Görlitz is easily one of my favourite places in Germany. The city has so much historic character and beauty, that it’s hard not to fall for it. I recently spent some time in this wonderful city and loved uncovering its secrets and history, so I thought I would share some of my findings with you. Here are eight things that you probably didn’t know about Görlitz.
Görlitz is Germany’s easternmost city and while many travel to Berlin to learn about the history of East and West in Germany, this Eastern gem has its own story to tell.
The Obermühle was once one of three major mills in the city and is now a restaurant, hotel and easternmost brewery in Germany. So if you’re thinking of travelling to Germany to sample some of that famous German beer, why not do it here with view of Poland’s nature.
Görlitz meets Hollywood! The city has been center stage and film set for 100 national and international movies since the 1950s. Görlitz has a unique and beautiful city center that combines architecture styles from more than 500 years. Not many places in Europe offer such a variety of carefully restored buildings that show almost no traces at all from the Second World War and the destruction that came with it.
With more than 4000 listed buildings, Görlitz is one of the best preserved historic cities in Europe. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that filmmakers from around the world have been charmed by this beautiful city and chosen to use it as a movie set. Görlitz has once been called “the Paris by the Neiße”, but it is not just the role of Paris that the city has taken on in the past. The streets of Germany’s easternmost city have been transformed into scenes from Berlin, New York, Heidelberg, Frankfurt and Munich.
Films like “Inglourious Bastards” and Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” were shot around various locations in Görlitz including the one of a kind Art Nouveau department store which plays the title role in The Grand Budapest Hotel, starring Ralph Fiennes.
The city is not only attracting international celebrities, but also has its fair share of home-grown talent.
Astronomer Bartholomäus Scultetus did not only construct the famous town hall clock which today is one of Görlitz’s most popular landmarks, he also played an important role in the introduction of the Gregorian calendar.
Philospoher and mystic Jacob Böhme is one of city’s most well-known sons. He came to Görlitz as a shoemaker in 1600 and felt inspired to write his first book “Aurora”, which he never intended to publish. Böhme gave an unfinished version of the book to a friend who began circulating it in the city. The content of “Aurora” caused a huge scandal and Böhme was threatened with exile by the church if he was to continue working on the book. To this day Jacob Böhme and his work are held in high regards by the city and visitors have the opportunity to find out more about the philosopher during a visit to his former house in Zgorzelec, which is right next to a fantastic restaurant serving the most delicious Pierogi, make sure to sample those on your visit to Zgorzelec.
Görlitz and its sister city Zgorzelec – once one, where separated in the aftermath of World War II and the independent city Zgorzelec was formed. Almost 20 years ago, in 1998 the two cities were re-united when a declaration was signed to join the two cities in to one Euro City.
If you stroll along the pedestrian bridge from Görlitz to Zgorzelec, you will notice a colourful artwork on a grey tower to your left. That is the goddess Europa, which symbolises the unity of the two cities.
Via Regia on route to Santiago de Compostela
Görlitz was founded along the “Via Regia”, the most significant trade route of the Middle Ages that linked Kiev with Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The “Via Regia” is no longer used as a trade route, but to this day it is the most traveled pilgrimage path to Santiago de Compostela. So when you visit Görlitz you will almost definitely be walking along the Camino de Santiago, even if it is only for a few 100 meters.
The Story of Traitor Alley
When you visit Görlitz, you may notice the clock of the Holy Trinity Church is seven minutes early, but don´t be fooled, this is no mistake. In fact it has been this way for almost 500 years. In 1527 the City Council was suspecting some of their cloth workers to be involved in secret plot with the aim to overthrow the Council. In order to uncover the plans the cities elders manipulated the traitors by changing the time on the clock. The difference in time meant that the trouble makers left their secret meeting place seven minutes early and were caught by the night watch. The traitors were punished and the alley way that lead to the location of their secret meetings was renamed “Traitor Alley”.
The anonymous benefactor
Görlitz is said to be the most beautiful city in Germany. One person that not only agrees with this statement, but actually contributes to the city´s charm is an anonymous donar. Every year in March since 1995 he or she donates half a million Euro to the city to support the restoration of the historic center of Görlitz. Nosy journalists have tried to find out more about the person behind this generous gesture in the past, which only resulted in threats from the benefactors legal representatives that if they didn´t stop digging, the funds would stop coming. The curiosity about the anonymous donar remains, but the warning has prevented people from looking further.
15 th Meridian
The 15th Meridian is the central axis of Central European time, a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, Europe, Africa and Antarctica to the South Pole. Only 16km of the 15th Meridian actually run through Germany, which makes Görlitz the only town in Germany that is located directly on the axis. The location of the axis has been put in place in 1884 and nowadays it determines not only the time for Görlitz, but for the whole of Germany. You can visit the Meridian Stone, which is located at the “Stadtpark” (city park), symbolises the earth and marks the location of the 15th Meridian.
Getting there & around
You can easily get to Görlitz from Dresden, Berlin, Prague or Wroclaw by either train or car. Train connections and time tables can be found here. The city offers a variety of guided walking tours and experiences in English. Be aware the high season doesn’t start until May, which means that there might not be any English tours available before that. The Görlitz Info, which is located at Obermarkt 32 does however offer maps and brochures in English, so you can always explore the city on your own.
A big thank you to Europastadt GörlitzZgorzelec for inviting me to join on of their guided walking tours and helping me to uncover all those hidden gems the city has to offer.
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