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Germany - Saxony

Meissen

A Karen Brown Recommendation
Meissen is a historic town on a knoll overlooking the Elbe River with a splendid cathedral and medieval castle. However, its main claim to fame is the production of fine porcelain, which has been known the world over for many generations. (Some of you might remember your grandmother speak of the “Dresden” doll that she played with as a child—made of porcelain with a finely painted face.) To reach the porcelain factory, follow the sign of the crossed blue swords (the hallmark of Dresden china) through the old town at the base of the castle, which leads you directly to the *Staatliche Porzellanmanufaktur (porcelain factory) at 9 Leninstrasse. Parking is limited and there are a great many buses. Upon entering the building, buy two tickets, one for the museum and one for the work demonstration. While the tour through the work area is in several languages, it is helpful to have the English booklet describing the making of this world-famous china which dates back to 1708, when Johann Friedrich Böttger, working for August the Strong, discovered the secret of making “white gold” (porcelain china). August founded an isolated factory at Albrechtsburg castle, keeping the workers almost prisoners to protect the secret. In 1865 the factory was transferred to its present site. After the tour, visit the museum in the same building. Here you see incredible examples of Meissen china dramatically displayed in the regal setting of these lovely old rooms. Most of the pieces you see date from the 1700s and are extremely ornate: clocks, figurines, dinnerware, candelabra, statuettes—almost anything you can name has been duplicated in this fine white china. The style might not be your taste—much is a bit flamboyant, to be sure—but you cannot help appreciating the incredible craftsmanship involved in the making of each piece of art. A shop sells china and there is a pleasant little café just by the front door. (8:30 am–3:30 pm, closed Mondays.) The understandable popularity of the china factory means that Meissen’s other tourist attractions are, unfortunately, often overlooked: the Dom (cathedral) and Albrechtsburg Castle, high above the town and visible from afar, are masterpieces of Gothic architecture. (1–6 pm, Mondays to Saturdays; 10 am–3 pm, Sundays.)
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