Few people could deny that Magdeburg is aesthetically challenged, thanks to WWII bombs and socialist city planners in love with wide boulevards and prefab concrete apartment blocks, the so-called Plattenbauten. Yet this is one of the country’s oldest cities, founded some 1200 years ago and home to the first Gothic cathedral on German soil.
Officially known as Dessau-Rosslau since the 2007 merger with its neighbour across the Elbe, this little town was the birthplace of the most influential design school of the 20th century – Bauhaus. A mecca for architecture and design students, there's nowhere else you'll find a greater concentration of structures from Bauhaus' most creative period: 1925 to 1932.
Aside from being a mecca of modern architecture, Dessau-Rosslau and its surrounds are home to the Gartenreich Dessau-Wörlitz (Garden Realm), one of the finest garden ensembles in Germany. The parks reflect the vision of Prince Leopold III Friedrich Franz von Anhalt-Dessau (1740–1817).
It seems odd for a well-travelled man whose ideas revolutionised Europe to have died in the town where he was born. However, as native son Martin Luther (1483–1546) himself put it before spinning off his mortal coil here, ‘Mein Vaterland war Eisleben’ ('Eisleben was my fatherland'). This former mining town focuses almost exclusively on the devout follower.