Kamerun has the postcode 17192, belongs to Waren on the banks of the Müritz and is located in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Seen from Cottbus, “Africa” is quite close. What is all the more curious since the city in the east of Brandenburg is famous for its Little Egypt, specifically: for the Fürst-Pückler-Park Branitz, which is decorated with replicas of pyramids. A scenic gem, the origins of which are less than 200 years ago.
In 1850, Hermann Fürst von Pückler-Muskau wrote in a letter to his wife, Princess Lucie, that he wished very much to be buried in a pyramid in the middle of a lake. “He was a globetrotter, a traveler to Africa, was considered an eccentric, womanizer and show-off,” says Simone Neuhäuser, curator of the Fürst-Pückler-Museum Park and Branitz Castle.
In order to impress a friendship, he sometimes drove a deer team to the “Café Kranzler” in Berlin. Those who deal with Prince Pückler in more detail may feel reminded of King Ludwig II here and there – not least because of his amours. From a trip to Africa, the exalted nobleman even brought a black woman as a lover, bought at the Carthum slave market.
From 1838 to 1840 he was in Egypt, visiting countless pyramids, including Giza and Saqqara. However, unlike the Egyptians, Pückler did not have his pyramids built from stone, but from earth. He believed that stone pyramids were ephemeral. Self-confident – some also say: self-confident – he instructed his subjects in 1856 to build two earth pyramids, “because they are for eternity”.
Pückler’s body was preserved
As for the pyramid shape, the German prince was inspired by the ancient Egyptians; The step pyramid of King Djoser in Saqqara, for example, was a model for the country pyramid in Branitzer Park, which was built between 1860 and 1863. And the Egyptian burial ground of Giza near the Nile is said to have inspired Pückler to build the lake pyramid.
“The pharaohs were mummified,” says the barge driver at the very moment he was walking past Pückler’s pyramid. One of the regularly offered barge sections is the closest to the lake pyramid – which seems like an analogy to the boats of Pharaoh Cheops, the builder of Giza. Scientists suspect that Cheops should also be mobile in the afterlife.
But the prince was less concerned with the same; rather, he was careful not to be eaten by worms as a corpse. “So he ordered the chemical preservation of his body. After his death in 1871 the heart was removed, the body wrapped in a cloth soaked in caustic soda and placed in a metal coffin. ”
The disgust for the described procedure can be seen from the guests on board. The prince, on the other hand, felt that “his project was simply befitting to the class”, Kustodin Neuhäuser is certain: “After all, a prince was not a conventional nobleman, although not a pharaoh either.”
The wife was relocated
There have been pyramid burials in Germany since the 18th century, “mostly from men who had no offspring,” says the doctor of art history. Prince Heinrich of Prussia and his pyramid in the park at Rheinsberg Palace are a good example of the trend at that time.
Pückler’s earth pyramid towers above everyone, at least in Germany. Compared to the Cheops pyramid in Giza, which is still 139 meters high today, the Branitz building, with its original 13.50 meters, is small, but a giant compared to the other German stone pyramid tombs.
Today the height due to erosion is still twelve meters. But the unusual thing was that a grave in an earth pyramid was unique in the world at the time.
First, however, Prince Pückler’s wife Lucie was buried in the Branitz village cemetery, and it was only after the prince’s death in 1871 that she found her final resting place in the tumulus, as Pückler originally called the earth pyramid with its twelve steps. The steps eroded over time, but “this summer we want to move the steps back in,” says Simone Neuhäuser on behalf of the foundation; it belongs to the English landscaped garden created in 1846.
A garden monument of rank
Pückler described Branitzer Park as his masterpiece: “If you look into my park, you look into my soul.” If you want to get a little closer to the prince with his “inside look” – the museum in the castle of Branitzer Park gives an insight into the life of the extravagant The sovereign, after whom the famous Fürst Pückler ice cream was named. The Royal Prussian court cook Louis Ferdinand Jungius invented it and dedicated it to Pückler. Semi-frozen with chocolate, vanilla and strawberry flavor in three layers.
The 600-hectare park is now to be put on the list of suggestions for new world cultural heritage sites for mankind. Rightly so, the meandering network of paths, watercourses and lakes, the tree compositions and gentle hills make the Branitzer Park a finely modeled, carefully thought-out garden monument of international standing.
Tips and information
getting there Cottbus has set up the “Pückler Line” (bus line 10 of the regional transport company Cottbusverkehr) for visitors to the extensive park landscape. It commutes every hour between the main train station and Branitz Park. Around 40 kilometers south of Cottbus there is the “Fürst-Pückler-Park Bad Muskau”, a second scenic gem.
accommodation The “Cavalierhaus” in the park has a restaurant and three guest rooms, overnight stays from 100 euros; https://cavalierhaus-branitz.de. The “Goldene Ananas” café in the orangery has the famous Fürst-Pückler ice cream on the menu.
information desk www.pueckler-museum.de