Steam Trains and Cinderella’s Castle Moritzburg
I am too old for Thomas the Tank Engine, but Ivor the Engine has always held a cherished spot in my heart – second only to The Clangers in terms of quality nonsensical children’s programmes. As such, I am looking forward to the following day’s excursion on a steam train to Moritzburg. Radebeul is a short tram ride from Dresden, and from there a steam train takes you to the castle at Moritzburg.
Standing throughout, as the train weaves its way beside narrow streets where car passengers await with their camera phones at level crossings and then through some beautiful forests, the smoke from the coal-fuelled engine almost chokes me. I’m reminded of the time in my late twenties when I sat on the edge of Indian rains watching the unrelenting plains of Rajasthan pass us by, although today I am accompanied by kids and anoraks rather than hair-beaded backpackers and locals peddling vegetable thalis.
Right on cue, as our train pulls into the final station, my guide for the castle and its grounds, Kristina Kroemke, is awaiting with a driver and horse-drawn cart – I did say bear with me at the outset. There are no squares in Moritzburg, only a straight road leading from the station to the castle grounds. Once I discard all thoughts of Jolly and his American prey from my mind, I relax into the trip, and admit that the gentle sound of the horses’ hooves plodding on the stone and the inevitably slow progress we make, ensure a most relaxing excursion.
Kristina proves an amenable host, much in keeping with the Moritzburg tradition, where guests were expected to consume two litres of wine upon arrival – if you didn’t add a few kilos during your stay you weren’t invited back. Like the Zwinger, the French baroque castle was designed by the architect Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann, for King Augustus the Strong, who died of diabetes, possibly from an excess of hospitality. Fortunately, Kristina only invites me for coffee and Eierschecke cake at the Adams Guest House, which has stood here since 1675, at the end of our journey.
As the castle is closed – it reopened in March – during our trip, we keep to the grounds which were used for hunting until the 1920s, shortly before the last king of Saxony abdicated telling his people to “do your shit alone,” a motto I’m told Elizabeth recites each night in bed.
In addition to having the grand castle, used as the set for the GDR Czech Cinderella film here in the 70s, in the 13sqm Pheasant Palace, Moritzburg has the smallest palace in Saxony, built by August III, the less macho grandson of August the Strong. Sadly, there are no peacocks here any longer just their huts, but the beautiful palace has striking views down to the main palace and is set next to a large lake where a mock sea battle was fought in 1977 – possibly between Prince Charming and the Ugly Sisters.
On my way back for dinner at my hotel, the excellent Radisson Blu Park Hotel, I stop off in the town of Radebeul for another dunkel. The quaynt olde worlde charm of the place resembles a Cotswolds town – only there’s an outside chance you might be able to afford a property here. The sun is setting and I take my beer out with me to sit on the grass island in the middle of the cobble-stone road. Just then a phone goes off in the distance and someone says, “hallo” into it, but nothing can destroy the moment.