Like August the Strong did

Moritzburg (dpa) - The German region of Saxony is known for its exquisite Meissen porcelain, for the carefully rebuilt city of Dresden and for its increasingly lively arts and cultural scene.

And as an erstwhile kingdom, Saxony has more than its share of castles and royal sites boasting luxuries befitting the lifestyle of, say, the mighty Saxon monarch August the Strong (1670-1733).

Today, visitors to Dresden and the surrounding region can experience some of that opulence, and here and there enjoy wining and dining in royal style.

Dresden of course was the seat of royal power, with the Dresden Palace a magnet for visitors. But then there is Moritzburg Castle, just 10 kilometres due north of Dresden, reachable via train connections first to Radebeul and then to Moritzburg.

There awaits the magnificent baroque castle built in 1723 by August the Strong. Today, visitors can marvel at a dining table decked with priceless porcelain cutlery, and only imagine the revelry when the monarch hosted sumptuous banquets for Europe's royalty.

"It was here that August the Strong laid the foundations for Saxony's gourmet style," says castle guide Rene Kreher. Only the best of the best food was served, made perfect by the porcelain dinner service.

The king was a great collector of porcelain from Asia at the time, but when a team led by the alchemist Johann Friedrich Boettger set up a porcelain plant in the Albrechtsburg Castle in Meissen, the monarch was beyond himself with joy.

At the porcelain factory showroom, visitors can look over the shoulders of the craftsmen as they form and delicately paint their objects and bake them in ovens at 1,450 degrees centigrade.

Afterwards, the crowning experience of a three-course menu in the Albrechtsburg restaurant awaits, a dinner that would no doubt have pleased even August the Strong. And if not the food itself, then some outstanding Saxony wine.

Saxony wine? Though not on any of the wine world's top-10 lists - or top-100 for that matter - the locally grown wines are eminently drinkable.

August the Strong reputedly would consume up to eight litres of wine, and so it was understandable that he paid special attention to the care of his vineyards, located along the Elbe River between Pirna and Diesbar-Seussnitz and less than an hour's drive northwest of Dresden.

The vineyards now are part of the Saxony Wine Route, an association of vintners, restaurants and hotel operators. This year the route is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

To get to the birthplace of Saxony's sparkling wines you have to leave Radebeul and head towards Meissen. After a few kilometres, Wackerbarth Castle will emerge on the slopes on the right side of the Elbe River.

The castle became the place where 180 years ago Saxony's sparkling wine was born, and today, with more than 100 hectares of grape vines under cultivation, Wackerbarth is one of the three largest vineyards in Saxony.

Travelling the fairytale-like landscape of the Saxony wine route would not be complete without meeting a genuine princess.

In this instance, it is Princess Alexandra of Lippe who personally guides visitors to the best viewpoints in her vineyard in Proschwitz, a part of Meissen. There, one can enjoy degustation menus and wine-and-dine evenings.

Guests favour the fine dry white and red wines. August the Strong might better have done the same. But the monarch was said to have loved strong sweet wines before his early death at the age of 63.