Książ – Castles in Poland

The beautiful castle Książ is located north of the Polish city Wałbrzych in Lower Silesia and is the third largest castle in Poland (Polish: Zamek Książ, German: Schloss Fürstenstein). Pronouncing the castle’s Polish name is half the fun! Książ is easily reachable from Görlitz (156 km) and is therefore just one of the many beautiful places one can go for a day or weekend trip.

Situated in a landscape park and protected area in the Waldenburg Mountains, Góry Wałbrzyskie, part of the Central Sudetes, the castle is distinctive not only for its size and blend of architectural styles, but also for its setting, perched on a rock face 395 meters above sea level and overlooking a beautiful forest and river. When you first approach Książ, you view it from across the river gorge, a fairy tale castle in the distance, in shades of pink.

“The house is said to have five or six hundred rooms; I don’t know as I never counted them. What I do know is that from every window it commands superb views over the world-famous Waldenburger Gebirge, one of nature’s masterpieces. The Fürstenstein, that is the Prince’s rock, itself rises three thousand feet above sea level and the views from the castle towers are wonderful. The wild, spacious land of this part of Silesia is indescribably beautiful.” – Maria Theresa (Daisy) Hochberg von Pless

The castle was first built by Silesian Duke Bolko I the Strict in the 13th century and was known as Książęca Góra, or “The Prince’s Heights”, selected for the beauty and security of its location in the heart of the forest.

The castle changed hands several times over the centuries and, just like the region, belonged to many different states until 1509 when the Hochberg family was entrusted with the estate. Beginning in the mid 16th century, thanks to this powerful Silesian family, the castle was rebuilt in a lavish Renaissance Style. The castle stayed in the possession of the Hochberg family from 1509 until the 1940s.

Visiting the castle Książ, we first decided to try hiking down the gorge to look for a good vantage point for photos. It’s a beautiful area and we got lost in the wilderness trying to find a path back up. While out there, we stumbled across the ruins of an earlier fortress at the same location.

After climbing back up we realized there is only one way to approach the castle, this was obviously intended as a form of defense. When you approach the castle you are met by imposing statues and carefully manicured lawns. There is no doubt that the castle is striking and beautiful, but it also comes across as a bit stark and vacant. Most of the furnishings were looted by the Nazis or the Soviets and so the castle today stands mostly empty and can seem a bit cold and impersonal as a visitor. It is hard to imagine someone living out their lives in its giant, empty halls with ornate ceilings.

What really brought this castle to life for me was learning about the fascinating people and the lives that inhabited it over the years. In my opinion, the best part of the castle tour is the photo exhibition. Many of the photos are from an extraordinary collection of family photos taken by the castle chef from 1909-1926. Louis Hardouin was in charge of the kitchen in the castle and lived there, along with his family and thousands of other staff. The Frenchman enjoyed photography and took many photos of his wife and his children, who were playmates to the the sons of Hans Heinrich and Princess Daisy. He also photographed many of the servants who lived and worked in the castle, offering a look into the lives of the many people behind the scenes. Thanks to his passion for photography, one is able to get a sense for the more personal side of the history of the castle and its inhabitants.

Some of the photos on display by the castle chef Louis Hardouin

Perhaps the most intriguing resident of the castle Książ and the one who receives by far the most attention is Princess Daisy. She was born Mary Theresa Cornwallis-West. The daughter of a British politician, Daisy was renowned for her beauty. Because she published her diaries in a memoir in 1928, we know quite a bit about her life at the castle.

Princess Daisy (Source: Wikipedia)

Although her family was well-connected, they were not wealthy and Daisy had a fairly ordinary childhood (if you can call it ordinary to be acquainted with the royal family). She was encouraged by her parents to “come out” early and it was expected that she would marry someone of rank or money.  She met Hans Heinrich XV, a Hochberg and current heir to the castle Książ, and they were married in 1891. She was very young, and quite a bit younger than her husband. There were also many cultural differences that came along with marrying into a German family like the Hochbergs. Although they had three sons, it was not a happy marriage – Daisy and Hans Heinrich had very different interests and priorities in life.

