Travel Germany and Poland – UNESCO World Heritage site Prince-Pueckler-Park Bad Muskau and Muskau Castle

This is a story about intercultural projects, heritage, history, gardening, and peace. Europe, that is diverse culture, food, people, and landscapes. Europe has thousands of towns, places, villages, beaches, and mountains. One would need a lifetime and more to see all Europe has to offer. Next time you visit Berlin, take a day to visit a castle in the German state of Saxony.

Travel Germany and Poland. UNESCO World Heritage Site. Prince Pueckler Park. Bad Muskau

The Free State of Saxony in the eastern part of Germany is surrounded by four German states, by Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, and Bavaria. Poland and the Czech Republic are just a skip and a jump away. Bad Muskau, a spa town, is located on the Lusatian Neisse. Muskau Castle, built in Neo-Renaissance style, in the Fuerst-Pückler-Park in Bad Muskau is a castle complex in the north of the German state of Saxony. The river forms the German-Polish border ever since 1945, and the town sits directly opposite the town of Łęknica in Poland. Within a few moments, you can walk through the Fuerst-Pueckler-Park Bad Muskau from Germany to Poland. One park, two countries and one UNESCO World Heritage site? What is not to like?

When you approach Bad Muskau, you will see that you drive endless kilometres through pine heath, which is shaped by the ice age. Pines prefer to be at home on sandy soil, and there are sand, heather, and blueberry everywhere. Not much grows here when there is no rain. And rain is rather rare in this area.

Fuerst Pueckler Park Bad Muskau, the largest English-style landscape park in Europe has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status as a cross-border cultural landscape in 2004. This park is sure to be count amongst the most exciting sights to visit in Germany and Poland. The park has a long history and it is also an intercultural success story. The extensive grounds of the Muskauer Park with its meadows, bridges and buildings, trees, lakes, and rivers can easily be explored on an extensive walk. Prince Pueckler, the creator of the park, is described as one of Germany’s most important landscape designers. Who was Prince Pueckler, this apparent true star of landscaping?

Glamour boy, landscape artist, traveller, and dessert muse

When Hermann Pueckler was born in Muskau Castle in 1785, his mother was only 15 years old. In 1815, he began to create a landscaped park surrounding the existing Renaissance castle on both sides of the river Neisse. Pueckler created visual pure lines of sight through artistically planted trees, carefully placed buildings and by using the attractive location on the hillside terraces of the valley of the river Neisse. Here in Lusatia, he created a park the size of 830 soccer fields. Imagine that, when this park was created in 1815, there was no Poland as we know it today. Poland was yet to become a sovereign state. The area was divided between Prussia, Russia, and Austria-Hungary. Today, two-thirds of this park area is on the Polish territory in Leknica.

Prince Pueckler fled from reality and travelled. From 1826 to 1829 he studied the creation of English landscape gardens in England. He planned an America trip and spent six years in the Middle East and on the African continent. In 1837, Pueckler purchased an Ethiopian 12-year-old girl at the slave market of Cairo. He called her ‘the beloved’ and took her with him wherever he went. It is outright horrible and appalling to think of. This was a time when a 50-year-old man could buy a child as a mistress, pretending to feel nothing but love for her. 
Mahbuba, his slave mistress, died and was buried only three years later in Muskau in 1840. Over the course of the years, Pueckler ran out of money and got divorced, while hoping to find another wealthy wife who might fund his project. That vision never became a reality, and he decided to sell Muskau castle and the park. In 1846, Prince Wilhelm Friedrich Karl von Oranien-Nassau acquired Muskau domination. Pueckler took the money moved to the nearby town of Cotbus and created another landscaped garden.

In Germany, Prince Pueckler ist mostly known for a dessert dish. The recipe was created in 1839 by Louis Ferdinand Jungius, the head chef of the royal Prussian household. The combination of three different ice-cream flavours, namely strawberry, vanilla and chocolate ice cream on one plate (often sandwiched between two light waffles) is named after Pueckler.

Water lilies on a lake in front of a red-ish coloured renaissance castle under a blue sky with fluffy clouds.

Castle Muskau – From fortification to ruin to fairy-tale castle

The first documented mention of the castle is from 1245. It is believed that there was a water castle until the 15th century when the complex was extended. In the 16th century, the property turned from medieval fortification to representative castle. Prince Pueckler planned to heavily redesign the castle, he removed fortress walls, bridges, and the moat. As money ran out, the new owner, Prince Wilhelm Friedrich Karl von Oranien-Nassau took over and rebuild the baroque castle in the neo-renaissance style.

Travel Germany and Poland – UNESCO World Heritage site Prince-Pueckler-Park Bad Muskau and Muskau Castle in Saxony.

