Saxony Presents its Via Romantika,
Threading Places of Beauty and Intrigue
The symbol of the Via Romantika is the four-leaf clover, which is not only a symbol of luck but also represents a piece of paradise according to legend. Saxony Tourism has strung together 34 paradisical, romantic, intriguing and historical places of interest and beauty that entertain and inform and provide a perfect itinerary for Americans seeking to spend a week in a bit of paradise.
Saxony’s Via Romantika leads to historic towns, beautiful landscapes, numerous castles and palaces, the manufacturers of famous high-quality products and the most beautiful photo motifs. The route connects Saxony, the State of the Arts, with the Czech Republic and Poland crossing the “Autobahn” motorway route from Prague to Berlin twice, thus offering immediate access. From the Czech capital, for example, one can reach Pirna in 90 minutes, and 15 minutes later one arrives in Dresden. The overall length of the Via Romantika, which can be travelled in both directions, is 685 km or 425 miles. This translates into a travel time of about 16 hours for the whole distance.
The Via Romantika can be a perfect way to structure an itinerary in Saxony starting from either end or in the middle and taking in parts of the route. Overall there are 34 stops, the so-called “anchor points,” — some might take one or two hours while others can demand one’s attention for the entire day. The first stop is appropriately only a 30 minute drive from Dresden and is one of the famous castle homes of the Wettin Dynasty that ruled Saxony for 829 years. Weesenstein Castle has extraordinary architecture from the Middle Ages matched by a beautiful garden in the adjacent valley with a river running through it.
The next stop is the Ore Mountains which are beautiful all year long but have a special meaning at Christmas time not least due to the folk art that was invented in the region. Probably the most well-known today are the nutcracker and the incense smoker but there are also the precious watches made in the town of Glashütte which are meticulously hand-crafted, and rank among the finest in the world. No less intricate are the charming Christmas creations on sale at the over 100 years old Wendt & Kuhn, a company that practically embodies the picture of Christmas charm with their wooden ornaments and figurines. The Ore Mountains also include the mining town of Freiberg with its extraordinary mineral museum and Annaberg-Buchholz with its beautiful St. Anne’s cathedral.
The former royal family also built the Augustusburg, a large hunting castle in the Ore Mountains, and the Albrechtsburg in Meissen, Germany’s oldest palace. Meissen became the first production site of the oldest European porcelain, known as Meissen porcelain, or Dresden China. Today, visitors can watch the modern day production at the nearby Meissen State Porcelain Manufatory, dine on Meissen porcelain, visit the museum and shop at the store and the outlet. The town of Meissen can easily absorb three quarters of a day with the porcelain tour, the palace and the gothic cathedral, the charming streets and shops and excellent restaurants overseeing the valley.
From the town of Meissen, the River Elbe curves its way through the picturesque riverbanks and meadows on its way to Dresden. Along the river also runs the Saxon Wine Route. Stretching just over 34 miles by car and about 50 miles by foot, the Saxon Wine Route is a charming way to experience the Saxon countryside. Many of the stops, including the beautiful and cultural Saxon towns of Pirna, Meissen and Dresden, renowned for their art, architecture, history and castles, are also part of the Via Romantika. One can visit vineyards, sample wines in traditional taverns and enjoy cycling along the Elbe Cycle Route that parallels sections of the wine road. The Saxon State Winery at the Castle Wackerbarth is a wonderful stop that has outdoor dining, excellent tours and tastings and trails to explore the wine hills on foot.
Bigger, more modern, and more beautiful. Sound familiar? That’s how it was supposed to be in Saxony too. Close to the one-time modest Wackerbarth winery, the hunting lodge of elector Maurice, in German “Moritz”, became a magnificent castle and hunting lodge under the “Saxon Sun King” Augustus the Strong. The castle is famous for its beautiful setting on an artificial island and as home to the Moritzburg Music Festival. The stallion parades in September are especially wonderful, and the historic steam-operated narrow-gauge railway runs from Radebeul to Radeburg every day with a stop in Moritzburg.
In Dresden, every cobble-stoned street is romantic and beautiful. The inner city has been recreated building by building in its original style before the firebombing of 1945. The Royal Palace, with its four extraordinary museums, and the Zwinger Palace, which holds another four museums, comprise the vital organs of the extensive Dresden State Art Collection. Steps away, visitors can take a paddle steamer down the river past a row of villas on the river bank to the Pillnitz Palace, the summer home of Augustus the Strong. Today, it also is home to Dresden State Arts Collection’s arts and crafts museum. Right on the river, the Pillnitz Palace has a four star hotel adjacent to the castle, a perfect place from which to explore the wine route and the Elbe River Valley.
One of the least talked about places in Saxony and that eludes many tourists is Rammenau Castle. It is well worth the trip however as visitors can admire the exotic tapestries in the Chinese Room from the baroque period as well as the so-called “Devil’s Room” with its references to Greek mythology. The perfectly preserved castle hosts concerts in its elegant dining room, meals in the historic dining salons and visitors can even stay overnight in the stylishly furnished castle suites
In the far eastern border of Saxony, the town of Bautzen is the capital of the Sorbs, the descendants of the Slavic peoples that used to live all over Saxony. Only in Bautzen were they able to preserve their culture and language which is why the city and its surroundings are bilingual. The town is also very popular for its mustard that can be tasted in different shops, at the “Mustard Restaurant,” or at the Hammermühle mill in the lower part of town. On the border with Poland, Görlitz’s charms have also been discovered by Hollywood: During the past years, Oscar-winning masterpieces were filmed in “Görliwood”, including “Grand Budapest Hotel” and “The Reader,” as well as “Inglourious Bastards” and the Jackie Chan version of “Around the World in 80 Days.” You can discover all the film locations during bookable tours and feel close to your favorite movie star. Very recently, Görlitz was voted “European Film Location of the Decade.”
Rounding out the Via Romantika are the Saxon Switzerland National Park; the Königstein Fortress on one of its table mountains; the town of Grossschönau where some of Europe’s finest damask is still made to this day; the St. Marienthal Convent where you can enjoy the sisters’ delicious beer and an overnight; Herrnhut where Count von Zinzendorf founded the Moravian Church and spread this message to the world; the town of Zittau and the glorious ruins of the Oybin Castle and monastery which are a delight for photographers!
More detailed information on the Via Romantika is available at www.viaromantika.com and for general information on Saxony please visit
Saxony, State of the Arts