“I told Hans I did not love him. He said that did not matter ; love came after marriage. Perhaps it does sometimes, but I fear not often.” -Princess Daisy

As Prince and Princess of Pless and Baron of the Castle, the couple owned large estates and coal mines in Silesia, bringing them enormous fortune and affording an extravagant lifestyle, and one filled with scandal and eventually disaster.

It was not easy for Princess Daisy to adjust to life in the castle. She was constantly surrounded by hundreds of servants who opened doors for her and turned down her covers. She had very little freedom and her husband’s family cared a great deal about tradition and proper etiquette for someone of their class.

 “I soon found the etiquette was unbelievably boring. I knew no German and could not make my wishes known. When I wanted to leave one room for another a bell was rung, a servant opened the door and a footman walked in front of me to wherever I wished to go…one of the first things I did was to learn enough German to tell them that this ceremony was no longer necessary. This my husband disapproved of and, all our lives together, we had constant corroding bickerings about what he called interfering with the servants” – Princess Daisy

Daisy was a beautiful woman who attracted a lot of attention from men. She was also a foreigner who never really learned the language well. As a result, rumors and gossip followed her wherever she went. Her husband gifted her the famous Pless pearls – at 6.7 meters long, it was one of the most expensive necklaces in the world. Because people love gossip & intrigue it was later said that the pearls were cursed by the diver who died while collecting them – attributing the misfortunes in Princess Daisy’s life to this curse.

Although she struggled to come to terms with her strange new life and her disappointing marriage, Princess Daisy tried to make the best of it. She spent lots of time tending to her gardens and raising her sons. She took an interest in the welfare of the people who lived and worked around the castle, many of them having difficult lives working in the family’s coal mines. She fought to improve their working and living conditions. She also campaigned for the rights of lace makers in Silesia who were being exploited, and petitioned the government to regulate and clean up the nearby river that was being polluted by industry. She frequently met with Emperors, Czars and Princesses and sought to use her influence and relationships with these powerful people to encourage peace between her home country and her adopted one. Her close relationship with Kaiser Wilhelm II was the source of much gossip.

While the local people loved her, she was viewed with suspicion and dislike by other high-ranking German families who saw her social work as criticism of her own class. Her social engagement was viewed as overly “progressive” and she was seen to have overstepped her bounds as a women and as a foreigner.

In 1907 after his father died, Hans Heinrich began a massive renovation of the castle, spending lavish amounts of money to expand, redecorate and fill it with treasures. Around the time that WWI began, economic hardships and a decadent lifestyle started to take its toll on the family’s wealth – they amassed large debts. Princess Daisy was met with even more suspicion as an Englishwoman in Germany during the war. Nevertheless, she became a nurse and spent her time tending to wounded soldiers and prisoners of war.

Finally, in 1922 Hans Heinrich divorced Princess Daisy and a few years later married a Spanish noblewoman named Clotilde de Silva y Gonzales de Candamo. They had two children, but this marriage also ended in disaster with the couple divorcing in 1934 and Clotilde marrying her ex-husband’s (and Daisy’s) son, Bolko.

With the rise of National Socialism, Daisy supported the opposition. She was active in charities that supported prisoners of the nearby concentration camp Gross-Rosen. Viewed as an enemy of the Reich, she was removed from the castle and it came under the ownership of the Nazis.

It is said that perhaps she sold her famous pearl necklace to free her son who was being interrogated by the Gestapo. Divorced, with her ex-husband’s family deep in debt, Princess Daisy died penniless and alone in Wałbrzych in 1943. Her remains were moved several times to prevent her body being looted, and for many years there were rumors about its whereabouts and the location of the famous pearls. Many people have searched, but her final resting place remains a secret kept by the family.

