Sachsen is one of the 16 federal states in Germany, located in the central east of the country, bordering Poland and the Czech Republic. It contains the two largest and most important cities in eastern Germany other than Berlin: Leipzig and Dresden. The state has a long history of independence as a kingdom (much like Bavaria), and as a result has a strong sense of self-identity. It is home to many historic towns and cities and also the eastern German mountain range, the Ore Mountains or "Erzgebirge" which it shares with the Czech Republic to the south. It also shares international borders with Poland and the region of Silesia to the east. Görlitz, a town divided by World War II along the Oder-Neiße line is also the easternmost point of Germany.
Saxony is divided into 10 districts. Between 1990 and 2008, Saxony was divided into the three regions (Regierungsbezirke) of Chemnitz, Dresden and Leipzig. After a reform in 2008, these regions - with some alterations of their respective areas - were called Direktionsbezirke. In 2012, the authorities of these regions were merged into one central authority, the Landesdirektion Sachsen. The Erzgebirgskreis district includes the Ore Mountains, and the Schweiz-Osterzgebirge district includes Saxon Switzerland and the Eastern Ore Mountains.
Most tourists vist the state's capital, Dresden, and an almost equally big number goes to Leipzig. In terms of cities, Chemnitz, Görlitz, Meißen, Bautzen and Zwickau are worth visiting, too. Sachsen has much more to offer, though. Not far away from Dresden you can find one of Germany's most spectacular landscapes, the Elbsandsteingebirge (Elbe Sandstone Mountains). Bordering the Czech Republic, these mountains impress with their dramatic rocks and majestic views over river Elbe. The Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) also borders the Czech Republic and is widely known for its Christmas traditions. In winter, lots of atmospheric Christmas markets pop up even in smallest villages, while in summer the area is great for hiking and nature holidays. The village of Seiffen is the inofficial Christmas capital of the world. As with many other German areas, lots of castles dot the hills of Sachsen. Augustusburg castle is widely visible some 20 kilometres east of Chemnitz while Schloss Pillnitz near Dresden is renowned for its beauty. Others, like Kriebstein castle or Rochsburg castle have preserved a distinctly medieval feel. The area around Dresden sees enough sunshine so that wine is grown there, e.g. around Meißen and Radebeul. It's much colder in other parts of Sachsen, e.g. the skiing areas around Marienberg which see lots of snowfall in winter. Sachsen is also home to east Germany's highest mountain, the Fichtelberg (1,215 metres above sea level).
The main hubs for rail travel are Dresden and Leipzig with a new high-speed line between Nuremberg(Munich) and Berlin(Hamburg) via Leipzig scheduled to open in December 2015, with further upgrades along the line ready by December 2017.
Dresden is connected to Wrocław (Poland) via Görlitz by a regional train and special offers starting at 39€ round trip can be had for that connection. the Eurocity Brno-Hamburg and Budapest-Berlin (both via Prague) pass through Dresden and Bad Schandau (Saxon Switzerland)
Leipzig boasts one of the biggest main stations in Germany with a wide variety of shops and free Wifi with modern fast ICE connections to almost everywhere in Germany either operating or scheduled to open in the next few years.
Saxony's major (and some of the minor) cities are all served to varying degrees by long distance buses both domestic (most of them newly emerging or recent due to a change in laws around 2012/13 that prohibited this development earlier on) and international (most of them existing since at least 1990). Berlin is particularly well served for historic reasons as well as because of the bad railway connection between Dresden and Berlin and (historically) Leipzig and Berlin.
Public transport is for the most part good fast and reliable. If you plan to do a day trip the "Sachsen-Ticket" might just be what you are looking for. It costs 23€ for one person plus 5 € for each additional member of your group up to five and covers all regional trains in Saxony, Saxony Anhalt and Thüringen plus public transport in Leipzig, Zwickau, Görlitz, Halle, Erfurt, Gera, Jena and Dresden. Validity is from 9 am on working days (all day on weekends) until 3 am the following morning. Unfortunately, Saxony has bucked the general German trend towards more and better local train service. Some routes have been cancelled in recent years while others are acutely threatened with cancellation subject to federal funds, which were reduced for Saxony in a recent readjustment.
There are several narrow gauge heritage railways, especially in the Ore mountains. As most of them are privately run (some not-for-profit) the Sachsen Ticket usually isn't valid on them.
In some areas of the countryside, buses run only once a day.
Being one of Germany's easternmost regions as well as politically and culturally connected to the USSR during GDR times, Saxony boasts a lot of Slavic influences in its cuisine, notable in dishes like cabbage rolls, dumplings or Soljanka (a soup with various pieces of sausage, meat and vegetables, traditionally eaten with sour cream and lemon juice).
While dishes such as Döner can be had in bigger cities like Leipzig or Dresden, they are usually not up to par to those made in Länder with more (Turkish) immigrant influence, and sometimes have a slightly Asian (mostly Vietnamese) or German interpretation to it.
The Elbe valley between Dresden and Meissen is the easternmost wine area in Germany and on the northeastern edge of wine-growing in Europe. Mainly white wines like Riesling, Pinot and Traminer are grown. There are plenty of wineries in the hills to the northeast of the Elbe downriver from Dresden, connected by the tourist route "Sächsische Weinstrasse" (Saxon Wine Route).
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