The highest degree of landscape gardening is only achieved where it appears to have become nature again, but in its most noble form. Pückler-Muskau, Hints on Landscape Gardening, 1834
Garden art, nature painting, landscape composition: Pückler’s masterpiece in Bad Muskau has many qualities – and rightly so. When the prince designed the park on the Neisse, he used stylistic elements from landscape painting. The foreground, middle and background are harmoniously balanced. Outside the central Pleasure Grounds, which are connected to buildings, the extensive parks blend gracefully into the surrounding landscape. Prince Pückler created the park using only the most original means of landscape design derived from nature, largely retaining the existing topographical situation and subordinating the architecture to the landscape dimension of his work of art.
The park paths act as silent guides and make sure that no attraction is concealed from the visitor. They guide the visitor almost imperceptibly so that he or she can constantly discover new views, lines of sight, perspectives in the staging, that essentially requires no architecture. Pückler created a sensory space in which people can feel both consciously and unconsciously comfortable. The prince described his visions in the work “Hints on Landscape Gardening”, published in 1834, a much-cited book in garden literature, rich in horticultural aphorisms, artistic pictorial sources and designs as well as precise plans.
UNESCO- World Heritage Site
The fact that Muskau Park has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2004 is largely due to Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau (1785-1871). He created a masterpiece on both sides of the Neisse River, known as the classic landscape garden. The “Green Prince” is regarded as the founder of modern landscape design and had an influence that extended beyond Europe all the way to America. Pückler’s principles are still relevant: with his “Hints on Landscape Gardening”, published in 1834, he wrote a textbook that is still widely referred to today. Alongside general instructions for the creation of a landscape garden, Pückler describes his vision for Muskau Park, which today stretches over the borders of two countries. The park was added to the World Heritage List following a joint German-Polish application. The award recognizes Pückler’s cross-border management in the cultivation of cultural heritage.
Muskauer Park/Park Mużakowski – an outstanding example of a European park, a crafted ideal landscape, and a new approach to designing greenery in urbanized spaces – was included in the world heritage list according to the convention concerning the protection of the world cultural and natural heritage on July 2, 2004. Its inclusion in the list is a confirmation of outstanding interest of a cultural or natural site which needs to be preserved as a part of the world heritage of mankind as a whole.
These words are written in four languages on the commemorative stone, dedicated in 2005 on the Double Bridge on Jeanette Island. In German, Polish, English and French, these words are written in a symbolic place, to show Muskau Park bears the UNESCO title.
The idea of including Muskau Park on the World Heritage List came from Poland. Andrzej Michałowski, Director of the Polish Central Authority for the Protection and Preservation of Castle and Garden Ensembles and later of the Centre for the Protection of the Historic Cultural Landscape, pushed for this proposal to be submitted to UNESCO on 3 October 1990. As part of this, he knocked on many open doors on the German side, even though the idea took a few years to mature. The process gained momentum when Robert de Jong, President of the ICOMOS-IFLA Committee for Historic Gardens and Cultural Landscapes, was officially appointed international advisor for Muskau Park in 1998. Finally, the park benefited from a 2001 decision by the World Heritage Committee that allows transnational sites to apply for the UNESCO title in addition to those listed in the national Tentative Lists. The German and Polish partners seized this opportunity by drafting the application for Muskau Park together and submitting it in 2002. Once the required management plan was in place, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee met in Suzhou, China, on 2 July 2004 to approve the joint application from two countries and Pückler’s garden artwork was awarded World Heritage status. The certificate was handed over just under a year later, on 27 May 2005, at a symbolic location directly on site: on the Double Bridge in the middle of the garden monument to the two nations.
Pückler’s legacy on the Neisse is being restored and maintained in an internationally unparalleled cooperation. The “Fürst-Pückler-Park Bad Muskau” Foundation cooperates on an ongoing basis with the National Heritage Board of Poland in Warsaw (Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa – NID) and its branch office in Łęknica. The cross-border relationships have grown over the years and are reflected in various projects in the park. One of the first achievements even before the Foundation was established was the reinstallation of the Pückler Stone on 30 October 1991. This symbol of the German-Polish partnership is located on the eastern side not far from the Neisse River. Following the removal of the wild vegetation, the magnificent panoramic view of the New Castle has been restored from the top of the hill. The employment programme for young German and Polish people, which began in 1998 under the title “Working and Learning across Borders” in cooperation with regional and national employment services on both sides of the Neisse River, was a sensational success. This project is still thriving today. After more than five decades of neglect, the strong links between the two parts of the park have been restored. To ensure that these links remain intact and have even more impact, regular working groups with members from both countries meet to coordinate maintenance and construction projects in the park. The managing director of the “Fürst-Pückler-Park Bad Muskau” Foundation, Cord Panning, explains the revival of Muskau Park in its entirety:
Each important political stage is associated with a milestone in the preservation of historical monuments within the two-nation park. This is why we like to call our gardening work in this landscape garden, which was listed as a German-Polish World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2004, political gardening. The bridges and visual lines that were rebuilt have never just been an expression of technical success. The symbolism of political understanding resonated and continues to do so in them.