During WWII, the inmates of the concentration camp Gross-Rosen were forced to labor at the castle, building a vast complex of tunnels through the rock beneath it. The purpose of the tunnels is unknown, but it is said that perhaps the castle was being prepared as a future residence for Adolf Hitler. During this time, parts of the castle were destroyed and its many treasures vanished. If anything was left of the castle’s treasures after WWII, it was looted later by the Red Army.

Recently, rumors of a Nazi gold train being discovered in the tunnels under the castle have caused treasure hunters and tourists to flock to the region. Some believe that the train might contain the famous Amber Room which has been missing since WWII.

Shrouded in mystery, scandal and intrigue, the castle Książ draws many visitors today not just for its beautifully restored exterior and rooms. The lives of the people who inhabited these walls remains far more intriguing and a trip to the castle will surely reward you with not only a beautiful and impressive view, but a very interesting story!

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Day Trip to Großschönau

Slate tiles on a house in Großschönau Schieferhaus

This article originally appeared in the digital magazine Görlitz Town and Country in August 2018

One of my favorite things to do since moving to Görlitz is to take little day trips to explore my new home & all of its surroundings. I am always on the lookout for a new location to “discover”, so when I saw a special on MDR about Großschönau (Teure Tücher – Meterware aus der Oberlausitz), I was intrigued by the story of this small Upper Lusatian town that has such a long history of damask weaving.

Großschönau Mandau Fachwerk river
Along the Mandau River in the center of historic Großschönau

Großschönau is a small and picturesque town of around 5,800 people in Saxony, Germany and it shares a border with the Czech town Varnsdorf. Named for its location on a big, beautiful meadow (große schöne Aue), the Upper Lusatian town is about an hour drive away from Görlitz (47 km) and is also easily reachable by public transportation through connections in Zittau. Taking the bus from Zittau to Großschönau, I was transported back in time as we drove along curving narrow roads through rolling fields and little villages full of historic half-timber houses. I had read up about the town’s history with textiles before departing on my journey, but what I didn’t realize was just how gorgeous Großschönau would be.

View from Hutberg of Großschönau and the Zittauer Gebirge
View from the Hutberg of Großschönau and the Zittauer Gebirge in late winter

The town lies at the foot of the highest mountain in the Zittau mountain range, the Lausche (793 m) and on the floodplain of the Mandau and Lausur rivers. In fact, the town suffered a great deal of damage during August of 2010 when heavy rainfall caused the rivers to flood. Although this caused a great deal of destruction & loss of property, one can barely see the signs of this damage when walking through the historic center of the town as it has all been nicely repaired.

The most remarkable thing about Großschönau, besides its history of cloth-making, are its many half-timber houses (Umgebindehäuser). Dating back to the 17th to 19th centuries, these buildings are typical to the Upper Lusatian area and are characterized by their distinct architecture – a supporting wood frame with vertical and horizontal beams embraces the ground floor, and the upper floor rests on this frame. I found myself getting lost down various streets in the historic center of Großschönau, wanting to see all of these unique houses that have been so lovingly restored. Many of them also have slate tiles on the sides in varying patterns, which to me resemble the scales of a fish.

slate tiles on houses in Großschönau Germany Schiefer

The first mention of Großschönau in historical documents was in 1352 and it was founded as a blacksmith’s village but soon became world-renowned for damask and linen weaving. It all began in 1666 when the Zittau council sent two linen weavers, the brothers Lange, to Holland so that they could learn the art of damask and linen weaving and bring it back to the region. This industrial espionage was successful, as the two brought back with them the knowledge they had gained. The skills they had learned needed to be protected and so there were very strict rules for the weavers about leaving town or meeting with outsiders.  These cloths and the knowledge of the weavers were jealously guarded just as Meissen guarded their “white gold” porcelain.

old textile loom at the museum in Großschönau

Damask weaving, which took a great deal of time and effort to produce, is characterized by its beautiful and complex designs woven into the often single-color fabric by contrasting the weaving patterns. The small town of Großschönau became the center for artful design and technical perfection in damask weaving and their cloths were coveted by the elite. Unless you had money to spend on table cloths that were as costly as gold or silver, as an average person you would probably never lay eyes on some of these exquisite pieces. It’s lucky for us that today you can see over 600 examples of these beautiful works of art and skill in the German Damask and Terry Museum in Großschönau (http://www.ddfm.de).

