States of Germany: Saxony-Anhalt / Sachsen-Anhalt

Germany is a federal republic divided into 16 states. These states are called Bundesland(pl. Bundesländer) and each one of them has their fair share of places to visit and things to do. This series of posts titled “States of Germany” seeks to explore each state one by one and tell you a little bit about them. Feel free to post about things I have missed out on.


Saxony-Anhalt'’s location in Germany (left) and its coat of arms (right).

Saxony-Anhalt’’s location in Germany (left) and its coat of arms (right).

Last time, I posted about the state of Berlin. Our journey now continues into eastern Germany. This week, the state is Saxony-Anhalt which is located in north-eastern Germany. This deeply Prussian state is completely landlocked and borders four other German states: Brandenburg to the east, Lower Saxony to the west, Thuringia to the south and Saxony to the south-east. Also part of the former German Democratic Republic aka East Germany, this state used to be a border state between the two Germanys. The East German government partitioned the state in 1952. The state as it currently exists was formed in 1990 during the German Reunification. With a population of 2.2 million, Saxony-Anhalt is quite sparsely populated. Readers who have been reading my posts about German states would recall that most eastern states of the country are not as densely populated as their western counterparts but are rich in nature. Saxony-Anhalt is no exception. The capital of the state is the beautiful city of Magdeburg. The coat of arms of the state is a merger of the former coat of arms of the Prussian province of Saxony (top) and the free state of Anhalt (bottom).

A typical scene in the Altmark. Photo credits, Dietmar Schulz.

A typical scene in the Altmark. Photo credits, Dietmar Schulz.

Saxony-Anhalt can be broadly divided into five regions. In the north lies the Altmark (English Old March) region with borders with Brandenburg to the east and Lower Saxony to the west. The Altmark is mainly composed of farmland which stretches for miles and miles as far as the eye can see. As such, the population density isn’t so high. However, this region boasts the fact of being the birthplace of that eminent Prussian Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, who called the Altmark the “Cradle of Prussia”. Although Bismarck was born in Schönhausen, his family gets its name from the town of Bismarck which is also located in this region.

Magdeburg is the capital of Saxony-Anhalt.

Magdeburg is the capital of Saxony-Anhalt.

Lying south of Altmark is the Magdeburg region which gets its name from the city of Magdeburg. Although many other towns border Magdeburg city, it is the center of life in the whole region. The city is so historically and culturally significant, it’s not even funny. Here are a few facts: Otto I who was the first Holy Roman Emperor and native of Magdeburg is buried here, the Magdeburg Cathedral is the oldest and largest Gothic cathedral in all of Germany, the city was built in the 7th century, and Martin Luther went to school here. In short, a pretty significant place to go, ladies and gents.

Martin Luther wrote his famous 95 Theses in 1507 at the Lutherhaus in Wittenberg.

Martin Luther wrote his famous 95 Theses in 1517 at the Lutherhaus in Wittenberg.

To the south-east of the Magdeburg region, lies the Anhalt-Wittenberg region. Also full of fields and farms, this region is extremely historically significant. In the Augustinian abbey in the city of Wittenberg, Martin Luther wrote his famous 95 Theses in 1517 and kickstarted the Protestant Reformation, one of the most significant periods in Christianity. Additionally, the city of Eisleben is where Luther was born. Together, both cities have many monuments dedicated to Luther and Protestantism and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Bode Gorge in the Harz Mountains.

The Bode Gorge in the Harz Mountains.

To the west of Anhalt-Wittenberg lies the Harz region of Saxony-Anhalt. The heavily wooded and mountainous area is a hiker’s paradise. The nature is lovely and there is lots of wildlife to be found as well. The highest peak of the Harz Mountains is the Brocken which is located in Saxony-Anhalt. On top of this peak is the Brocken Transmitter with an observation deck with a view to die for. The Bode Gorge is also located in this region.

The city of Halle (Saale)

The city of Halle (Saale)

The southern tip of the state of Saxony-Anhalt is taken up by the Halle region. The region is named after the city of Halle on the river Saale (Halle an der Saale) which is a university city. The Martin Luther University is one of Germany’s oldest and was founded in 1502. Several historical places like the Merseburg Castle are dotted around the region as well.

The Rappbode Dam and lake in the Harz Mountains

The Rappbode Dam and lake in the Harz Mountains

Finally, it is time for the list of things to do when you find yourself in Saxony-Anhalt. Without delay, here it is:

  1. Admire that wonder of architecture: the Magdeburg Cathedral.
  2. Go hiking in the Harz Mountains. While there, visit the quaint cities of Quedlinburg and Wernigerode.
  3. Learn about the history of the Protestant Reformation by touring the Luther monuments in Wittenberg and Eisleben. The Lutherhaus in Wittenberg is a must see.
  4. The Brocken Transmitter

    The Brocken Transmitter

    Climb on top of the Brocken Transmitter tower and see the breathtaking view.

  5. Take a stroll through the Old City of Stolberg.
  6. Spend the Walpurgis Night in the Harz Mountains. Take in the unique cultural experience.
  7. Houses in Stolberg

    Houses in Stolberg

    Walk through the roses with your significant other in the Europa-Rosarium rose garden in Sangerhausen.

  8. See the oldest depiction of the cosmos: the Nebra Sky Disk in Halle. The disk dates back to 1600 BC.
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