To celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary, we decided to take a long weekend trip.  We spent two nights in Görlitz, Germany and two nights in Dresden, Germany.  This post covers the Görlitz part of the trip. 

Görlitz is in the easternmost part of Germany.  It is on the Neisse River and directly across the river from Görlitz is the town of Zgorzelec, in Poland. Zgorzelec actually used to be part of Görlitz until 1945, when boundaries were redrawn after World War II. 

Görlitz was not heavily bombed during World War II and so they have a very well-preserved historic core.  Although a lot of beautiful old buildings are still standing, many of them are in disrepair.  Almost 4,000 buildings in Görlitz are registered as historical monuments.  For about the last 20 years, an anonymous benefactor has donated the equivalent of about 500,000 Euro every year to renovate buildings in Görlitz.  Amazing, huh?  Any attempts to find out who the benefactor is are shot down by a group of attorneys representing the donor, and supposedly the money will dry up if the name of the person is ever revealed.  In any case, if you want employment in the construction field, Görlitz is the place to go.  We saw a LOT of buildings being renovated while we were there. 

I had actually never heard of Görlitz until fairly recently when I was flipping through my Rick Steves’ Germany book.  It sounded like an off-the-beaten-path place to visit and it was.  In fact, in two and a half years of travelling around Europe, I do believe this is the first place we’ve ever been where we haven’t run into a single other American. 

Although Görlitz is not a very well-known town outside of Germany, it has been used in a few movies you may have seen including Inglourious Basterds, Around the World in 80 Days and The Reader. 

While doing some research for this blog, I found out that Görlitz is twinned with the city of Wiesbaden, Germany, where I work. I also found out that Emil Jannings, the first person ever to win the Oscar for Best Actor, grew up in Görlitz.

This was the view from our hotel room.  If you peek between the trees, you can just make out the river.  All the buildings you see are in Poland.

Here is Sean setting foot in Poland for the first time!  (I had visited Kraków before but I was there with cousins Mary and Deirdre and Sean didn’t make the trip). We had just finished walking across the Altstadtbrücke (old town bridge), which was just a few minutes’ walk from our hotel.  It’s a pedestrian-only bridge and you can see it behind Sean. 

The bridge was rebuilt between 2003 and 2004 and officially opened on 20 October 2004.  Because both Poland and Germany are part of the Schengen Area, there are no borders to cross.  There is not even a sign on the bridge to tell you that you’re entering a different country.  You just mosey on over.

And here is a little Polish kitty!  Well, now that I think of it, not necessarily.  S/he might have just taken an evening stroll over the bridge from Germany as well.

This photo was taken from Poland.  The church you see is in Germany, and just in front of it you can see the pedestrian bridge connecting the two countries.

Here’s Sean at the Piwnica Staromiejska restaurant in Poland, enjoying a Żywiec beer which is brewed in Poland. 

Żywiec has been brewed since 1852 and is now owned by Heineken.  Seems like Heineken owns lots of breweries all over Europe.  While writing this post, I just read a Yelp review of the Piwnica Staromiejska restaurant that says the staff does not speak English.  We did not find this to be true though.  Our waiter spoke English to us immediately upon realizing that we do not speak Polish. He also happily accepted Euro instead of zloty, which is the currency of Poland. And this place was very inexpensive compared to what we’re used to.  Sean had a half-litre (just over one pint) beer and I had a .33-litre (just over 11 ounces) beer and the total was 3.50 Euro, the equivalent of about $4.64 at today’s exchange rate.  Can’t beat that with a stick. You can see the pedestrian bridge in the photo above as well. 

Now we are back on the German side of the river enjoying a local beer called Landskron.  You are looking at Poland in this photo.

The Landskron brewery was founded in Görlitz in 1869.  The beer is pretty yummy.

The next morning, the actual day of our anniversary, we set out on our walking tour of Görlitz.  It was a very hot, sunny day and I’m seriously sweating just looking at these photos and remembering how brutally hot it was walking around town.

This is the Fat Tower (Dicker Turm in German) at Marienplatz, one of the town squares, and it dates from 1270.  The Görlitz coat of arms is seen on the front of the tower. 

When we first saw this water fountain at Marienplatz, the water had just come on for the day.  A few minutes later it was turned into a bubble bath and a couple of kids were having a blast playing around in it.  Hell, I was half tempted to jump in too just to cool off!

This little creature was dispensing drinking water as evidenced by the sign on the wall behind it that said “Trinkwasser”.  It seemed to be motion-activated or something as the water only ran when someone approached it.  I tried a bit of the water and it was nice and cold but a little metallic-tasting.

This is the Reichenbach Tower at the Obermarkt (Upper Market Square).  It also dates from the 13th century, just like the Fat Tower above.  It was part of the city wall at one time.

We visited the Church of the Trinity, which was consecrated in 1245.  Inside the church was something you don’t often see – a statue of Jesus that shows him kinda just hangin’ out. 

Right outside the church was this fountain called the Georgsbrunnen.  I’m really only posting the photo because it took me so long to take it.  As you can see there’s pretty much nobody in sight, but the second I was going to take a photo of the fountain, this woman came up and leaned against it and started perusing a map.  I waited her out though and finally got a photo without her in it.  If you were to enlarge this photo, you’d see two wooden soldiers outside a Christmas store (Weihnachtshaus) just there in the background to the right.

