For the travel who is admiring a several century old Gothic cathedral for the first time, making the difference between an authentic and a reconstructed church can be a tough job. Seeing all those architectural marvels and historical monuments makes you believe that you are somehow trapped between two different time periods – and, God knows, there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of such cities across the Old Europe. But a really great city is one that can reconstruct itself from its own ruins, list like in the mythical Phoenix. Following the numerous air raids and sieges that devastated Europe during World War II, there are numerous example of cities that have been almost entirely destroyed. And yet, they have managed to reborn, much more beautiful and stronger than they’ve ever been.
Le Havre, France
Its strategic location on the shores of the English Channel has represented both a blessing and a curse for the picturesque port of Le Havre. Once an important trade center between France and Great Britain, Le Havre suffered from serious bombing during World War II. However, Auguste Perret, one of the great visionaries of the 20th century, was the one to turn once again Le Havre’s destiny and transform the smoking ruins into a wonder of modern architecture.
If you visit nowadays Dresden, you might find it impossible to believe that this flourishing city was once a big pile of junk and ruins. A city with an amazing architecture and thriving cultural life, Dresden marked an enormous loss for Germany when it was almost wiped off by Allied air raids in what is considered one of the most destructive war operations in history. Ever since the city administration started rebuilding the city in 1950 (with the iconic Freuenkirche being the cherry on top), the reconstruction of Dresden has been an ongoing and almost miraculous process.
Walking down the streets of Warsaw Stare Miasto (Old City Warsaw), chances are high that you get completely absorbed by the medieval charm of its old apartment houses and luxurious palaces. It takes quite an effort to let yourself convinced that none of this is real: after the Nazi troops brutally destroyed most of the city’s institutions and palaces in WWII, Warsaw’s historic center underwent an intensive process of reconstruction, whose remarkable results can be admired today.
Nor very far form Warsaw was the northern port of Gdansk, another victim of the great war. Fortunately, when it came to deciding which will be the faith of the halfway destroyed city, the winning decision was to bring the city back to its lost grandeur. Right outside Gdansk you can visit a vivid replica of the Malbork Teutonic Castle, one of the largest and most impressive castle in Europe.
When the Second World war ended in 1944, Cologne was very close to a ghost city: with the best of its places and churches wiped out by the English Air-force, the city looked more like a cemetery that one of the most beautiful German cities. But as soon as 1845, a new urban plan was designed, and cologne gradually regained its world famous churches, synagogues and villas.