The museum is housed in the Kupferhaus (copper house) built in 1809. Named for its copper roof, the building was home to the damask manufacturer Christian David Waentig. This small but fine museum in Großschönau is home to, not only an extensive collection of historic woven cloths and designs, but also to many historic weaving machines, like the Jacquard machine which revolutionized the way cloth was made in 1804. The Jacquard technique simplified the weaving process by controlling the loom with a chain of cards with holes punched into them. This invention turned out to be not only revolutionary for the weaving industry but for computing as well.

The Kupferhaus (copper house) has been home to a museum since it was gifted to the city in 1947.

Although there are much fewer people now employed in cloth-making in Großschönau than in former times, the textile industry continues to shape the economic structure of the community. Today there are two companies which sell their cloths worldwide: Damino GmbH (https://www.damino.de) and Frottana Textil & Co (http://www.frottana.de/), the former of which produces damask cloth in the form of table linens and sheets that are used frequently in hotels and on cruise ships and even damask clothing that are very popular with consumers in Africa. While visiting the town you can stop at the Damino outlet store and purchase a piece of the legacy of this town to adorn your own table at home.

While visiting Großschönau, whether you choose to explore it by foot or by bicycle, make sure to get lost along its curving little streets full of charming houses and to cross the numerous pedestrian bridges that cross the Mandau. While wandering, one should also take the opportunity to follow a path up the Hutberg mountain (371 m) for a view of the town from above and the Zittau mountains in the distance.

Although it’s a small town, Großschönau is brimming with beauty, charm and history and an important reminder to us explorers that veering off the well-traveled tourist path can pay off with some unique and memorable discoveries!

If you’re looking to travel to around the area using public transportation for the day, I recommend the Euro-Neiße ticket. It becomes cheaper if you are travelling with a group!

Church and cemetery in Großschönau
The Protestant-Lutheran church in Großschönau (1705) is the second largest village church in Saxony, able to accommodate 2000 churchgoers. Its greatest treasure is the altar piece “Christ’s Resurrection” painted by the artist Johann Eleazar Zeissig, born to damask weavers in Großschönau in 1737.

 

You might be interested in these other day trip locations in Germany that are easily reachable from Görlitz!

Mount Oybin Ruins

Mount Oybin is located near Zittau and is about an hour’s drive away from Görlitz (45 km). This mountain is famous for its castle and monastery ruins. Also famous is the narrow-gauge-railway where you can take a steam train from Zittau to Oybin.

oybin germany train station schmalspurbahn
Oybin Train Station

Mount Oybin is made of sandstone and 514 meters high. It’s a little bit of a hike up to the top (about 15 minutes), but mostly paved. There is an entrance fee to enter the ruins of the castle and monastery on top of Mount Oybin, so be sure to check out the opening times and prices on their website.

View from Mount Oybin in summer
View from Mount Oybin in winter
The Restaurant on Mount Oybin

We’ve now been to Mount Oybin twice, once in the summer and once in the winter, so don’t be astonished by the abrupt change in weather between my photos! These ruins are truly impressive and one feels transported back in time, imagining the monks who lived here. In the 1300s a church and residence were built on the mountain. The fortress proved impregnable after successfully fending off two attacks during the Hussite Wars. The castle and monastery fell out of use around the end of the 1500s when lightning struck the church and it burned down.

The ruins were “rediscovered” during the 1800s by artists such as Caspar David Friedrich, who appreciated the aesthetic of the massive, overgrown monastery ruins.

