Culture in Saxon Switzerland

Historical facts and fairy tales right in front of your eyes

Saxon Switzerland is much more than a haven of sporty pursuits. On those days that you may need a rest from the trek, the cycle ride and all that messing about on water, a wonderful world of culture awaits.

Elbe Sandstone Mountains by FRANK EXSS

Elbe Sandstone Mountains by FRANK EXSS

Through Pirna’s old town alleys In the middle of the 18 th Century, Bernardo Bellotto, also known as Canaletto, captured the city of Pirna in 11 paintings that have no equal. Today, you can still catch a glimpse of the town that he saw: two of the most distinctive features are the dainty tower of the town hall and the mighty Marienkirche (St. Mary’s Church), with its steep roof. A wander through the old town is a delight: romantic alleyways are stocked with small shops, cosy restaurants, pubs and cafes that spill out onto the pavements in summer.

Castles, stately homes & gardens. What became known as the “Five without equal” are not to be missed:

  • Weesenstein Castle. On a peak overlooking the Müglitz Valley towers a fairytale castle. Founded around 1200 AD, the castle later became the favourite residence of Saxon King Johann. The royal living quarters, with their precious interiors and wallpapers of the 18 th 24 Culture and 19 th Centuries, the Christian chapel and the resplendent gardens and grounds are well worth a visit.
  • Königstein Fortress. Never conquered in battle, the fortress in the air has been perched on its lofty sandstone mesa since 1241. You can reach the rock massif 247 m above the Elbe via 3 drawbridges or a lift. Originally the site of a medieval border castle, the fortress was extended into a hilltop citadel before serving as a federal prison from the 16 th Century onwards. Its most famous prisoner was Johann Friedrich Böttcher, co-inventor of European porcelain in 1706-07. The fortress was popular with Saxon royal August the Strong, who hosted sumptuous festivities there. Themed mediaeval evenings, with dinner, are now held in the underground vaults and casements, while the historic Christmas market, held annually at the castle conjures up the spirit of bygone times: to wander through the torch-lit yuletide market stalls is to be intoxicated by the sights, scented smells and spicy tastes of yesteryear.
  • The Baroque Garden of Großsedlitz. The Baroque Garden is one of the greatest and most beautiful examples of garden art from the 18 th century. It was created in 1719 by Count Wackerbarth. In 1733, August the Strong designed it as a symmetrical site, with Friedrichschlösschen (a style of small castle), orangeries, fountains, cascades and basins.

    Poppy by FRANK EXSS

    Poppy by FRANK EXSS

  • Fort Stolpen. Fort Stolpen sits aloft a 35 m high basalt peak and is visible from afar. Originally a border castle, it later became a prison. Countess Anna von Cosel, August the Strong’s most famous and possibly most beautiful mistress, was forced to spend the last 49 years of her life here in keeping with the prevailing culture: men preferred intelligent women to keep well away from state affairs … Today, the fort is an historic museum with a collection of arms, a torture chamber, the Cosel tower, the castle dungeons and a well dug 82 m into the basalt.
  • The Baroque Castle of Rammenau. Located in magnificent scenery, the Barockschloss and park is one of Saxony’s most beautiful attractions. Halls and quarters that speak of noble pomp and ceremony transport the visitor back to the 18 th century. Traditional chamber music is played in the sophisticated ambience of the Hall of Mirrors.
  • Kuckuckstein Castle, Pirna-Zuschendorf Castle and Hohnstein Castle have many stories to tell. Hohnstein, once a border castle and haunt of robber barons, served many purposes down the centuries: as hunting lodge, courthouse, federal prison, concentration camp and prisoner of war camp. Today, the castle offers accommodation within the castle walls and makes for an interesting day visit, with its historic buildings, bear gardens and torture chamber.

Concerts & Theatre
The “Sandstein & Musik” festival in Saxon Switzerland has boasted the exquisite musical delights of world-renowned artists down the years. Ludwig Güttler, Artistic Director of the festival, vouches for the quality of all concerts associated with the event. The festival takes place in the most beautiful of venues to be found in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains: The “Felsenbühne Rathen” (Rathens’ Mountain Theatre) is known as one of Europe’s most stunning natural stages. Set in the sandstone rocks of at the heart of the National Park, the theatre boasts an impressive ambience that is perfect for operas, fabulous fairytales and classical concerts. No suprise then to come across Winnetou and Old Shatterhand there, or Shakespeare’s famous lovers Romeo and Juliet, as well as magic forest sprites and spirits. Weber’s romantic opera “Der Freischütz” is staged to spectacular effect against the rocky backdrop of the Rathener
Wehlgrund.

Dandelion & Sunset by FRANK EXSS

Dandelion & Sunset by FRANK EXSS

Muse temples, monuments and more …
In need of a rest from the elements on a rainy day? Saxon Switzerland is rich in museums, arts and crafts and exhibitions that tell of the region’s chequered history.
At Pirna’s DDR Museum visitors can enjoy a spot of Ostalgia. In an area covering 250 m², flats typical of the German Democratic Republic reflect the development of radio, television, cameras and record players from five decades of the past century. Learn too about the lives of young pioneers, the FDJ (youth organisation), the NVA (army) or the ABV (community policeman).
The “Robert-Sterl-Haus” in Naundorf near the town of Wehlen was the last home of the great German impressionist painter. The house, now a small museum, holds a surprisingly large collection of his works. Exhibits are staged in a way that leaves the visitor with the impression that the artist has just laid down his brush to pop out for a while before returning any moment soon.
On a tour of the “National Park Centre of Saxon Switzerland” you can learn more about those beauties of nature that are hidden from the human eye. Children marvel at red wood ants as they go about their busy lives in Saxony’s only ant zoo. The dynamics of the wilderness are explained through interactive exhibitions at the centre – and the questions are not only posed to children, but adults too.Like, how can a rugged mountain range evolve from the bottom of the ocean? And where does the sandstone for the Dresdner Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) come
from? Atmospheric photos, text and music form part of a multivision show that takes you into the secret world of the NationalPark.
Sebnitz was once the centre of European silk flower manufacturing. Today, this great tradition can be relived in the demonstration workshop of the “Deutsche Kunstblume Sebnitz” house and in a few other, smaller, enterprises. Visitors are invited to have a go at making flowers themselves.

Information
Event calendar and ticket sales from the Tourism Association of Saxon Switzerland or at:

http://www.saechsische-schweiz.de

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