forming in the plaza in front of the Catholic Cathedral. A cordon of police and well over a hundred police cars had funneled the marchers to the plaza and then stood around watching. I noted in passing that the German police forces seem to have many more women than the police in the U.S.
As we left the Zwinger and circled around the barriers that kept the crowd contained, we could hear the major speaker of the day haranguing the crowd. And it was a harangue to which the crowd provided enthusiastic support. The organizers had been thoughtful enough to provide an English translation for the speakers remarks–a few German sentences were immediately followed by an English equivalent.
Checking the news later, I learned that the rally had been sponsored by the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (PEGIDA). We didn’t stay to listen, but as we walked by we heard “Merkel must go,” “we must protect our women and children,” and “we can’t let political correctness keep us from speaking out.” I realized, of course, that the rally we were skirting was relying on the same anger and hostility that Trump has so vividly exploited. I don’t think he would have been out of place here and the crowd would have cheered him on.
In traveling, we are not leaving behind what I had hope to avoid.