Caspar David Friedrich – The Dreamer (Ruins of the Oybin Monastery) Source: Wikipedia

Once on top of Mount Oybin, you can take a walk all around the summit, providing stunning views of the spa town Oybin as well as Zittau. Up here you can also find a restaurant and a graveyard. There are stairs that will take you to the top of the ruins for an even better view of the surroundings.

I really enjoyed our walk around Mount Oybin and was impressed by the preservation of these ruins and the views. It’s incredible when you think of the amount of work that went into creating something like this, on top of a mountain and without modern tools. There is a passageway through the stone that leads to the graveyard on top and a sign that tells you that this was chiseled away by hand from 1512-1515. If you look closely, you can see hundreds of thousands of chisel marks in the stone!

Passage chiseled through the stone

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A Weekend in Loket

When I heard that there was a Becherovka museum in Karlovy Vary (Becherovka is a Czech brand of herbal liquor), I became very interested in going there, but I noticed the accommodations in Karlovy Vary were a bit pricey. I also tend to like smaller towns when I travel because I like the slower place and getting to know the town better in a short amount of time. So I started searching on the map for places that were nearby and I came across a town called Loket, or Elbogen in German, both words meaning elbow.

Loket Czechia old town castle bridge czech republic

When I looked up some pictures of Loket online I was stunned by how picturesque it was and knew I had to go there! Loket is about 285 km from Görlitz, so it took us about 3.5 hours to drive there. It’s not really the right distance for a day trip, but perfect for a weekend getaway. Loket gets its name from the shape of the river Ohre, which surrounds it on three sides. It made a perfect location for the fortified castle and town to protect from intruders (the castle dates back to the 13th century).

Loket town hall main square czechia
The main square in Loket

We arrived after dark and in a bit of a snowstorm to our hotel Restaurant & Pension Atmosfera. The room was really beautiful with chandeliers, antique-looking furnishings and a beautiful tiled stove. The bed was perfect for those who like firm mattresses and we thoroughly enjoyed eating breakfast and dinner in the restaurant. Each morning we were the only ones there and they served us bread with meat & cheese, eggs and apple strudel.

Pension Restaurant Atmosfera Loket
Pension & Restaurant Atmosfera in Loket

In fact, we sometimes felt we were the only ones in Loket! In January the town almost shuts down and there were only two restaurants open that we could find. We didn’t mind because we felt that we had the entire town to ourselves! When we woke up the next day, the sun was shining so we decided to take a walk through the hills around the city where we had several stunning lookout points to photograph and stare in awe at this fairytale-like place. This was my favorite part by far.

loket czechia castle historic town
One of the views form our walk in the hills around Loket

We also booked a tour of the Becherovka museum in Karlovy Vary, the museum is no longer the location of the factory as they have moved to a more modern facility on the edge of town. The tour was quick and to the point, and the point was obviously the sampling of different liquors at the end! There were other flavors sold in their gift shop, so I wish we could have tasted those as well, since I already know what their standard tastes like. We bought some souveniers, like a bottle with a retro look and a special kind called KV14 which is sugar-free and has 40% alcohol content.

Jan Becher Museum in Karlovy Vary Becherovka Carlsbad
Jan Becher Museum in Karlovy Vary

Jan Becher Becherovka museum samples in Karlovy Vary Carlsbad Czechia

I would love to go back to Loket sometime when it’s warmer. Perhaps I won’t like it when it’s swarming with tourists – how could a place this magical not be? However, I’d like to try more of the restaurants and shops when they are open and go further on the paths in the hills around the town. I read that one can walk all the way from Loket to Karlovy Vary! Another great excuse to go to Loket are the events held at their open-air amphitheater which is just below the castle – they have an annual opera festival and I saw that this year Jethro Tull will be playing there!

