Valley of the Clueless

The German Democratic Republic or GDR (aka East Germany) existed for nearly forty-one years, from October 7, 1949 to October 3, 1990.

During this time, Dresden and vicinity had the dubious honor of being known in the rest of the GDR as the Tal der Ahnungslosen or “Valley of the Clueless.” This is because they were so far away from West Germany and from West Berlin that they could not receive western television stations.

People from other parts of the GDR claimed that for this reason the people of Dresden had an uncritical attitude towards the actions of the East German regime.

In 2004 I mentioned this on VirtualTourist (VT) and added: “I don’t know it this is really true (the ones I knew seemed perfectly normal). Have there been studies done on this point? Perhaps some German VT-members might have information about this.”

The Elbe River and the Semper Opera House in Dresden

Soon I received a thoughtful and informative message from VT-member “german_eagle” (Ingo), who lived in Dresden. He said it was true that West German television could not be seen in the Dresden area except under unusual weather conditions. But it was not true that the people in Dresden were uncritical of the GDR-regime. On the contrary, peaceful protests began there as early as February 1982.

He pointed out that there has long been a rivalry between Berlin (Prussia) and Dresden (Sachsen) going back as far as the 18th century, so people in Dresden have always been suspicious of anything coming from Berlin. Also, Dresden has a strong and self-confident educated bourgeoisie which was always critical of the GDR government and never forgave them for building a “new” socialist city instead of rebuilding the beautiful old city of Dresden which was destroyed during the war.

At this point I only knew Ingo from exchanging messages on VirtualTourist, but we met four years later in Dresden and went to the opera together, along with another VT member, “Kathrin_E“, who was in Dresden for a conference that week.

My photos in this post are from 2004. I revised the text in 2020.

See more posts on Dresden, Germany.
See more posts about the now-defunct website VirtualTourist.

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