The Muskau or Muskauer Park is the largest and one of the most famous English gardens of Germany and Poland. Situated in the historic Upper Lusatia region, it covers 3.5 square kilometers of land in Poland and 2.1 km2 in Germany. The park extends on both sides of the Lusatian Neisse, which constitutes the border between the countries.
A fortress on the Neisse at Muskau was first mentioned as early as the 13th century under the rule of Margrave Henry III of Meissen. The founder of the adjacent park was Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau (1785-1871), the author of the influential Hints on Landscape Gardening and owner of the state country of Muskau from 1811. After prolonged studies in England, in 1815 during the time when the northeastern part of Upper Lusatia fell to Prussia, he laid out the Park. As time went by, he established an international school of landscape management in Bad Muskau and outlined the construction of an extensive landscape park.
The works involved remodelling the Baroque 'Old Castle' - actually a former castle gate - and the construction of a Gothic Revival chapel, an English cottage, several bridges, and an orangery designed by Friedrich Ludwig Persius. Pückler reconstructed the medieval fortress as the 'New Castle', the compositional centre of the park, with a network of paths radiating from it and a pleasure ground influenced by the ideas of Humphry Repton, whose son John Adey worked at Muskau from 1822 on. The extensions went on until 1845, when Pückler because of his enormous debts was constrained to sell the patrimony. The next year it was acquired by Prince Frederick of the Netherlands, who employed Eduard Petzold, Pückler's disciple and a well-known landscape gardener, to complete his design. Upon his death in 1881, he was succeeded by his daughter Princess Marie, who sold the estates to the Arnim family.
During the Battle of Berlin, both castles were levelled and all four bridges across the Neisse were razed. The von Arnims were dispossessed by the Soviet Military Administration in Germany and since the implementation of the Oder-Neisse line in 1945, the park has been divided by the state border between Poland and Germany, with two thirds of it on the Polish side. Not until the 1960s did the authorities gradually accept the legacy of the 'Junker' Prince Pückler.
In 2004 UNESCO added the park to its World Heritage List, as an exemplary example of cross-border cultural collaboration between Poland and Germany. It was added to the list on two criteria: for breaking new ground in terms of development towards the ideal man-made landscape, and for its influence on the development of landscape architecture as a discipline.References:
Czocha Castle is located on the Lake Leśnia, what is now the Polish part of Upper Lusatia. Czocha castle was built on gneiss rock, and its oldest part is the keep, to which housing structures were later added.
Czocha Castle began as a stronghold, on the Czech-Lusatian border. Its construction was ordered by Wenceslaus I of Bohemia, in the middle of the 13th century (1241–1247). In 1253 castle was handed over to Konrad von Wallhausen, Bishop of Meissen. In 1319 the complex became part of the dukedom of Henry I of Jawor, and after his death, it was taken over by another Silesian prince, Bolko II the Small, and his wife Agnieszka. Origin of the stone castle dates back to 1329.
In the mid-14th century, Czocha Castle was annexed by Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia. Then, between 1389 and 1453, it belonged to the noble families of von Dohn and von Kluks. Reinforced, the complex was besieged by the Hussites in the early 15th century, who captured it in 1427, and remained in the castle for unknown time (see Hussite Wars). In 1453, the castle was purchased by the family of von Nostitz, who owned it for 250 years, making several changes through remodelling projects in 1525 and 1611. Czocha's walls were strengthened and reinforced, which thwarted a Swedish siege of the complex during the Thirty Years War. In 1703, the castle was purchased by Jan Hartwig von Uechtritz, influential courtier of Augustus II the Strong. On August 17, 1793, the whole complex burned in a fire.
In 1909, Czocha was bought by a cigar manufacturer from Dresden, Ernst Gutschow, who ordered major remodelling, carried out by Berlin architect Bodo Ebhardt, based on a 1703 painting of the castle. Gutschow, who was close to the Russian Imperial Court and hosted several White emigres in Czocha, lived in the castle until March 1945. Upon leaving, he packed up the most valuable possessions and moved them out.
After World War II, the castle was ransacked several times, both by soldiers of the Red Army, and Polish thieves, who came to the so-called Recovered Territories from central and eastern part of the country. Pieces of furniture and other goods were stolen, and in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the castle was home to refugees from Greece. In 1952, Czocha was taken over by the Polish Army. Used as a military vacation resort, it was erased from official maps. The castle has been open to the public since September 1996 as a hotel and conference centre. The complex was featured in several movies and television series. Recently, the castle has been used as the setting of the College of Wizardry, a live action role-playing game (LARP) that takes place in their own universe and can be compared to Harry Potter.