Regions of Germany - Saxony
Germany is made up of sixteen federal states each with their own history and traditions. The varied countryside across each region makes Germany one of the worlds most beautiful countries. From the state where Oktoberfest began to the state with the most bridges in Europe, over the next few weeks we will take a closer look at each one.
The first state to explore is Saxony -Sachsen.
Where is it?
Saxony is the most easterly state, bordered by the Czech Republic and Poland. It is entirely land-locked sharing borders with four federal states - Saxony Anhalt, Thuringia, Bavaria and Brandenburg.
The capital city is Dresden.
History of the state
Saxony has a long and complicated past. In 7000 BC neolithic people farmed the lands. In Eythra ( a historic town) archaeologists have unearthed wooden wells which prove early settlers of the area were some of the first carpenters. Germanic tribes settled the area in the 1 century BC.
Charlemagne and the Franks conquered northern Europe taking the region we now refer to as Saxony as part of their lands. As the years went by a number of noble families founded dynasties, with the House of Welfs ruling Saxony.
The territory became part of the Holy Roman Empire under Emperor Maximilian I and Germany was once again united as 'das Heilige Romische Reich Deutscher Nation' - the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.
Napoleon declared Saxony a kingdom in 1806 and remained its ally until he was deposed. After France was defeated the Confederation or Deutscher Bund was created to prevent the expansion of France. What remained of the kingdome of Saxony together with a few districts from Prussia was formed into the province of Saxony.
After the Second World War the state was handed over to Soviet forces and became part of the German Democratic Republic or what we refer to commonly as East Germany. The free state of Saxony was dissolved. It split into three districts called Leipzig, Dresden, Chemnitz (which was re-named Karl-Marx-Stadt beween 1953 and 1990).
In 1989 the Berlin Wall which had divided east from west was brought down. The unification of Germany followed and the Freestate of Saxony was reconstituted. However, both East- and West Germans sometimes struggle with the Mauer im Kopf (wall in the mind).
Culture in Saxony
Saxony has a rich cultural heritage thanks to its complex history.
The capital city of Dresden is known as the 'Florence on the Elbe' as it is famed for its beauty and museums. Raised from the ashes of the bombing raids of World War Two, the baroque beauty of the Frauenkirche was restored in 2006. It is one of Germany's finest examples of baroque architecture.
The Dresden Striezelmarkt is the oldest Christmas market in Germany and attracts visitors from across the world.
Leipzig is the largest city in the state of Saxony and is the final resting place of Johann Sebastian Bach. The church of St Thomas was visited by Mozart and is home to the famous boys choir. Leipzig is a seat of musical creativity.
Chemnitz is not only famous for the towering monument to Karl Marx which looms in the city centre but is also renowned for its theatres. Over 800 performances occur across the city each year.
Meissen is famous for producing porcelain which was one of the states great exports. These days eastern Saxony is referred to as 'Silicon Saxony' because of the microchip industry which thrives in the area.
The holiday of Buß- und Bettag is observed only in Saxony. The religious day is a time for repentance and prayer and whilst once celebrated across Germany it was abolished as a holiday in all states except Saxony.
Christstollen has been made in Dresden for over 500 years. The dense and delicious Christmas fruit cake is only produced by 130 licensed bakeries in the city. It is sold at the Christmas Striezelmarkt each year.
Griene Glis are potato dumplings often served with German sausage. Potato is a big part of the German diet with regions having their own traditional recipes.
Leipziger Gose is a wheat beer which has a distinctive coriander overtone. The beer goes back 1000 years and originated in Goslar.
Did you know...
Toothpaste in its modern form was invented in Dresden in 1907.
The nutcracker was invented in the Ore mountains.
The word Saxon comes from the old German 'sax' meaning knife and 'or' meaning tribe.
Dresden is also known as the 'jewel box' thanks to its baroque splendour.
The coffee filter was invented in Saxony.
The stunning natural beauty across Saxony has inspired some of the worlds most celebrated composers. Wagner, Bach and Schumann all wrote music in Saxony.
We have only scratched the surface of the rich cultural history of the region but one thing is for certain, Saxony is a diverse, beautiful and creative state. It is little wonder that tourists flock to the region each year to enjoy all that Saxony has to offer.