Muskau Castle burned down in the spring of 1945, probably due to arson. For decades nothing was done to restore it and its ruin stood untouched in the park. After the fall of the wall, in November 1989, it was apparent that culture and history had suffered from neglect in Germany's east. One might wonder if it was outright ignored by the GDR regime and its fans. No one had spent much money or effort in restoring historical sites. The German part of the Fuerst-Pueckler-Park Bad Muskau was awarded heritage status in 1955, the park and its paths and trees and plants were well looked after and cared for, but that was it. 
There were plans to bring Castle Muskau back to its original glamour. Words are cheap, and as far as historical buildings in the park are concerned, nothing of relevance was ever created during the time of the dictatorship of the German Democratic Republic. This can be explained with a popular joke from GDR times. Question: Is it possible to build a system of socialism in the desert? Answer: In principle yes. Nothing happens for five years, but then the country runs out of sand.

45 years of the cold war were over when the regime of the GDR decided reunification would be a clever thing. After 40 years of existence, the GDR voted to join West Germany, and out of a sudden, people were free and could envision the restoration of historical sites. Funding for these projects became available pretty soon after the end of the GDR. The rebuilding of Castle Muskau started sort of immediately. A lot was rebuilt in the three decades since. 
Restoration and maintenance projects in the park, the orangery, the mews, and the new castle started in 1993, and all in compliance with original plans. I imagine that what we as guests can enjoy today can only be the result of true passion and love for heritage, history and gardening. The reconstruction of Bad Muskau castle cost 25 million EUR and was finished as recently as 2013. Job well done. The result looks as glamorous as can be.

The entire castle complex is made of the new castle, the old castle, the cavalier's house, the mews, and the orangery. It has everything a glamorous castle needs: Decorative gables and grilles, balconies, sculptured figures, lanterns, decorative friezes, and ornamented round towers. A massive staircase connects the castle with the landscaped park.

Water lilies on a lake in front of a red-ish coloured renaissance castle with an overgrown balcony under a blue sky

Water lilies on a lake in front of a red-ish coloured renaissance castle with a overgrown balcony and a smaller white castle in the distance under a blue sky

The sculpture of a lion on a pillar of a large staircase in front of a reddish painted renaissance castle.

Water lilies on a pond in front of a red-ish coloured renaissance castle with an overgrown balcony under a blue sky with fluffy clouds

Water lilies on a lake in front of a red-ish coloured renaissance castle with an overgrown balcony under a blue sky

Two sculptures of lions on the pillars left and right of  large staircase leading to a reddish painted renaissance castle.

A beige sand paved path lined by lemon trees planted in green pots, that leads to a reddish painted renaissance castle.

Fuerst-Pueckler-Park Bad Muskau - UNESCO World Heritage status for this cross-border cultural landscape

From 1945 the river Neisse, which runs right through the park became the dividing line. When the border between the German Democratic Republic and Poland was drawn after the Second World War in 1945, Muskau Park became bilateral.

There was a shortage of materials and inadequate gardening equipment in the GDR. Gardeners were inventive and the landscaped garden could be preserved thanks to their imagination. On the Polish side, almost nothing was known about the history of the park until the 1990s. No path, no footbridge could be seen, all was overgrown. In all the years of the WW2 and those that followed afterwards, the forest had all the time in the world to grow that there was no structure of the park left to be seen.

Today, the two countries meet in this World Heritage Site on the river Neisse. See whether you can locate the border posts in red and white (Poland) and black, red and gold (Germany) and walk over a bridge from one embankment to the other within the blink of an eye. Up until 1990, this would not have been possible at all. The border between the GDR and Poland was strictly protected, it was fenced, secured with infra-red detectors and guards. Enjoying this truly European moment, I did all the things one would do. I stood with one foot in Germany and with the other in Poland. I took photos over the river Neisse from Poland to Germany and also into the other direction. It is fascinating to experience up close how far Europe has come.

A beige sand paved path along the embankment of a river with two border stones on each side of the river, one in red and white for Poland and one in black, red and gold for Germany.

Border stone in red and white for Poland - Polska.

Meadows on the embankment of a river with a white bridge over it.

Fuerst-Pueckler-Park Bad Muskau had the luck to have all these passionate gardeners. German gardeners worked together with Polish conservationists. Great efforts were made to maintain the park. Now, Polish and German visitors and tourist groups walk through the park in equal delight. With combined powers, Germans and Polish people are keeping this late baroque park alive. 
At the end of the 1980s, there was a collaboration with the Polish park gardeners for the first time. It pretty much all started with an idea from the Polish and German employment offices in the border region. Their vision was that a handful of German and Polish unemployed should recover and rebuild the historical paths in the Polish part of the park. That project worked out marvellously and exceptionally well, and that against all odds, like language barriers, different financial- and human resources, and all differences in behaviours and worldviews. This project is a brilliant example of how a united Europe works together and achieves amazing things. The gardeners reconstructed the park fervently and in great detail and in line with Prince Pueckler's original plans.

