Just a quick ride over in Dresden, I marvelled at the Zwinger. It is not exactly one of the castles in Germany, more a giant outdoor dance hall, but is grand nonetheless. It was destroyed in WWII but like so much of the city, its citizens had taken great pains to preserve its remains and get them back to old glories. They quite succeeded. If you ever happen to stand within its walls, imagine them to be pure white and the coats of arms radiant with gold. Now add 2000 evergreen orange trees – which was half the total amount in all of Saxony – to the small pillars and keep in mind that one orange tree back then had to be imported from Italy and cost 100-400€ for a mere 1.10 m tree. You see, that guy was rich and he had access to government funds as well.
Dresden in All Its Castle Splendour
But what was the point, you may ask. The point, my dear friend, was to throw such pompous balls of which the mere mention would make all the people in all the lands tremble with excitement. High society loved the costume balls with hours of firework (you could have your lady love’s name written into the sky with sparkles)! And the commoners could even parade around the grounds for free during the day. It was all publicly accessible. Now that was a people’s man.
But that weren’t all the castles I visited. Mind you, there are fifty castles over a area of 18.4 km2. I boarded a river cruise and sailed past my own hotel and the two other castles to its left and reigning high above the river. My goal was castle Pillnitz, to which August II was being hauled in real Venetian gondolas just to see exotic gardens and throw yet another little party. Even today, the grounds are grand, the houses vivid with colour and drawings of how people thought the Chinese looked like (not too flattering, unfortunately). But it has one curiosity: the oldest living European magnolia with a ripe age of about 244 years. And she has her own portable home to protect her from frost and icy winds. The big glass cage is set on wheels and actually moves up and over the tree for shelter. I think that is hilariously endearing.
Royal Mountains and Castle
As the crowning glory of the trip, we headed to Saxon Switzerland, which is about an hour drive or cruise away. The mountain peaks have been abused by the weather so much that they form proper pillars rising out from dense forests and offering crazy climbs. If you’re into that. I preferred the proper paths and bridge in the middle of it all. Although it is man-made, it undoubtedly enhances the whole scene besides making it more accessible. Only kings can think of such an outlandish thing, to put a bridge in the middle of nowhere connecting stones and air. (For all you artsy people out there, this is where the Romantics, headed by the fabulous Caspar David Friedrich, dreamed up paintings with tiny people and drawing landscapes).
From there, you drive back down to the river and over it towards the Fortress Königstein. This was entirely built for defence purposes and to house the current royal family in case of a possible attack (which happened eight times). As soon as enemies crossed the borders, the castle was put in alert and cannons were pulled out to line the extremely thick walls. They needn’t have worried because the whole thing was so rock solid and impenetrable that no one ever dared even consider attacking it.
There are fifty castles Saxony has to offer but if you want to start slow, you can refer to the map above. These are the places I have been to over the course of three days.
Have you seen any castles in Germany? Which one of these in and around Dresden would you like to see for yourself?
I would like to thank Saxony Tourism for organising and funding this trip through Saxony. As always, my opinion is entirely my own.
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