Eastern Germany Delights

August 10, 2011 by

Sightseeing, Things To Do

St. Peter and Paul church on the river Neisse in Görlitz, Germany - Photo courtesy of Südstädter via Wikimedia Commons

At Germany’s easternmost point (more or less) you’ll find the Saxon town of Görlitz. Like Dresden, Görlitz is one of the success stories of the former East Germany, luring visitors with an outstanding ensemble of historic buildings which span over five centuries.

The town survived the war relatively intact, and was largely untroubled by the East German passion for urban blah which blighted other civic centers. And now it’s benefited from extensive restoration with few unsympathetic additions, making it an ideal period backdrop for such films as Inglorious Basterds and The Reader.

Little wonder that Görlitz markets itself as the most beautiful town in Germany. Certainly the country offers few greater examples of a Renaissance and Baroque town center. Simply strolling the streets and squares is one of the great pleasures here, though if you’re hunting down architectural highlights, start at Marienplatz. There you’ll find the “Dicker Turm” (fat tower), a white, round tower, and the largely gothic Frauenkirche. Even the comparatively modern department store on the square is a fine example of Art Nouveau.

The nearby squares of Obermarkt and Untermarkt offer stunning facades, ranging from Gothic to Baroque.  Head further east and you’ll come to the Gothic Peterskirche, at once the town’s symbol and its oldest church. After admiring its soaring, light, gray-and-white interior, cross over the pedestrian bridge behind the church. While you’re admiring the view you may not even realize that you are now in a different country. There’s no passport control but Görlitz indeed lies directly on the border with Poland which was established at the end of the war, splitting numerous towns (the Polish side is called Zgorzelec). Post-war Polish-German relations haven’t always been smooth, but on this beautiful, narrow stretch of the Neisse, you’d never guess.

-James Conway

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