First of all an apology. We have very few pictures of the Worlitz Gardens. My (Hank) fault. Ran out of batteries for the camera. That's why I never made it in Boy Scouts - not prepared. Okay, onward now.
Our ship has now made its way to Dessau but that is not where we are touring. Instead, we hopped on a coach for a short ride to the Worlitz Gardens. These are actually English-style gardens plopped in Germany. Now how can that be? Here’s how.
In the past, it was common for European princes to make what was known as a Grand Tour of Europe before these guys had to settle down and do something to “add value” – like becoming king. And so it was with the prince who would become Leopold III of Saxony-Anhalt in the 18th century. At one point on his tour, he found himself in England. He fell head over heels for England, especially the gardens and he stayed for six months. In fact, he decided to heck with Saxony-Anhalt. “I want to stay here.” His handlers frowned on this idea and told him “Hey buddy, you got duties back home.” So the prince returned, sulking all the way.
He decided that, if he could not stay in England, he would do the next best thing. That would be to recreate the English garden design at his summer palace in Worlitz and throw in replicas of what he had seen elsewhere in Europe.Thus the Worlitz Gardens were born.
When we got to the gardens, it was a cool and drizzly day. With the weather and starting off to look at the gardens, it felt more like we were in England than Germany. There is a good size lake that at one time was part of the Elbe. Canals were dug that meander off from the lake. English garden landscaping is arranged all around the lake and the canals. Small islands dot the landscape connected by replicas of English bridges.
We toured part of the area on foot, but mainly we went by what they called gondolas. Now, when you think “gondola”, you probably picture a guy with a long pole singing ‘O Sole Mio’ as he glides along. Well lose that picture. For us a gondola was more like a large bass boat with a set of oars for our oarsman. Each gondola sat twelve and really gave us a good view. We went all around the lake, wandered the canals, and floated under the bridges. Pretty neat. And we saw some of the replicas the Prince had built, like the Roman temples, Temple of Venus, the Pantheon, and Mount Vesuvius (I’m not kidding.).
There actually is real artifact and it is a column from the ruins of Pompeii. The Prince had seen it at an excavation in Italy and decided it would be perfect for his Gardens. But here’s the deal. The column dates to a period before Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried Pompeii. That means it was over 1700 years old when the Prince saw it. So, the Prince arranges to have it shipped to Worlitz for inclusion in the Gardens he was building.
All that the workers at the Gardens knew was that the Prince was sending some kind of column from someplace in Italy. So, the column arrives and the workers unpacked it. They took one look at it and said “Get word to the Prince. He’s been cheated. Those Italians sent some dirty, crummy column!” The Prince finally got them straightened out on that.
Besides all the landscaping, there are many types of birds and ducks that inhabit the Gardens. But what really grabs your attention are the swans. They are numerous and big. They would come up close to our gondola and raise up their big ol’ wings. This was their way of saying “it’s okay for you to visit but, always remember, we rule the lake.” Message received. Regardless, they are beautiful creatures.
After awhile on the water it occurred to us that our oarsman doesn’t have an easy job – rowing a boat (oops, sorry, gondola) with twelve people in it. As we neared the end of our water tour it was apparent our oarsman was struggling a bit. He is a university student and he said the Garden touring season is just beginning and he is just not in shape right now. But he made it – pant, pant. Good ol’ hearty German stock.
Once back on terra firma, we got a quick look at a replica of an English style Protestant church. The Prince had gotten the plan design from the English. It would have a high tower with a steeple. At the top of the tower would be living space for a church guard. His lead builder was his principal aide who was not a structural engineer. But he was resourceful and the church got built.
However, everyone thought the whole thing would fall down. Nobody would go into it and the church guard wouldn’t live in the tower. Nobody except for the Prince that is. He said “You guys got no faith.” And he went off and lived in the tower for several weeks to prove his point. The church is still standing today. Point made.
We had just a little “on our own” time after the Gardens tour. Some of us wandered over to this old inn that was close to the church. The main room had a massive fireplace. So, on this cool drizzly day, in English-style gardens, located in Germany, we sat by the fire and wrapped our hands around cups of steaming hot chocolate. Heaven.
Final point – The Worlitz Gardens were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000.
A number of us had signed up for a late afternoon walking tour of Bauhaus architecture in Dessau. But high water intervened and that had to be cancelled. So to try to give us some flavor for it, the coaches took a little detour on our way back to the ship from the Gardens. The guide gave us a rundown of what Bauhaus architecture was all about.
Joye and I knew nothing about it before and now we barely know more than that. Essentially it was a style of architecture whose designers were centered in an area around Dessau. Its heyday was in the 1920’s and 30’s. But Hitler was not a fan and when he came to power, the top architects left for the U.S. A number of U.S. cities have some trademark Bauhaus architecture. But I’m certain I couldn’t point it out to you. Okay, there is this. Two of the premier architects wound up teaching at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Two of the students who came out of there were Phillip Johnson and I.M. Pei. So, Bauhaus architecture must have something going for it.
Anyway, we drove by what had been the homes of the top designers and saw Staatliches Bauhaus which is where they taught and worked. That was about it. You know how with road construction a detour is a poor substitute for the real thing. Same here.
Now we’re back on board ship. It’s hard to believe this is our last night on ship. Not that the trip is over – far from it. We still have Potsdam to go and then on to Berlin. But when we get on our coaches tomorrow, it will be with our luggage. We will tour Potsdam and then motor on into Berlin. We did not know that Potsdam might be called an exurb of Berlin. Didn’t know those cities were that close. But that they are.
That all means we do the big wrap-up tonight. So, it was into the Lounge for our final cocktail hour topped off with the Captain’s Farewell Cocktail. Cheers to all. Then it was on to dinner with the finale being the seemingly obligatory Baked Alaska. But, no
complaints from us. It was great.
Then most of us went back to the Lounge for a final drink, or two, and to participate in the raffle drawing. As usual, we won nothing. But folks started having to tear themselves away because you know what is a “must do” tonight. Gotta pack. Luggage has to be ready for pickup by 6:30 a.m. Oh groan.
DRINK OF THE DAY: Rolls Royce (champagne and cuantro) 2½ stars. This was different than the Rolls Royce drink I am familiar with. It is made with gin, vermouth and Benedictine. But this one was okay – more of a Chevy than Rolls Royce though.