Dessau is a town and former municipality in Germany on the junction of the rivers Mulde and Elbe, in the Bundesland of Saxony-Anhalt. The south of Dessau touches a well-wooded area called Mosigkauer Heide. Dessau is surrounded by numerous parks and palaces that ranks Dessau as one of the greenest towns in Germany.
The Dessau-Wörlitz Garden Realm, also known as the English Grounds of Wörlitz, is one of the first and largest English parks in Germany and continental Europe. It was created in the late 18th century under the regency of Duke Leopold III of Anhalt-Dessau.
Oranienbaum Palace was finished in 1683 as the summer residence of Henriette Catharina, where she retired after the death of her husband in 1693. The rich furnishing includes leather wallpapers and a dining room equipped with Delft tiles. From 1780 on Duke Leopold III had the palace and the park rebuilt in a Chinese style, according to the theories of Sir William Chambers, with several arch bridges, a tea house and a pagoda. In 1811, the orangery was built, with 175 m (574 ft) in length one of the largest in Europe, which still serves to protect a wide collection of citrus plants. Oranienbaum Palace together with the park and the geometrical settlement conception forms one of the few original Dutch Baroque town layouts in Germany.
Wörlitz Palace finished in 1773, residence of Duke Leopold and his wife Louise of Brandenburg-Schwedt, was the first Neoclassical building in present-day Germany. The palace and its interior with valuable cabinets from the studio of Abraham and David Roentgen as well as a large collection of Wedgwood porcelain were publicly accessible. Louise had her private home in the adjacent Graues Haus (Grey House). At the eastern rim of the palace’s garden stands the Wörlitz Synagogue built in 1790 as a rotunda modeled after the ancient “Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, Italy. The building expressing Leopold’s religious tolerance was saved from demolition in the 1938 “Kristallnacht” pogrom by the custodian of the park, who thereupon lost his employment. The Neo-Gothic St Peter’s Church in the west with its 66 m (217 ft) tall steeple was finished in 1809.
An island on the artificial Wörlitz Lake features Europe’s only artificial volcano. When Leopold III went on a grand tour of Europe in the 1760s, he was captivated by a trip to Naples in which he saw a smouldering Mount Vesuvius and would have heard about the newly discovered town of Pompeii. Twenty-two years later, the German royal set about bringing a piece of Naples to Germany; he had his architect build a brick inner building nearly five stories high and cover it with local boulders. At the top, a hollow cone was made and contained a high chamber, complete with three fireplaces and a roof that contained an “artificial crater” that could be filled with water. He then constructed a lake around the volcano and invited his friends to watch an eruption. Only contemporary accounts detail what the 18th century artificial eruption would have been like, but the practice still takes place today, complete with modern effects, after the island was restored to its past glory.
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