Sachsen-Anhalt, also known as Saxony-Anhalt in English, is one of Germany's sixteen federal states. Being located in the central part of the country, Saxony-Anhalt is surrounded by four other states: Brandenburg to the east, Saxony to the south, Thuringia to the southwest, and Lower Saxony to the northwest. The capital city, Magdeburg, can be found in the central part of the territory. Magdeburg is also a highly-visited destination in the state due to its abundance of cultural, historical, and natural sites. However, the largest city in the area is Halle (Saale), which is home to the State Museum of Prehistory, holding several significant historical artifacts, such as the Nebra Sky Disk. It is generally believed the Nebra Sky Disk is the first sky map ever made by humans. Geographically, the northern portion of Sachsen-Anhalt is mainly covered by the North European Plain, while hilly and mountainous landscapes form the central and southern parts of the territory. On the eastern borders of Saxony-Anhalt is the Harz National Park, one of several protected natural territories within the state's boundaries.
Saxony-Anhalt is located in the heart of Germany. The area holds several cultural, historical, and natural attractions and monuments, which are visited by a considerable number of tourists each year. Within Sachsen-Anhalt's borders, the oldest English-styled landscape garden in central Europe can be found. The nature area, called the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz, was established in the 18th century and is now protected by UNESCO. Situated in the western part of Saxony-Anhalt is the city of Dessau, which is home to another cultural monument protected by UNESCO. Dessau is associated with the Bauhaus school of design, founded in the 20th century. The school was opened in the town under the direction of Walter Gropius, one of the Bauhaus founders, shaping the evolution of architecture and design.
Apart from outdoor recreation—such as walking, hiking, or cycling, which are often the reason why people visit the Harz National Park or other natural areas in Saxony-Anhalt—there are also several other options for leisure activities. Stretching across the southern part of the region is the Saale-Unstrut-Triasland Nature Park and Geopark, shared across the borders with the state of Thuringia. Vineyards covering the area reportedly give the territory "Mediterranean charm." Additionally, tourists often visit historical attractions, such as the Naumburg Cathedral and its Uta Statue, which is protected as UNESCO World Heritage Site. Going further back in history, the local geology is linked to the prehistoric times of the Triassic period, from which several rocks and other excavations have been found. However, the main attraction in the region is reportedly the Nebra Sky Disk, an artifact found in the Mittelberg Hill in 1600 B.C., which is often called the "German Stonehenge." Nebra Sky Disk is a circular piece of copper-containing golden circles and incrests. The widely accepted opinion is that the art on the disk represents the moon, the stars, and possibly the sun, which would make it the world's oldest star map ever found. The disk can be viewed by tourists in the State Museum of Prehistory in the adjacent city, Halle (Saale), along with other artifacts from ancient times.
Concerning urbanization, two cities should be mentioned: Magdeburg, Saxony-Anhalt's capital city, and Halle, the state's largest city. Magdeburg, bearing the governing functions of the state, can be found in the central part of Sachsen-Anhalt. The city's history can be traced approximately 1,200 years back. Thus, a considerable number of historical and cultural monuments can be found in the town. Magdeburg Cathedral, serving as an unofficial symbol of the city, and the Art Museum in the Monastery of Our Lady, are reported to be Magdeburg's most popular attractions. Among a mixture of baroque buildings, a modernly-designed Hundertwasser Building is another frequently visited destination. Aside from historical and natural attractions, there is the Elbauenpark, a natural space in the city, which was voted Germany's "second most attractive park" in 2005. Elbauenpark contains Millennium Tower, the tallest wooden construction of its kind in the world, Lake Stage, and Butterfly House, creating a popular destination among tourists seeking nature in the capital city.
Additionally, Sachsen-Anhalt is the homeland of several world-famous people, such as Martin Luther, who stood behind religious reformation that swept across Europe during the Middle Ages. Martin Luther established a new Christianity branch, Lutheranism, which is named after him. The composer Georg Friedrich Händel and philosopher Friedrich Nitzsche also come from Saxony-Anhalt.
