Few towns in Thuringia have suffered from reunification like ALTENBURG at Thuringia’s eastern limits. Once drip-fed by GDR finances, the town has slipped into stagnation as its population and wealth is sucked out by West Saxony’s dynamic duo Leipzig and Zwickau. Only the architecture and art attest to its former status as the once-glorious Residenzstadt of the Saxe-Altenburg duchy. It was during that period that Altenburg achieved its secondary boast as the cradle of Skat, Germany’s favourite card game whose rules were honed by court intellectuals in the early 1800s. “My five months’ stay in Altenburg gave me more mental and social experience than that gained by many a human being during the whole span of life,” one F.A. Brockhaus exclaimed, though he also enthused about editing dictionaries. Today Altenburg is the home of the Skatgericht, court of arbitration on all things Skat, and Germany’s largest manufacturer of playing cards, ASS Altenburger. All very nice, yet it’s the ducal Schloss and an art museum that make it a worthwhile pause en route to other destinations.

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