Towards the west of the old fishing village of Vockerode, where the river Elbe makes a bend, Prince Franz started some time after 1777 to lay out a woodland park. It is situated on an elevation that is dry during the frequent floods and comprises an area of about 25 hectares (62 acres). Contemporaries described it as an »orderly wilderness«, which is exactly the effect the Prince had intended.
The garden is oriented towards the garden front of the »Solitude«, a small neo-classical house in the form of a Roman temple which unfortunately hasn’t survived. The Doric vestibule faces the surrounding Elbe meadows. Having served as a meeting point for Prince Franz’s diplomatic negotiations during a time when a number of minor German princes formed a secret alliance (»Fürstenbund«) against the House of Habsburg, the Solitude is a building of historio-political importance.
The portico with its four Tuscan columns bore the inscription »DER BESSERUNG« (literally: »To Recovery«), which points to the original purpose of the house. As we now know, Prince Franz suffered from rheumatism and built himself a little spa in the seclusion of the forest. The water for the warm baths that were to bring relief to the Prince were sourced via a system of pipes from the nearby kitchen building
The latter was built by Friedrich Wilhelm von Erdmannsdorff between 1777–1784 as a service building and was given the form of a Roman tomb. The garden incorporates the natural vegetation of the area to a far greater extent than is the case elsewhere in the Garden Kingdom and also includes a number of smaller structures and monuments. Artistically enhanced gates mark the entrances to this »woodland park«.
After years of neglect, the garden has now slowly regained its original shape. Benches invite visitors to rest and even the Solitude can look forward to a positive future. The Rotary Club Dessau is committed to reconstruct the building and has already carried out a number of fundraising events. Lotto-Toto GmbH Sachsen-Anhalt, the state lottery company, has also very kindly agreed to support the reconstruction financially.