For a long time, the famous Rakotz bridge in the Rhododendronpark Kromlau has been on our “to-do list” of sights in Germany. We have already seen so many pictures of the bridge reflecting in the water on Instagram and in travel reports that we were already very excited about the sight.
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Things to know about the Rhododendron Park Kromlau
The Kromlau Azalea and Rhododendron Park is located in the district of Görlitz on the border with Poland. The approximately 200 ha park is one of the largest parks in Saxony in terms of area.
In 1842, the landowner Friedrich Hermann Rötschke acquired the Kromlau estate and began construction of the park. From 1889, Count von Egloffstein expanded the park with numerous plantings of azaleas and rhododendrons, making it what it is today: one of the largest and most beautiful rhododendron landscape parks in Germany. Every year at Pentecost, the park and flower festival takes place, to which up to 35,000 visitors come.
Good to know: Since 2017, extensive renovation work has been taking place in the park. In addition to the renovation of the Rakotz ensemble (Rakotz bridge, basalt column group and the grotto collapsed in 1956), the park paths, the richterstuhl stone group and the large parking lot were also renewed. For a long time, the Rakotz bridge was therefore completely scaffolded. In the meantime (June 2021), however, it can be visited again almost without a construction fence.
The park is open daily and admission is free. There are a few free parking spaces directly on the street (max 1 hour) and a new large parking lot (3 EUR for 2 hours) with info point and public toilets.
An map of the park
The following map gives an overview of the many different hiking trails and sights in the Rhododendronpark Kromlau.
Kromlau Castle and the Kavalierhaus
One of the most important sights in the Rhododendron Park is the Kromlau Castle which is often also called a manor house or manor house. The castle was built in the 18th century in baroque style and is now the seat of the tourist information Kromlau, houses a stylish wedding room, a holiday apartment and other invitingly furnished rooms, which are also open to the public. The castle is a listed building and local historical significance.
The Kavalierhaus is also one of the historical and listed elements of the Rhododendron Park. In the course of the large-scale thinking and executed layout of the Kromlauer Park, the park creator Friedrich Hermann Rötschke had the Cavalierhaus built in the Swiss country house style in the 1860s and used it as a guest house.
The Rakotz Bridge
The most famous photo motif of the park is the Rakotz bridge built from 1863 to 1882 from basalt stones (Rakotz = Sorbian for “Crab”). The 35-meter-wide bridge spans the Rakotzsee in a semicircle, whereby the reflection of the bridge arch in the water in good weather conditions results in a complete circular shape. It is ideal if it is completely windless. Due to this special reflection in the water, the bridge has become a popular motif, especially for photographers. And through social media such as Instagram the bridge became a place-to-be in recent years.
In the past, people believed that only the devil would have been able to build such a thin bridge arch – that’s why the Rakotz bridge is also called the Devil’s Bridge. The bridge can be seen well from almost all sides of the lake, but unfortunately it is not accessible.
Around the Rakotzsee
Around the small Rakotzsee there are a few more sights. On the one hand, there is an open staircase with a statue of Hercules. Another photo spot is the basalt column group toweringin the lake, which is popularly called “Basaltkirche” or “Dom”. There is also a grotto here, which has now been completely restored since its collapse in 1956.
A walk through the Rhododendron Park
In addition to a tour around the Rakotzsee is also worth a short hike through the Rhododendronpark. Here you will find other bizarre park architectures such as the “pulpit” (also called “Richterstuhl”) and the idiosyncratic grotto architecture called “Heaven and Hell”.
Is it worth a visit to the Rakotz bridge?
Due to the location of the Rhododendronpark Kromlau in the far east of Germany, the journey is certainly quite long for many. Ideally, the stay is combined with destinations such as the Spreewald, Saxon Switzerland, the Fürst-Pückler-Park in Bad Muskau, Dresden, Bautzen or Cottbus.
We do not know what the Rakotz bridge looked like before the extensive restoration. But now, unfortunately, it looked pretty artificial to us. The basalt stones and the bright fresh mortar in between look more like plastic and everything resembles a backdrop in an amusement park.
Nevertheless, the sight of the Rakotz bridge – and especially the beautiful reflection in the water – is a great photo opportunity that you should have seen before! In total, we spent about 1.5 hours in the Rhododendron Park.