DESSAU, 60km southwest of Magdeburg, was once an attractive town at the centre of a patchwork of palaces, parks and gardens. The latter have survived, but war damage, Stalinist rebuilding programmes and years of GDR neglect have made the place rather workaday. But what does justify the journey here are remnants of the Bauhaus movement. Built here in 1925, the Bauhaus design school once made it the hub of Modernism and the first place where many modern designs were implemented – these include the Meisterhäuser, the villas of the most influential thinkers, and the Törten, the first modern housing-estate. All this makes it a place of pilgrimage for architecture students, but it is interesting enough to appeal to anyone inquisitive about the roots of modern design.
The belt of landscaped parks in and around Dessau have been collectively dubbed the Gartenreich (Garden Realm; gartenreich.com) and offer days of unhurried exploration and picnicking. Their attendant Baroque and Neoclassical mansions are an additional draw. The most extensive and impressive of all the complexes is Wörlitz, but the most convenient is Park Georgium, a short walk from the Meisterhäuser in central Dessau.