• Photo: Edler von Rabenstein / Shutterstock

Meissen

This romantic city with its imposing castle looming over the Elbe River is known the world over for Europe’s finest porcelain, emblazoned with its trademarked crossed blue swords. The first European porcelain was made in this area in 1708, and in 1710 the Royal Porcelain Workshop was established in Meissen, close to the local raw materials.

The story of how porcelain came to be produced here reads like a German fairy tale: the Saxon elector Augustus the Strong, who ruled from 1694 to 1733, urged his court alchemists to find the secret of making gold, something he badly needed to refill a state treasury depleted by his extravagant lifestyle. The alchemists failed to produce gold, but one of them, Johann Friedrich Böttger, discovered a method for making something almost as precious: fine hard-paste porcelain. Already a rapacious collector of Oriental porcelains, the prince put Böttger and a team of craftsmen up in a hilltop castle—Albrechtsburg—and set them to work.

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