North European Plain covers almost all of Sachsen-Anhalt's territory, and the landscape was significantly influenced by the successive glaciation eras. The southwest portion of the state includes the foothills of the Harz Mountains and the Harz Foreland, formed by fertile soils separating the mountain territories from the Halle-Leipzig conurbation. Another mountain region is formed by the Fläming Hills which occupies the central part of Saxony-Anhalt. Börde region, covering the environment from the Harz foothills in the southwest to the Elbe at Magdeburg, represents one of the fertile territories in the region. In terms of waters and rivers, the most significant river in Saxony-Anhalt is the Elbe, flowing through the eastern and northern portions of the state. Saale and Mulde rivers drain the south of Saxony-Anhalt and later pour into the Elbe as well. The plains and valleys surrounding Elbe's water flow are of sandy soils, which consist of Altmark heath, predominantly in the northern portions of the state. Saxony-Anhalt's landscape is reportedly comprised mainly of farmlands, pastures, pine forests, and boglands, with arable soil representing approximately two-thirds of the total surface and roughly one-fifth being covered by forests.
Several protected territories and nature reservations can be found in Sachsen-Anhalt. One of them is the Harz National Park, which covers approximately 8,900 ha of the western part of the state. The national park is shared with the state of Niedersachsen, located east of Sachsen-Anhalt. Variable landscapes, altitudes, and natural conditions are characteristic of the Harz National Park. For those reasons, the national park can provide several habitats and vegetation zones. Thus, a range of animal and plant species that require different living conditions, such as lynxes, red deer, wildcats, and ring ouzels, to name a few, can be found across the park.
The climate in the Harz National Park is reportedly harsher than in the rest of Saxony-Anhalt. The state generally has a temperate climate with Atlantic ocean influence. The warmest month in Magdeburg, Sachsen-Anhalt's capital, is August, with an average daily temperature of 23°C, while January is the coldest month, with an average temperature of 2°C. March tends to be the driest month in Magdeburg, with an average of 29 mm of rainfall. The most precipitation falls during July, as the month receives about 64 mm on average.
Sachsen-Anhalt was initially part of Old Saxony, a historical region that eventually fell apart. However, several German states bear the name Saxony to this day. For instance, Lower Saxony and Saxony have common origins with Saxony-Anhalt, as they all were central parts of the ancient region of Old Saxony. After Charlemagne conquered the territory, the area reformed in 804 into the Duchy of Saxony, which was part of the Carolingian Empire, dominated by the Franks. Later, the German Kingdom was established and subsequently transformed into the Holy Roman Empire, with Saxony becoming one of its "stem-duchies." Despite its initial economic and population growth, Saxony became partitioned into several smaller states by the end of the 12th century. Around that time, the ducal title passed to the Anhalt family, from which the second part of the Sachsen-Anhlat's name is derived. For most of the Middle Ages, Sachsen-Anhalt's territory was divided and ruled by different ancestors of the Anhalt family. Later, during Napoleon's rule, Saxony was elevated to the status of kingdom, with some of its integrative divisions becoming duchies. Yet, shortly after, in 1815, the whole territory became part of the German Confederation. In 1863, the formerly divided Anhalt duchies were united, forming the Duchy of Anhalt.
Saxony-Anhalt was officially formed in October of 1946, after the German capitulation in World War II, when the two territories, the free state of Anhalt and part of the former Saxony, were combined to become the state of Sachsen-Anhalt. However, during the Cold War, Saxony-Anhalt became part of East Germany (officially named the German Democratic Republic). Under Soviet influence, Saxony-Anhalt was administratively reformed into two separate districts, Halle and Magdeburg. The administration from 1946 was restored again after the Berlin Wall's fall and Germany's reunification in 1990 when the state became what it is known as today.
Nowadays, Saxony-Anhalt's population is composed mostly of ethnic Germans, with no predominant groups within the region's ethnic minorities. The population density varies significantly, depending on the geographic latitude, with the northern part being sparsely populated while southern areas are considerably urbanized and industrialized. Concerning Sachsen-Anhalt's industry, the central role plays lignite, which is mined in several southeastern locations.
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