Kategoriarkiv: German Journey

Die Malerweg

There are some entries in Augusta’s diary from 1847 that made an unforgettable impression on me as a teenager:

“At 5 o’clock in the morning, we started our walk in the loveliest surroundings up to Kuhstall, three hours from Schandau. Through a vaulted gateway, which nature itself has formed, one arrives on a terrace where the view is like the most inviting and, at the same time, wild painting”.

“Describing what we saw here would be in vain, and it would be an ungrateful effort to paint the landscapes with pencil and ink.”


Augusta in Kuhstall (Sara Azzam, 2018)

Bad Schandau

When I was a teenager, I wondered about this place and what it looked like. I dreamt about one day being able to go there.

Bad Schandau, Germany

Bad Schandau is a small town on the shore of the river Elbe in eastern Germany, close to the border with the Czech Republic. It is also the gateway to the famous Saxon Switzerland National Park with its famous Elbe Sandstone Mountains. This area became famous in the late 1700s and early 1800s through the early landscape painters who were drawn to the rugged and dramatic mountains. The landscape was well suited for the European Romantic era.

Bad Schandau was also a popular spa town and many Swedes visited this area in the 1800s and described it in their diaries.


In 2017, my teenage dream came true. Kerstin and I had spent almost a year planning for a trip in Augusta’s footsteps and on a misty day in October, we were hiking up to Kuhstall. In my own diary from this day, I wrote:

“We are coming out of the dense forest and suddenly we see the huge opening in the cliff – the vaulted gateway. It feels like we have been inside a cave and see the sky through the cave’s opening. At this exact moment, the sun breaks through the clouds and through the opening, the light is blinding. All the mist in the valley below flow like heavy smoke on a theatre stage, as if on purpose to create extra drama.”

Kerstin above the Sea of Fog (or Hold on to your hat!, Sara Azzam, 2020)

The Malerweg

At Kuhstall, we realized that this site was just one of several stops on what is called die Malerweg (the Painter’s Trail), a historic route the landscape painters took when traveling from Dresden to Saxon Switzerland. Today it is a popular hiking trail.

Of course, Kerstin and I didn’t bring our art materials with us, but we took a lot of photos. And several of those are included in Kerstin’s beautiful book, Augustas resa.

Elbe River

Besides hiking the Malerweg, one can also take a steamer on the Elbe to get to some of the other stops where artists painted the landscape.

Two Swedish travelers wrote about their journey on the Elbe. They also tried to explain in words what an artist would have tried to paint.

Wilhelm Von Braun, 1844:

“To paint a landscape with pen and ink is an ungrateful effort. Therefore, I am pleased to mention only Bastei, a 470 foot tall and 6 foot wide, over the Elbe protruding rock, from which on my journey back to Dresden I enjoyed the most divine view. From our view, the Elbe flows through fertile fields and meadows, while an array of hills and mountains are visible in the distance, and of which Königstein and Lilienstein tower over all the others.”

Sophie von Knorring, 1846:

 “A place we passed at the beginning of our trip was called Bastei and it is both the most beautiful and strangest sight. Here the cliffs are completely bizarre: they emerge in shapes that one cannot even imagine and which are unexplainable to the viewer, and above all this hang lush green trees.

No – now I finish my description: cliffs, mountains, hanging greenery, vineyards, fortress ruins, inviting towns, cozy villages, dark-blue high sky, and sunshine that could awaken the dead! Oh dear, what is all this on paper? – Words and only words, but in reality, it is heaven on earth! – Enough about this.”

Morning on the Elbe – View towards the Bastei (Kerstin Melin, 2020)

Bastei Bridge

Bastei Bridge is one of the most spectacular sites in the region. The bridge, which connects several sandstone formations, is visible from the river. It is also a hiking destination and the panoramic view from the bridge is breathtaking.

Augusta wrote the following in her diary in 1847:

”Now we started to walk higher and higher uphill until we found ourselves at the highest altitude of the Bastei. Here was an inn where we took some refreshments and then we were shown the way to the cliff where we got to see the famous view. And here I stood, mute with admiration and amazement; all the splendor I had seen before was nothing compared with this beautiful, living painting.

The whole rock juts out high above the Elbe. Straight ahead of me, I saw – deep under my feet – large forests, high mountains, towns, and villages as far away as the horizon, where the Bohemian mountains, appearing like tall foggy shapes, raised their heads towards the sky.

 It is not even possible to describe the simplest view of Saxon Switzerland; everything is so magnificent, so beautiful, so incomprehensible that one does not think it is anything but the most pleasant, most enchanting dream.”

Kerstin and I were also stunned by the beautiful view from the Bastei and this is what I wrote in my diary:

”After many stops, to catch our breaths and take pictures, Kerstin and I have finally reached the first cliff that will give us a scenic view of the Elbe and beyond. The panoramic view is stunning. In the far distance, a small paddle steamer is making its way down the Elbe.

Kerstin and I walk up the next flight of stairs, carved out of the rock, and there it is – the famous bridge! It is a little dizzying to walk across the bridge. Once across, the path continues to a viewing platform on the right. This is even more dizzying! But what a view! This is the view depicted in all old oil paintings and etchings. This one I have to paint – in a large scale!”