A mother swan with three young grey swan chicks and a duck and yellow water lilies on a lake.

White roses on a rose bush.

Three pink roses on a rose bush.

Yellow water lilies in front of a bright- to dark blue iron bridge under large trees with a red painted castle in the distance.

A sand paved path under large trees and a bright blue sky.

Pink roses on a rose bush.

A bright- to dark blue painted iron bridge decorated with pink fuchsias over a pond, which leads to a sand paved path that lays under large trees.

Walking through landscape paintings

When you visit Bad Muskau park, you can see gardeners working seemingly everywhere. They are seriously busy gardening their heart out. The park otherwise oozes complete calm and quiet. The castle within sight, the meadows, the 800,000 trees, the ponds, and the small streams, it is so idyllic. There are views all the way to the horizon. It feels as if you enter a new painting with every step you take.

Highlights Fuerst-Pueckler-Park Bad Muskau and Muskau Castle

Worth seeing in the park are: the reconstructed Castle with the Pueckler exhibition and the castle tower, the Baroque cavalier house, the orangery as well as the palace garden with a kitchen garden and the exhibition on pineapple cultivation. Please check opening hours before you visit. 
Lemon trees planted in green pots lined up in front of a white flat building with large brown framed windows..

Champagne coloured Dutch style gabled houses decorated with red roses.

A kitchen garden in front to champagne coloured Dutch-style gabled houses decorated with red roses.

What you need to know to travel to Fuerst-Pueckler-Park Bad Muskau and Muskau Castle

Visa requirements for Germany

You can apply for the German Schengen Visa, as a Member State of the EU, Germany is a member state of the Schengen Area. Visitors from the Schengen countries do not need a passport or visa, only a valid an ID-card or passport. Visit this website to see whether you need a Visa to visit Germany. Please check travel regulations which might be in place because of the Coronavirus covid19 pandemic.

How to get to Fuerst-Pueckler-Park Bad Muskau and Muskau Castle

By car. From Berlin and Cottbus, A 15 via the B 115. From Dresden, A4 via the B 156. From Görlitz, B 115. There is a visitor car park located at one of the entrances of the park. Simply follow the signs to Fuerst-Pueckler-Park Bad Muskau.

By public transport: Take the train of the Ostdeutsche Eisenbahn GmbH (ODEG) to Weißwasser. Once there, board the bus 250 to Bad Muskau. Get off at stop "Kirchplatz" and walk a few minutes to the entrance of the park.

Best time to visit Fuerst-Pueckler-Park Bad Muskau and Muskau Castle

Summers are dry and can be hot with temperatures up to above 30 degrees Celsius at times. Wear sunscreen. Spring is a pleasant time, on good days temperatures can go up to 20 degrees Celsius. Autumn is a colourful time to visit. Winter can be rainy and miserable, with the odd snow day; on some days, temperatures can fall well below zero degrees Celsius. Wrap up warm.

A sand paved path next to white flowering bushes with a red painted castle in the distance.

Germany – Currency and how to pay

Germany is a member of the European Union. The official currency in Germany is the Euro. Exchange money on arrival at the airport, or get some cash at an ATM. You can pay in cash still almost everywhere in town (some shops/restaurants/cafes only accept cash though). Credit cards are hardly, if ever, accepted. The situation might change due to the coronavirus covid19 epidemic as more and more businesses are asked to accept cashless payment. Only time will tell if Germans are ready for cashless payment. Until then, bring cash and be on the safe side.

Info, tickets and hours Fuerst-Pueckler-Park Bad Muskau and Muskau Castle

Neues Schloss, 02953 Bad Muskau, Germany. Tickets: EUR 8.00. Family ticket EUR 18. The entrance is free for preschool kids (only when accompanied by an adult). The entrance to Fuerst-Pueckler-Park Bad Muskau is free. Hours: From June 20, 2020, the New Castle will be open daily from 10am to 6pm.

Accessibility Fuerst-Pueckler-Park Bad Muskau and Muskau Castle

All rooms of the permanent and special exhibition in the New Palace are barrier-free. The steps of the castle stairs can be used with a wheelchair lift. Please press the call button for help. An elevator takes guests to the first and second floor in the castle building. There is an accessible toilet on the ground floor. At the nursery, wheelchair users, and visitors with prams or walkers can press a help button when they would like to visit the pineapple exhibition and the kitchen garden. The paths of the main parkland are mostly paved with sand. Please contact administration for detailed information before your visit.

Wi-fi and technology in Muskau Park and Muskau Castle

There is no free Wi-Fi available. Please note that Fuerst-Pueckler-Park Bad Muskau with its Muskau Castle is a no-drone area.

From Berlin with love