hidden europe 24

Form and function: Dessau

by Nicky Gardner

Picture above: An architectural icon: the main Bauhaus building in Dessau (photo © hidden europe).


The Dessau Bauhaus was the creative focus for a galaxy of talented artists, architects and designers, among them Walter Gropius, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Mies van der Rohe. We explore the small town of Dessau in eastern Germany.

Dessau is too easily missed. Despite being one of the few places in Europe to boast not just one but two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the city on the Elbe is by-passed on many travel itineraries. Not a single Inter-City train stops at Dessau, so rail travellers must resort to the red local trains that dawdle through forests and pause at crumbling platforms built to serve long abandoned factories.

Dessau is in the German State of Saxony-Anhalt, a part of former East Germany that has seen too few benefits from German unification and suffers from high unemployment. Drive southwest down the motorway from Berlin and as you crest a little rise in the undulating forests you cross the border from Brandenburg into Saxony-Anhalt. "Welcome to the land of the early risers," exclaim huge signs by the side of the motorway. It is a proclamation that surely encourages many would-be visitors just to speed through Saxony-Anhalt as quickly as possible.

Exactly what induces all those folk in Saxony-Anhalt to get up so early is quite a mystery. Unless of course they are interested in history.

Related article

Streetwise in the middle of Europe

So where does hidden europe actually come from? From a garret in Reykjaví­k perhaps? Or a basement in Kiev? No, hidden europe is produced in the very middle of Europe just a stone's throw from the erstwhile border between West Berlin and the former German Democratic Republic (the DDR). We are more or less at the junction of two of Europe's truly great highways, the E30 and the E55. Well, not actually right at the junction but merely a few kilometres away.

Related article

People's palaces

Many central and eastern European capitals boast 'palaces' that were constructed in the socialist period. While Berlin's Palace of the Republic is being demolished, other capitals are finding more creative ways of rehabilitating their 'people's palaces'