Around two hours’ drive from Berlin and less from Dresden, Bad Muskau lies on the Neisse River and thus right on the Polish border of Germany. “Bad”, you understand, isn’t a judgment, but the German for “bath” and denoting the presence of healing springs. While it’s a pleasant enough town, the reason that it is very much worth a detour (as they say) is not the modest streets and buildings of the spa town itself but Muskauer Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Europe’s most impressive landscaped gardens.
Its creator was the extraordinary Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau, who was born here in 1785. A nobleman, writer, politician, adventurer and prodigious lover, Pückler-Muskau reserved his greatest passion for gardening. He was inspired by the English style of landscaping which appeared effortless and untamed but which actually resulted from rigorous planning. Park Muskau was a life-long project which drained his considerable coffers and sent him on the search for a rich wife who could bankroll his dreams.
Visit a permanent exhibition on the eccentric Pückler-Muskau in the moat-bound, dark red “New Castle”, Renaissance in inspiration and 19th century in construction. Afterwards step outside and view the prince’s handiwork, a landscape where nature is assisted, perfected and augmented. The route is key; Pückler-Muskau believed that pathways were “silent guides”, and the twisting routes offer constantly-changing vistas which were the hallmark of this type of garden. The territory roams over the river and into Polish territory, but there are no border formalities. The crossings now include the newly-opened “English Bridge” which replaces an original structure destroyed towards the end of the Second World War.