(Excerpt from: Muskau Park. A walk along princely paths, 2017)
Muskau … My life’s work Pückler-Muskau, Diary, 7. Sept. 1846
In 1815 Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau planned a landscape garden that was to be second to none worldwide. He designed his park to be exceptionally modern and artistic. As a result, Pückler became one of the most important German landscape designers. However, by no means did all his garden dreams become reality – a comparison of his vision and the reality is worthwhile.
Vision and Reality
English gardens inspired Pückler to create his work. Above all, he was impressed by their romantic castles and palaces, because they bore witness to centuries of rule. Pückler also wanted to have a medieval castle built in Muskau. However, this never happened. Pückler wanted to have the New Castle rebuilt in a classical style. The architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel had already created plans, but due to lack of funds, nothing came of it. Instead, Pückler’s successors gave the building a Neo-Renaissance look.
His heir was Prince Friedrich of the Netherlands (1797-1881). He and the subsequent owners, the Counts of Arnim, succeeded in filling in the gaps left by the prince in the composition of the park. They tackled unfinished construction projects and renewed bridges that were no longer functional. They carefully integrated new plans into the existing complex – with only a few exceptions.
Division after 1945
For weeks at the end of the Second World War, the front line cut through the middle of the Muskau Neisse Valley. About 70 per cent of the city, all bridges over the river Neisse and the Old Castle were damaged in the war. The New Castle burned down on 30 April 1945, presumably due to arson, and stood for decades as ruins in the park. However, the redefinition of the German-Polish border was the most influential factor in the fate of Muskau Park. It was set according to the decisions made by the allies in Tehran, Yalta and Potsdam. The Neisse – until then an important link and design element in the park – marked an almost insurmountable dividing line after 1945. To the west of the Neisse, the landscape garden was successfully preserved virtually unscathed. Despite a shortage of materials and inadequate gardening techniques, the gardeners proved to be extremely inventive. The eastern part of the park, on the other hand, for which the Polish forestry administration was responsible, fell into a real slumber and grew wild. The areas became overgrown or were even filled with plants, creating an impenetrable jungle.
New Beginning in 1988
In 1988, there was a breakthrough in the efforts to bring both parts of the park together again. German and Polish conservationists signed a contract in Grünberg (Zielona Góra), Poland, for the joint restoration of the Muskau Park as a collaborative work of art. The political changes in 1989 made the project much easier. On the Polish side, the park was directly supervised by the Ministry of Culture in Warsaw. In 1992 the German part of the park became the property of the Free State of Saxony. Under the direction of the “Fürst-Pückler-Park Bad Muskau” Foundation, established in 1993, the restoration and redevelopment of the buildings in the castle park began. These include the Orangery, Estate Farm Buildings, the Double Bridge, the English Bridge and the Castle Nursery. The reconstruction of the New Castle was completed in 2013.
The “Fürst-Pückler-Park Bad Muskau” is a German-Polish joint project and a prime example of our excellent relations with our neighbours. It is without a doubt one of the highlights in the Free State of Saxony, which is truly rich in art. State Minister Monika Grütters, Federal Commissioner for Culture and the Media, 2016
Eccentric, Headstrong, Dazzling – Who was Pückler?
Eccentric, headstrong, dazzling – Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau (1785-1871) lacked neither self-confidence nor extravagance. Heinrich Heine called him the “most fashionable of all eccentrics”. As a garden designer the creative aristocrat developed a veritable obsession. Some of these design visions remained on paper. That said there is no doubt that what the Park maniac ultimately produced leaves an impression and did so not only in Bad Muskau.
When Hermann was born, he was born under a lucky star. He was born on 30 October 1785 – the oldest of five children. His parents’ marriage was not under that same lucky star, it had been arranged in a contract for purely pragmatic reasons. Pückler’s grandfather, Count Hermann von Callenberg, had given his daughter Clementine to Erdmann von Pückler, 16 years her senior. His family had owned the Branitz manor since 1696. Hermann Graf von Pückler took over the Muskau estate from his father in 1811. He was granted the title of prince in 1822. Already in 1815, he appealed to the citizens of Muskau to give him land for his great plans: the establishment of a landscape garden on both sides of the Neisse.
Pückler dedicated his life to landscape gardening. For over three decades (1815 to 1845) the prince worked on his park in Muskau, which put him on a par with great landscape architects such as Sckell or Lenné. Financial hardship and tough land negotiations repeatedly slowed him down. To complete his work, at least on paper, the prince published his park vision in 1834 in the “Andeusungen über Landschaftsgärtnerei” (“Hints on Landscape Gardening”) – still a standard work in specialist circles today. Pückler also worked as a landscape designer in Neuhardenberg, Babelsberg, Thuringia, Paris and Branitz.