The Bastei Bridge (Sara Azzam, 2020)

Now, three years later, I have finally had time to paint some of the sites from the Malerweg. It brings back wonderful memories of our journey. And I hope I will someday be able to be back in Saxon Switzerland.

Some famous paintings from the Malerweg

Wanderer above the sea of fog (Caspar David Friedrich, 1818).
Kuhstall in Saxon Switzerland (Adrian Zingg, 1786)
The new wooden bridge in 1826. (Christian Gottlob Hammer, 1779-1864)
View from the Bastei (Johan Christian Dahl, 1788 – 1857)


Blessings in Berlin

Saint Anthony
Saint Anthony

I am cleaning my office and a small card falls to the floor. It is a sweet painting of a saint holding a child and some white lilies. It brings back memories from our journey last year.

When Kerstin and I were in Berlin last fall, walking to our hotel, dressed in our 1840s long and wide dresses and colorful shawls, we passed by a woman who was similarly dressed, sitting on the sidewalk, begging. She also had a wide skirt and a large shawl. We passed her a few times. She smiled at us and we smiled back. The next time we walked by, I gave her a euro and she gave me the small card. She said something in a language I couldn’t place but it sounded like a blessing. I put the card in my reticule and didn’t think more about it.

Today, I decided to research the painting. I copied some of the text from the back of the card into Google Translate:   “ochrzczono go imieniem Ferdynand” – it was Polish and translated as “he was baptized with the name of Ferdinand”.  Maybe the woman who was begging was a Roma from Poland?

Kerstin in our hotel in Berlin
Kerstin in our hotel in Berlin

Then I read up on the saint. Saint Anthony of Padua was born in Lisbon in 1195. In art, he can be recognized by carrying the infant Jesus and holding a white lily, representing purity. The US city, San Antonio, got the name from Saint Anthony.

Why did the woman choose this card? Maybe because Saint Anthony is the patron saint of travelers. She was obviously a traveler, sitting on the sidewalk in Berlin, begging. And we were travelers, following in the footsteps of our great-great grandmother.

Detail of painting by Sir David Wilkie
Detail of painting by Sir David Wilkie

I wish we would have been able to communicate. And I hope Saint Anthony is watching over her wherever her travels may have taken her.

The Meissen Souvenir

Ever heard of Meissen porcelain? It is one of the most famous porcelain manufacturer in Europe – since 1710.

Augusta visited Meissen on her journey in 1847. Meissen is not far from the city of Dresden and Augusta stopped there on her return trip from Prague. She didn’t write much about her visit:

”We only stayed in Dresden for one day and visited the large porcelain factory where we bought a few small things.”

A contemporary Swedish writer, Sophie von Knorring, visited the porcelain factory the year before and wrote a little bit more in her letter home:

”In the afternoon, we first went to the Catholic Church, the first one I have ever visited, and then to the porcelain factory. From all the many magnificent objects, I would not be able to bring home many, but the little I chose were so much more beautiful and expensive. You will see, when I return home ….”

Kerstin and I visited the Meissen porcelain factory on our journey last fall. We got to see the various steps in making porcelain dishes and figurines. And then we ended up in the gift shop. What should we buy?

Augusta bought a few small things to take home to Loddby, and Sophie von Knorring bought a few, beautiful and expensive things. But what were the things they bought?

Some of the refrigerator magnets from our journey last fall. Small, inexpensive souvenirs that will brighten your day.

We walked around and looked at some of the things we had seen being made during the factory tour. The prices were astronomical. There was really nothing in the gift shop that we could afford and also want….except for the usual souvenir – the refrigerator magnet.

We each bought one.

What would Augusta have thought of that?

A little painting that would stick onto a cold-cabinet in the kitchen – a cabinet where you could store milk and cheese and other things so you wouldn’t need to go to the cellar. If someone got hungry in the middle of the night, they could just go and grab something. Or you could pour yourself a glass of cold, white wine. What luxury! And why not decorate this cold cabinet with a little piece of art that would remind you of what you had seen on your exotic journey.

Augusta would never have believed it!

Marie Taglioni, the Swedish ballerina

In July of 1847, Augusta and her mother visited the opera in Berlin.

Berlin, 3 July 1847

After we had left Kroll’s garden, we went to the Opera where we saw the best arranged ballet I have ever seen, and where we had the opportunity to admire Madame Taglioni’s enchanting pas.

So what ballet did they see, and who was Madame Taglioni? After a lot of googling, I still can’t find what performance they saw.

But Madame Taglioni was a super star.

Marie Taglioni was Swedish, born in Stockholm in 1804. Her father was a famous dancer and choreographer, and he was also her teacher. Marie and her father left Sweden for Vienna in 1818 and she had her first performance in 1822.

Marie Taglioni’s foot

In the early 1800s, ballerinas started to dance on their toes. Marie Taglioni was the first ballerina to dance a full-length ballet en pointe. However, at this time, there were no pointe shoes. There are anecdotes about Marie darning the front of her ballet slippers so that they would provide more support.

