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.
Muskau … My life’s work Pückler-Muskau, Diary, 7. Sept. 1846
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
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.