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Last updated : Nov 2009
Saxony
Saxony - TravelPuppy.com
Best-known of the former GDR states, Saxony (Sachsen) is famous for cities like Dresden, Leipzig, and of course, the pottery town Meissen.

The Erzgebirge region near Dresden lies on the border with the Czech Republic. Its mountainous wooded landscape makes it ideal for walkers in the summer and skiers in the winter. Sächsische Schweiz (Saxon Switzerland) is now a national park, its sandstone mountains attracting many visitors. Chemnitz (formerly Karl-Marx-Stadt) is the main town in this region. It was heavily bombed during the war and only a few of its historic buildings remain, including the Old Town Hall (16th century) and the 800-year-old Red Tower, others are Freiberg, Kuchwald, with its open-air theatre, and Seifen with its toy museum. Zwickau was birthplace of Robert Schumann and is home to a late Gothic Cathedral, a Town Hall dating back to 1403 and numerous old burghers’ houses.

Dresden

With over 500,000 inhabitants, this is one of the largest cities in the southeast of Germany. Its heyday was during the 17th and 18th centuries when August the Strong and subsequently his son August III ruled the area of Saxony. The most famous building in the city is the restored Zwinger Palace, which contains many old masters in its picture gallery, among them the Sistine Madonna by Raphael. Allied bombings destroyed much of the Baroque magnificence of Dresden, once known as the ‘Florence of the Elbe’ during World War II. However, some of the finest buildings, such as the Catholic Hofkirche, the Palace Church, the Semper Opera and the Green Vault treasure chamber of the Saxon Princes, either survived the bombings or have been restored in the intervening period. The Frauenkirche, since 1945 a chilling reminder of wartime horrors, is currently under reconstruction (due for completion during 2006).

Other attractions include the Arsenal, which has a vast collection of armour and weapons from the Middle Ages to the present day, the fountains in the Pragerstrasse, the old market, the Philharmonic Orchestra and the Kreuz Choir. The Dresden district is home to the minority Sorbs, a Slavic people who settled there in the 6th century. Sorb-language newspapers and broadcasts combine with teaching in local schools to preserve the culture.

Leipzig

The city has a fascinating history. Lenin printed the first issues of his Marxist newspaper in Leipzig. Lessing, Jean-Paul Sartre and Goethe all studied at the university. Music and books are important and there are no less than 38 publishers located in the city, and it is Wagner’s birthplace. The German Museum of Books claims to be the world’s oldest of its kind. Mendelssohn was director of music, and Bach was choirmaster, at the now completely restored St Thomas’ Church, between 1723 and 1750. There are museums dedicated to both composers in the city. Bach’s church choir still exists and is of an excellent standard, as is the city’s Gewandhaus Orchestra. The old University (1407), the famous Auerbach’s Cellar and the Kaffeebaum, the most famous of the city’s cafes, are further attractions in the city. Today Leipzig hosts major international trade fairs.

Meissen

Meissen is the oldest china manufacturing town in Europe and famous for its fine Meissen china. Visitors can tour the Meissen factory. The narrow streets of old Meissen retain their historic charm. The Albrechtsburg Cathedral (1485) and the Bishop’s Castle tower above the city. Meissen is also the centre of a wine-growing region.