Her most famous role was in La Sylphide in 1832. She was soon as famous as her Swedish contemporary singer, Jenny Lind. Colored prints and etchings of her in various roles were in high demand.

How exciting it must have been for Augusta to see Marie Taglioni at the Royal Opera in Berlin in 1847. Marie Taglioni was at the top of career – she retired later that year.

Portrait of Marie Taglioni with lapdog. 1842. Edwin Dalton Smith (U.K., 1800-1866)

Read more about Marie Taglioni’s life and about the history of Romantic Ballet at the blogs and links below. It’s a window to the past:






On the Balcony of Europe

”Of the walks within the city, Brühl’ s Terrace is remarkable. On one side, a high staircase with several landings leads up to the terrace; on the other side, the terrace is divided into several smaller terraces, one under the other. Here is an extremely beautiful view and in one of the large and lush boulevards, you will find an elegant restaurant.”   [ Augusta’s Diary, Dresden, 9 July 1847]

Yes, Brühl’s Terrace was famous – it was nicknamed ”The Balcony of Europe”. The terrace was built in the 16th century as part of Dresden’s fortification. It got its name from Count Heinrich von Brühl, a powerful minister who built his palace and gardens on the terrace. The original Brühl’s Terrace was destroyed in the 1945 bombing of Dresden; the terrace of today was built to resemble the original terrace.

When the steamship traffic on the Elbe took off in the 1840s, the ships moored just below the terrace. You could embark on a beautiful river journey that would take you almost all the way to Prague, that is, it would take you from Dresden to Obříství and from there, you would have to travel the rest of the way by horse and carriage. Even today, the Elbe steamships dock below the terrace.

Sophia von Knorring, a Swedish writer who in 1846 traveled down the Elbe onboard the steamship Bohemia, described Brühl’s Terrace in rather poetic terms:

The Steamship Bohemia

”At 5 am, we were riding in a good carriage from Hotel de Saxe on our way down to Bohemia. We were saying our farewell to the stately, lovely Dresden, where Brühl’ s Terrace stretched us a hand in a friendly farewell, because under its vertical walls, we boarded the steamship and spent a good half hour swaying on the Elbe before all the passengers had arrived, had stowed themselves and their things, and the machine had started; but at the stroke of 6, we departed …”

Another contemporary Swedish writer, Wilhelm von Braun, left Dresden in 1844 and made the following observations:

Following Hotel Stadt Berlin’s porter who carried my bag, I hurried to the nearby Elbe Bridge at the foot of  Brühl’ s Terrace, and to the steamship Bohemia, with which I intended to take a trip to Tetschen – as far as you can get by boat – and then continue the journey over Töplitz to Prague, the Austrian Empire’s Moscow.

When the bell tolled six, the machine started and the steamship Bohemia, flat as a bread trough in the face of Elbe’s shallow water, slowly moved away from this magnificent terrace, formerly a threatening fortress wall, now a peaceful walkway from the height of which I have so often enjoyed the most beautiful view of the Elbe and its densely populated mountainous shores and of its always crowded, 1400 ft long and with 17 arches built bridge [Augustus Bridge], where they walk, not as on Norrbro in Stockholm – pushing, squeezing, and butting into each other – but sensibly and always stepping to the right when wanting to pass each other on the bridge.

But what about the elegant restaurant Augusta mentioned? Nobody described any restaurants.

Handbook for Travellers on The Continent, published 1858 in London, describes the cafés on Brühl’s Terrace as follows:

Cafés: Those on the Brühl’ s Terrace, especially the Café Reale and the Belvedere, are much frequented in summer. The Café Reale has two wings; that nearest the bridge is for ladies, in which smoking is prohibited; on the opposite side it is allowed. Smoking is allowed on the ground floor at the Belvedere, but not in the supper room upstairs. Very fair instrumental music may often be heard at the Belvedere in summer evenings.

Belvedere was built in 1842, so it was quite new when Augusta visited. It was a beautiful building with large windows. Besides being used as a restaurant, it also housed two ballrooms, a drawing room, and a gallery. It was destroyed in the 1945 bombing of Dresden. Currently, there are plans to reconstruct it.

Cafe Belvedere, Dresden

Café Reale was built in 1843. Its architecture was inspired by Greek temples. It had several salons and it also allowed guests to dine outside. It became very popular due to its Italian pastry chef, Torniamenti. In 1886, the café was demolished to make space for the new Academy of Arts.

Cafe Reale, Dresden
#CafeBelvedere #BruhlsTerrace #Dresden

Who knows what restaurant Augusta visited? If Augusta had lived today, she probably would have taken a picture of her dish; maybe she had an ice cream glace, with a wafer – and shared it on Instagram with hashtags #CafeBelvedere or #CafeReale.

Kerstin and I visited Brühl’s Terrace and looked out over the Elbe and the moored steamboats. We walked down the wide staircase where a brass orchestra was entertaining flâneurs and tourists alike.

As there were no restaurants on the terrace, we went to Vapiano and raised our glasses of rose wine in honor of Kazuo Ishiguro, who had just received the Nobel Prize in literature.

Kerstin walking on Brühl’s Terrace
Sara taking in the view of the Elbe