In the East or the West – Pückler felt at home everywhere. Thus it should come as no surprise when he freely professed: “How much more life is there in travel!” Above all, oriental customs and traditions fascinated the adventurous and restless prince. For years he escaped the ordinary life of Muskau by travelling the world: to England, Ireland, France, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Egypt or to Sudan. Travelling the world, Pückler did not shy away from absurd or even macabre scenes, true to the motto: “For me it’s not: what will people say about this? But rather: Will people say anything about this?” Numerous stories illustrate his imaginative performances, such as one in front of the Café “Kranzler” in Berlin. Legend has it that the prince arrived there in a carriage driven by white deer, although this type of animal cannot be tamed…
Pückler published ten books with a total of 29 volumes, including his most famous work “Letters of a Dead Man”. During his trip to England from 1826 to 1829, Pückler wrote numerous letters to his companion Lucie telling her of his experiences. The Prince dissected English society and characterised it mercilessly and wittily in this book. Pückler finally published these letters under a pseudonym. Goethe probably contributed significantly to the worldwide success of the book with his extremely positive review. The great fame of “Letters of a Dead Man” was not achieved by any other work by Pückler, despite exotic titles such as “Semilasso in Africa”, “From Mehemed Ali’s Empire” or “Südöstlicher Bildersaal” (Journey in Greece).
Women captivated Pückler’s imagination. Aristocrats, commoners or artists – the successful charmer cultivated numerous relationships and correspondences, for example with Augusta Princess of Prussia, with the writer Bettina von Arnim or the singer Henriette Sontag. He even arranged love letters alphabetically for a better overview. His wife Lucie, maiden name von Hardenberg, lovingly called Pückler “sweetheart”. Even after their divorce in her, he had a faithful partner, generous supporter and motherly friend. Pückler caused a commotion when he bought a 12-year-old girl at the slave market in Khartoum, during his trip to the East, and took her with him as his travel companion all the way to Lusatia. However just after arriving to Muskau, Machbuba died of tuberculosis in 1840.
The Castle Park surrounds the central areas with the Castle Complex, the flower gardens, the so-called Pleasure Ground and the adjoining park proper up to the River Neisse. The core area of the Muskau Park contains the most important buildings, including the New and Old Castle, the Orangery, the Estate Farm Buildings and the Castle Nursery with the kitchen garden. Directly adjacent to the castle and separated from the actual park, Pückler had small, imaginative gardens built. There are three different flower gardens in the Muskau Park: the Castle Garden, the Herrengarten and the Blue Garden. The Prince very consciously stuck to the English name Pleasure Ground for the transition area to the park, because the expression was difficult to reproduce in German. “This means an adjoining, decorated and fenced-in area of land, of far greater extent than gardens used to have”, Pückler explains in his “Hints” the link between the park and the actual gardens. The adjoining park is characterised by spacious meadows, artificial waterways and small lakes as well as dramatically decorated paths.
“One enters … a new area on the western hills that stretch along the city, while gradually climbing the steep mountain slope behind it”, Pückler writes in his “Hints” about a narrow strip of the mountain park. Along a scenic trail, there are picturesque views of the houses in the city of Muskau, the castle and the vast park landscape. On the other side, a dense grove of trees and shrubs hides the neighbouring mountain district. By including this slope in the park landscape, the town of Muskau is completely surrounded – an idea that the prince brought with him from England and which was implemented in an exemplary manner by garden inspector Jacob Heinrich Rehder (1790-1852) from 1830 onwards. The scenic trail continues up to the former vineyard and the neighbouring village of Krauschwitz. Numerous branching paths, some narrow and steep, invite you to wander around and stumble upon stunning gorges, picturesque ledges and romantic clearings. The area, which was formed in many different ways during the ice age, was an ideal playground for a park enthusiast like Pückler. The Prince established the spa and bath culture in Muskau in part of the mountain park. Hermann’s Bath opened in 1823, but it failed to be the golden goose that had been hoped for. It remained in operation under Pückler’s successors but was closed down in 1930 due to lack of profits.
Eastern part of the park
After 1945, when the border between Germany and Poland was redrawn after the Second World War, the Muskau Park was declared a park of two nations. The fact that two countries’ borders are in the World Heritage Site on the Neisse River can be seen along the river at the border posts in black-red-gold and red-white. Walkers can, however, cross the Double Bridge on Jeanette Island and the English Bridge completely unhindered from one country to another and explore Pückler’s empire as a whole. Today about two thirds of the Muskau Park are on the Polish side. The eastern part is divided into a terraced park, upper park and arboretum, a collection of trees and shrubs that were originally for research purposes. The outer park reaches all the way to the village of Bronowice/Braunsdorf. Fields interrupted by small lakes and trees allow the huge park gently merge with the surrounding landscape. Thanks to the elimination of wild growth, the contours of the historic plantations and fascinating lines of sight in the Polish part have been gradually reappearing since 1990. The English House and the Mausoleum have however disappeared. Both buildings were demolished or demolished with blasting after 1945. Today only their foundation foot prints can be seen in their former locations.