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Görlitz, Germany: Where Gumbo Was (#308)


This week Gumbo spent some time in Görlitz, a lovely town on the eastern edge of Saxony. Congratulations to George G and Port Moresby, the guessers who correctly identified the location.

Görlitz lies on the Neisse river, which at this point forms the border between Germany and Poland. The smaller Polish town of Zgorzelec, on the other side of the river, was part of Görlitz until the end of the Second World War and is connected to it by two bridges.

The town was fortunate not to have suffered major bomb damage in the War, but many of the buildings suffered decades of neglect under communist rule. The same applied to most other towns and cities in the East, but German reunification saw significant funds flow eastwards to help restoration efforts. In the case of Görlitz, state funding was supplemented by a generous anonymous donor, who provided over €500,000 (equivalent to a million German marks) per annum for twenty years.

Many hundreds of buildings have been renovated and a walk through the Old Town demonstrates that the money has been well spent. The two photos below show parts of the Untermarkt (Lower Market) from different perspectives.


The building at the centre of the second photo is the Old Town Hall. The tower dates from the 16th century and its lower clock is shown below. The mouth of the man in the middle of the clock face opens at certain intervals and the eyes move and light up. You might just be able to make out the glowing eyes in this shot.


On the other side of the Untermarkt is the New Town Hall, pictured below.


The view back from its colonnaded arches is just as impressive.


On the far corner of this square is the Ratsapotheke (Town Pharmacy). The building now houses the Ratscafé – whose poppy seed cake is well worth a try!


There are many other interesting buildings at the Untermarkt or near this area.


Many of the entrances (and doors) are opulently decorated.


The road below leads from the Untermarkt down to the river.


The original bridge at this location was blown up by German troops in 1945. Its replacement dates from 2004. Apart from a small sign at the Polish end, reading 'National Boundary' in Polish, there is nothing here to indicate that you are crossing from one country to another. No border posts, no flags, no barriers – an impressive testament to the achievements of the European Union.


The river promenade on the Polish side retains the afternoon sun for considerably longer than that on the German bank of the river and there are several small restaurants/cafés with good views of the river.


The best views of Görlitz' largest church and most famous landmark, the basilica of St. Peter and Paul, are also to be had from the Polish side.


The next two photos show parts of the basilica's interior.


The name might suggest to you that the church is a Catholic one, but St. Peter and Paul's is actually a Protestant church. Its name dates back to before the reformation – it was built in the 15th century (and there has been a church here since around 1230). A visit is well worth it. The organ, in particular, is very interesting. It is referred to as the Sonnenorgel (Sun Organ) because of the little suns – with organ pipe 'rays' – placed all over its front face. (The clues showed one of these in a display cabinet.)

A walk from the church past the Untermarkt takes you to the Obermarkt (Upper Market) area. Unfortunately, this is now used as a car park. However, the buildings around it have been beautifully restored.


At the edge of the Old Town is the Reichenbach Tower, once part of the town's fortifications and dating from the 13th/14th century.


Across the road from there is the Kaisertrutz Bastion, also built originally as part of the town's defences, which now houses a section of the Museum of Cultural History.


The nearby Marienplatz also has an old watch tower at one end. The locals refer to it as Dicker Turm (Fat Tower).


At Marienplatz you enter into the New Town, where most of the larger shops and some shopping arcades are located. The area around the Café Central is particularly attractive.


At the end of the road on the left of the photo you can just make out the station. Its interior is worth seeing.


The post office and a number of banks are also located in the New Town.


The fountain below is just opposite the post office. It already featured in one of the clues and is referred to locally as the Muschelminna (Seashell Broad). Apparently, the woman holding the shell is meant to represent nature.


Not all of the buildings in Görlitz, particularly in the New Town, have been renovated.


Some are in the process of being restored – like the central Department Store pictured below, which is currently undergoing a complete internal revamp.


This store, built in the Art Nouveau style, served as a key location for the film 'Grand Budapest Hotel' and there are many other movies which have been filmed in Görlitz. 'Inglourious Basterds', 'The Reader', 'The Book Thief', and 'Monuments Men' are just a few examples.

You might have noticed that none of the photos in this article have shown zebra crossings or traffic lights. There simply are no such things in the centre – and most of the traffic signs are on concrete blocks and can be moved without difficulty. The old cobble stones have been retained in large areas of the town and the street signs have been kept in an old-fashioned font, so that it becomes very easy to use locations in the town as a backdrop for events supposedly taking place in the first half of the 20th century.


However, Görlitz also caters for costume dramas etc. set in other periods, such as medieval times.


For the tourist there is plenty on offer, too, in addition to all the sights. There are several museums and the tourist office organises themed walks. If you are interested in regional food, there are a number of decent restaurants catering for your tastes. You won't go thirsty either. And at night you can explore the deserted streets at leisure.



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