The right is rearing its ugly head all over Europe. Right-wing parties are gaining more and more support, eg the AfD in Germany, VOX in Spain, Marine Le Pen in France. And the Netherlands have just elected a right-wing party, although it looks they won't be able to form a government.
Conversely, it looks like the right has had its day in the UK with the Conservatives having presided over 13 years of failure. Despite the rise of the AfD and Pegida, Germany has a socialist-led coalition in the Berlin Bundestag. VOX in Spain appears to be losing support, on the evidence of the general election in July 2023, when they lost votes and seats.
Dresden - The Altstadt [Photograph courtesy of Dresden Magazin]
When we got to the bridge over the Elbe that leads to the old town, we were confronted by a police road block! There was to be a major demonstration that night by right-wingers/modern nazis, and the bridge was supposed to be part of the route.
How do we get to the Altstadt, then? I asked.
You’ll have to turn round, go back to the previous bridge and cross there, replied the nice policeman.
Well, I nearly flipped out.
Look. I’m 73-years-old and not very mobile, I can’t manage that. I’m a foreign visitor to Dresden and I just wanted to experience the Christmas markets in the Old Town.
Oh, OK. You can pass.
Amazing! So the four of us, plus several other tourists who were hanging around, were allowed to cross.
The empty bridge, blocked to traffic
The empty bridge reminded me of a 60s spy film, maybe starring Michael Caine, where prisoners are about to be exchanged.
After a couple of hours at the Christmas Market, we decided to go back to our boat-hotel by taxi. We booked a taxi, but it couldn’t get to us because of all the blocked streets in anticipation of the demo, now clearly imminent.
There were police everywhere (I learned from the local newspaper the following day that 500 police officers had been deployed).
We felt a little exposed. All of a sudden, a group of protesters appeared beside us. Up went a roar as a dozen police ran in a line towards them yelling at the top of their voices. The demonstrators disappeared in a flash!
The police relax after their 'charge'
We laughed heartily. But it was time to go.
We headed back over the bridge, still blocked to vehicles but no longer to pedestrians. We could see the march below.
The 'demo march' with the police close behind
The air was full of loud music and chanted slogans, all of them racist and anti-foreigners. The main “perpetrators” were from right-wing groups Pegida and AfD, but there was also a counter demonstration against the right-wing racists.
According to the paper the following day, the whole thing went off peacefully and no arrests were reported.
Meanwhile we trudged the two kilometres back to our accommodation. And early to bed.
All photographs except the Dresden skyline by Paul Whitelock
This is an abridged version of a longer article about a three-day visit to Dresden at Christmas 2023, which is available to read here: Christmas Tour of Deutschland Part 2 – Dresden I (eyeonspain.com)