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Torgau: A taste of small-town Germany

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Historic ensemble on the main square in Torgau, Germany. Photos © hidden europe
Historic ensemble on the main square in Torgau, Germany. Photos © hidden europe

Last month we sung the praises of small towns on the River Elbe, and it was our enthusiasm for that river which last weekend drew us to Torgau. Bypassed by freeways and main rail routes, Torgau catches the flavors of small-town Germany. It is laid-back, unpretentious and inexpensive.

Reforming zeal

Torgau is a place that has, for several hundred years, punched considerably above its weight. It is a mere fleck on the map, a riverside community of less than 20,000 souls. But it is one of those spots which have helped shape European history. Worms and Wittenberg may both claim to have kindled the spark of Lutheranism, but Torgau was the affirming flame that gave early strength to the Reformation.

Reshaping Europe

Those familiar with more recent European history will recall that Torgau witnessed a defining moment towards the very end of World War II. It was here that Soviet Union forces advancing over the Elbe first encountered the Americans who were pushing east across Europe. That was on 25 April 1945.

The encounter was symbolic in many ways. It signaled that Hitler’s days were numbered, but it also anticipated the future Cold War division of Europe. Just as in the days of Martin Luther, Torgau found itself at the heart of a new world order — and played a key role in helping define and map that order.

The palace at Torgau

A place to relax

These various facets of history are beautifully recalled in modern Torgau, with signposted walks and informative leaflets. It’s rare to stumble on a town in eastern Germany that has such high-quality tourist information in English.

History may beckon, but for many it will not be the main reason for traveling to Torgau. The town is, quite simply, a fine place to be. The town’s unhurried demeanor is its prime asset. The historic town center boasts a feast of Renaissance buildings. There are super riverside walks and a galaxy of appealing cafés to pass the time of day.

If you are tempted to stay overnight, the Hotel Goldener Anker on the main market square offers rooms from €45.

Travel details

By road, Torgau is 60 km from Leipzig, 90 km from Dresden and 130 km from Berlin — all three journeys follow secondary highways. These offer a different driving experience from Germany’s modern autobahns — they are quieter, offer a more intimate connection with the landscape and are a delight to drive.

Torgau is easily reached by train, being served by hourly regional services that trundle east from Leipzig. The journey from Leipzig to Torgau takes about 40 minutes. Through fares from Berlin (using the fast train Berlin to Leipzig then on by local service) start at €19.

It is do-able as a day trip from Berlin. If you don’t mind slow trains, there is a good budget route from the German capital using cheaper regional services, with just one change of train at Falkenberg (Elster). Travel time from Berlin to Torgau via Falkenberg is two hours.  The Berlin-Brandenburg Ticket (just €29, valid for up to five people) is the best deal here, though you will have a small supplementary fare (€6.80 per person return) from Rehfeld, which is the last station in Brandenburg, to Torgau.

About the author

hiddeneurope

About the authors: Nicky and Susanne manage a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine.

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4 Responses to “Torgau: A taste of small-town Germany”

Mike says:

Your blog makes me want to visit Torgau. Do you think it is advisable to go there in Christmas?

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Thanks Mike (above). Yes, Torgau would surely be a lovely spot for a quiet Christmas. We’d say the operative word there is “quiet”. Don’t expect rave parties and a club scene. The town is small, traditional and very peaceful. If you are lucky enough to get snow, and frosty clear days, you’ll be in for a treat – potentially a Christmas to remember.

Torgau Dance says:

Our little city may be quiet, but we have dance opportunity too. Rock’nRoll and TanzKlub (DanceKlub in englisch) makes for a big afternoon out. People do come from many kilometres distant to Torgau club scene. Our Oldies DanceMix good for winter afternoon, and then too we have Line Dance on Fridays and Sexy Maedels training also Fridays. Our night life club scene run even to the evening, perhaps 7pm, so still time for coffee and cake or small beer before bed. Torgau good for walks, famous old square and churches, so we do not have so much time for the club scene. You are welcome in our small city in Saxony.

For Torgau Dance (above)
All sounds a bit frightening. We take back all the good things we’ve ever said about Torgau. We promise never to visit on Fridays.

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