This is the clock on the church tower. As you can tell by the time on the clock, we were there to hear it strike noon.

If you look at Sean’s watch, though, it’s only 11:53.

I know what you’re thinking. “Sean could have set his watch to any time he wanted, though!”  You’ll just have to take my word for it that he didn’t.  Here’s why the tower clock is 7 minutes fast and the church bells actually rang at 11:53 instead of noon:  Apparently a bunch of rebellious workers in the 16th century used to hold their secret rebel meetings at night.  They would end them at midnight so that the night watchmen, who were on the other side of town when the clock struck 12, didn’t catch them leaving the meeting.  The city council caught on to them, though, and set the church bells to ring seven minutes early.  The rebels heard the bells, thought it was midnight and spilled out onto the street, only to be caught by the guards.  The bell chimes seven minutes early to this day.

The next photo shows the Town Hall stairs.  The doorway at the top of the stairs was once the Town Hall’s main entrance.  The balcony you see was used for public announcements.  The statue on the pedestal is Justice.

This is the tower of the Town Hall where you can see two clocks on the front. The top clock shows the day and month along with the phase of the moon.  The bottom clock shows the time.  You may be able to make out a face on the bottom clock.  It apparently used to open and close its eyes and stick out its tongue, but now it’s just frozen in place. 

The grayish building on the right used to house the city scales and was erected in the year 1600.  All the wagons that passed through Görlitz had to weigh their goods here and pay taxes.  I don’t know what the yellow building next to it is but I thought it was a nice-looking building. 

This lovely building was the city pharmacy.  Today, as you could probably guess by the tables, chairs and umbrellas, there is a café on the ground floor.  I didn’t really notice this when I saw the building in person, but looking at the photos afterwards it seemed to me that the roof of this building has three eyes. 

The gray and reddish-colored building on the right is the Schönhof, supposedly the oldest civic renaissance building in Germany, built in 1526.  The building now houses the Silesian Museum.  According to Wikipedia, Silesia “…is a region of Central Europe located mostly in Poland, with smaller parts in the Czech Republic and Germany.” 

This is a closeup of part of a building called the Biblical House.  The façade of the building is covered in sandstone reliefs showing various scenes from the bible. This is Adam and Eve, in case you hadn’t already guessed that.  I kinda like the look on the face of the lion near Eve’s feet.  He’s like “OMG, what the hell is she DOING?  Don’t take it, Adam!”

I actually have no idea what this is, but I spotted it above a doorway.  It looks like maybe a griffin scalping a Moor?  I have no idea.

Here is the Nikolaiturm, which is the oldest tower in Görlitz.  It dates from 1348. 

And this is the Church of St. Peter and Paul.  You can see that the white spires are much newer – by a couple hundred years – than the rest of the church. 

The church is known for its Sun Organ, which you can see on the wall here.  The pulpit is also quite ornate. 

This photo shows a plaque saying that Bartholomaus Scultetus lived here from 1570 to 1614. Once again this was someone I’d never heard of before.  On the off chance that you haven’t, either, he was born in Görlitz and was the mayor of Görlitz several times.  He was also a mathematician, a cartographer and an astronomer among other things.  Damn overachiever. But what he’s most famous for is dividing the clock into 12 points.  You probably never thought before about who was responsible for that, did you?  Well now you know.

Here you see the only remaining part of the old city walls.  This is right near the Nikolaiturm that you saw above.  The walls are now part of a nice park.

This was in the courtyard of the St. Jonathan restaurant where we had a late lunch to celebrate our anniversary.  Nice courtyard but too freakin’ hot for us to sit outside and eat, even in the shade.

Thankfully the inside of the restaurant was much cooler.  It wasn’t air conditioned but there was a nice cross breeze so I was able to tolerate some hot food.  My salmon over spinach and pasta was absolutely delicious.

Sean tried a local specialty called Schlesisches Himmelreich (Silesian Kingdom of Heaven).  It’s smoked pork loin, dried plums and apricots, and potato dumplings in a flour and butter sauce.  Those things that look like big slices of bread are the dumplings. Not my idea of a perfect lunch but he said it was really good.

This is a synagogue that was originally dedicated in 1911.  It was the only synagogue in the German state of Saxony to survive Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) on November 9, 1938.  However, the Jewish community of Görlitz no longer existed after the end of World War II and the synagogue fell into disrepair.  According to a sign there, renovation has been ongoing since 1991 but we didn’t see any evidence of that and the building is currently unused.

We passed this play area on the way back to the hotel and it looked like a kid would have a lot of fun there.

Another unused building.  This one was right near our hotel and is the Stadthalle.  That translates to City Hall but apparently it was never a city hall like we think of it.  It was a concert hall that was open from about 1910 until about 2005.  A Wikipedia article says it’s slated to reopen in 2014 but again, we didn’t see a shred of evidence that the place was being renovated. Sounds like it was a beautiful Art Nouveau building at one time, though.  It’s amazing to see something like this just sitting empty.

Right near the empty Stadthalle in the Stadtpark (City Park) is this Meridian Stone.  The 15th meridian runs through Görlitz, so Görlitz time is the exact Central European time.

That was the end of our sightseeing in Görlitz.  We were pretty beat after walking around in the blazing heat all day so we just had a few drinks at the hotel bar that evening and called it a night.  We left the next day to head to Dresden, but first we stopped to visit Schloss Mortizburg, a castle that will be covered in my next post.

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