German Sights

Görlitz

Görlitz has a wonderful old town which reflects the rich history of the region on the border between Germany and Poland - although the official German tourist board is possibly going a bit over the top in describing it as maybe the 'most beautiful' town in the country.

Our Görlitz Images page has a collection of photos and captions, but this page goes into a little bit more detail about some of the aspects of the history of the town.

History

The region around Görlitz - known as Upper Lusatia - was settled back in the Stone Ages and was part of the area that was affected by Germanic and Slavic tribes sweeping across central Europe as they searched for a settled home.

It was subject to the influence of three medieval states - Poland, Bohemia and the powerful Holy Roman Empire and was first mentioned in a document in the 11th century when it was granted as a gift to the Bishop of Meißen.

A few years later the Bohemian rulers took control and remained in charge for more than five centuries.

The old town hall in Görlitz

Like so many other towns in the area, trade was what brought the development into a thriving population centre. Görlitz was on the Via Regia which connected Moscow with northern Spain - its neighbours were Leipzig and Erfurt to the west and Breslau (Wroclaw) to the east.

It became the most important point on the route between Poland and Erfurt once it was granted monopoly rights for the trading of woad dye (which meant that clothes could be dyed blue) in Bohemia.

During this time of prosperity the rulers of Görlitz took the opportunity to fortify the settlement with town walls - a far-sighted decision as the town would find itself continually affected by wars over the next centuries.

It quickly declared for the Reformation but ended up on the losing side in the war that followed and suffered in the Thirty Years' and Seven Years' wars.

It had been granted to the Electorate of Saxony in the 17th century, but following the defeat of Napoleon (Saxony had been an ally) Görlitz was made part of Silesia (part of Prussia).

Like other towns in the region, Prussian control led to a rapid expansion due to factories and connecting railways being built.

The town remained relatively unscathed from the bombing raids of the Second World War - only the bridge across the river was destroyed. The river became the border with Poland following the war and Görlitz became a neglected outpost at the edge of the DDR. It also lost the part of the town which was now in Poland and renamed Zgorzelec.

Since the reunification of Germany, it has become a popular retirement centre (especially for residents of Berlin), although locals complain about the increasing average age of the population and the lack of jobs and prospects in the town.

Görlitz and the Movies

Görlitz remained virtually untouched during the Second World War and can boast of thousands of buildings from centuries of history and different eras of art and architecture.

It's that backdrop that has made the town such a magnet for film-makers looking for an historic setting to stand in for a street scene in a Paris or Berlin which no longer exists.

The first major film to be set in the town was back in the 1950s and the Görlitz tourist office say that there have been more than 100 productions since those days.

The town hall in Görlitz which stood in for the exterior of The Grand Budapest Hotel

Perhaps the biggest film to be set here was the Wes Anderson hit 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' - where the new town hall (see photo) stood in for the exterior of the hotel and a department store with an art deco interior for the interior.

Other Hollywood films which have featured Görlitz include:

  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • The Reader
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Monuments Men
  • The Book Thief

Interestingly and mysteriously, an anonymous contributor donated half a million Euros a year to the town from 1995 until recently on two conditions:

  • the contributor must remain anonymous
  • the money can only be used for the upkeep of the old town

This money has helped to restore around 70% of the estimated 4000 protected buildings.

The tourist office can organise a guided tour of the film locations (German only).

Tourist Office

The Görlitz Tourist Office is situated at one end of the Obermarkt square in the old town. The office is open seven days a week in the summer season and closed in the weekend afternoons outside this time.
Website: www.visit-goerlitz.com

Görlitz

The statue in Görlitz - called 'Muschelminna' by the locals