Saxony, which carries the designation of “free state” in its official name, is located in Eastern Germany, where it shares a border with Poland and the Czech Republic. It is the sixth-largest of the German federal states by population and was until 1990 entirely a part of the now-defunct German Democratic Republic. Its capital is Dresden, and its largest city is Leipzig. Other important cities are Chemnitz, Zwickau, Plauen, Görlitz.
The peaceful revolution that led to the end of Communist East Germany started in Saxony with the famous Monday night demonstrations that took place in Leipzig in 1989. The Nikolaikirche church was the starting point of the Monday-night prayers that became the Monday Demonstrations that ultimately culminated in the end of the communist regime, and the reunification of the country. That city, Saxony’s largest, has developed into one of the finest examples of reconstruction after Germany’s reunification and is today considered one of the country’s most livable places.
From a tourist’s point of view, the state offers a few regions popular with hikers as well as some historic towns. Leipzig and Dresden, located close to one another, are modern cities with a number of sights worth seeing. The airports of both towns are well connected to the international hubs of Munich and Frankfurt.
Economically, Saxony has successfully met the challenges of necessary structural changes it faced after the reunification and has produced continuous growth rates in recent years. One contributing factor was an extensive upgrade to traffic infrastructure.
Saxony’s unique cultural heritage is expressed in a typically Saxon cuisine as well as in a deep dialect spoken here. The state is home to several highly regarded universities.
Saxony is the 10th-largest of Germany’s 16 states, with an area of 18,413 sq km (7,109 sq mi), and the sixth-most populous, with 4 million people.
The history of the state of Saxony spans more than a millennium. It has been a medieval duchy, an electorate of the Holy Roman Empire, a kingdom, and twice a republic.
The area of the modern state of Saxony should not be confused with Old Saxony, the area inhabited by Saxons. Old Saxony corresponds roughly to the modern German states of Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and the Westphalian part of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Saxony is a well-known tourist destination. Dresden and Leipzig are two of Germany’s most visited cities. Areas along the border with the Czech Republic, such as the Lusatian Mountains, Ore Mountains, Saxon Switzerland, and Vogtland, attract significant visitors, largely Germans. Saxony has well-preserved historic towns such as Meissen, Freiberg, Pirna, Bautzen, and Görlitz.
The Dresden Frauenkirche is a Lutheran church in Dresden, the capital of the German state of Saxony. An earlier church building was Catholic until it became Protestant during the Reformation, and was replaced in the 18th century by a larger Baroque Lutheran building. It is considered an outstanding example of Protestant sacred architecture, featuring one of the largest domes in Europe. It now also serves as a symbol of reconciliation between former warring enemies.
Built in the 18th century, the church was destroyed in the bombing of Dresden during World War II. The remaining ruins were left for 50 years as a war memorial, following decisions of local East German leaders. The church was rebuilt after the reunification of Germany, starting in 1994. The reconstruction of its exterior was completed in 2004, and the interior in 2005.
The Bastei is a rock formation towering 194 m above the Elbe River in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains of Germany. Reaching a height of 305 m above sea level, the jagged rocks of the Bastei were formed by water erosion over one million years ago. They are situated near Rathen, not far from Pirna southeast of the city of Dresden, and are the major landmark of the Saxon Switzerland National Park. They are also part of a climbing and hiking area that extends over the borders into the Bohemian Switzerland (Czech Republic).
The Bastei has been a tourist attraction for over 200 years. In 1824, a wooden bridge was constructed to link several rocks for the visitors. This bridge was replaced in 1851 by the present Bastei Bridge made of sandstone. The rock formations and vistas have inspired several well-known artists, among them Caspar David Friedrich (“Felsenschlucht”)
The Azalea and Rhododendron Park Kromlau is a 200-acre (81 ha) landscaped park in the municipality of Gablenz, Germany (less than 6 kilometers from the Polish border). It was built in the 19th century. The park is an example of an English garden and has many small ponds and lakes. It includes the Rakotzbrücke (also called the Devil’s Bridge), which was specially built during the mid-19th century to create a circle when it is reflected in the waters beneath it. The bridge’s artificially formed basalt columns were shipped from distant quarries.
The park has no entry fee and can be accessed any time. The Rakotzbrücke is a short walk from the paid car parking area. The main parking area near the Rakotz Bridge is in the village of Kromlau.