Loket Czechia Amphitheater open air castle
Amphitheater in Loket

The weekend was over far too quickly and we regretfully packed our bags to drive home on Sunday. When we went outside, the town was coated in a layer of snow and the sun was out, so we stopped along the road to take a few more pictures of this magical place before we had to leave.

Loket Czechia in the snow

Loket Czechia Castle in the snow

You might be interested in these other day trips in Czechia:

St. Marienthal Abbey

The St. Marienthal Abbey (Kloster St. Marienthal) is a beautiful nunnery that’s about a thirty minute drive (20 km) south from Görlitz, right on the Neiße River and the border to Poland.

The abbey was founded in 1234 and destroyed several times by fire or during war. In 1685 it was rebuilt in Baroque style, and then damaged during the flood in 1897. You can see the high water mark from the floods in 1897 and more recently in 2010 on the side of one of the buildings. The retreating German forces might have blown up the abbey at the end of WWII, but the nuns refused to leave and the building luckily survived.

Kloster St. Marienthal Abbey Ostritz
St. Marienthal Abbey
Kloster St. Marienthal Abbey Ostritz
St. Marienthal Abbey

The abbey is a cheerful pink color with green copper roofs. There are still nuns living there with regular masses as well as seminars and a meeting place for local organizations or places to stay for the night.

The abbey market has a large selection of regional gifts such as handmade crafts, beer, liquor and bread from their own bakery.

Kloster St. Marienthal Abbey Ostritz
St. Marienthal Abbey
Kloster St. Marienthal Abbey Ostritz
St. Marienthal Abbey

The breath-taking interior of the abbey has ornate patterns painted all over the ceiling. When we walked inside there were women up in the choir singing which set the mood quite well. As we walked out of the abbey, a tubby tabby came dashing through the door and between the pews. Worried about locking the cat inside the church for an unknown amount of time, I scurried after it. Fortunately it was agreeable with being picked up and cuddled a bit before being put back outside!

Abbey cat

The St. Marienthal Abbey is really lovely and worth a stop on your way south to other sites in Zittau or Oybin. Check out their website for events. There are tours of the abbey in German on Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm and from May to October every day at 3pm.

Kloster St. Marienthal Abbey Ostritz
St. Marienthal Abbey

You might be interested in reading about these other day trips around Görlitz:

 

 

Jelenia Góra – Day Trips in Poland

town hall square historic colorful houses poland jelenia góra hirschberg

Jelenia Góra is a city in Poland that’s only about an hour and forty minutes away from Görlitz by train – perfect for a day or weekend trip! The Lower Silesian city (called Hirschberg in German, which means deer mountain) funnily enough is not on a mountain, but in a valley surrounded by mountains that run along the Polish/Czech border.

Validity Area of the Euro-Neisse Ticket

We used the Euro-Neisse ticket to travel there, which I highly recommend if you are looking to explore the Dreiländereck, or tri-country-area here where Germany, Poland and Czechia meet. When viewing the website in German or Polish you can see the prices of the tickets, which allow you to travel on regional trains as well as public transportation- TIP: we discovered that the tickets are actually much cheaper if you buy them on a Polish train and not online or at the station in Görlitz!

Feast of the Holy Cross Church in Jelenia Góra

The old town of Jelenia Góra is compact and very walkable. From the train station we walked down 1 Maja past the beautiful Feast of the Holy Cross Church and the Wojanowska gate and tower, which were part of the medieval defense, and the Basilica of St. Erasmus and St. Pancras.

Market Square Jelenia Góra Old Town Hall Polish
Market Square in Jelenia Góra

My favorite part of the city was, of course, the market square with the town hall. The square is lined with cute and colorful little houses and I could picture it being a lovely place to sit outside at a cafe in the summer or even to enjoy the Christmas market.

Town Hall historic Jelenia Góra Poland
Town Hall in Jelenia Góra

We stopped to eat at a restaurant on the market square called Kucie Smaku which had hearty regional dishes – I had to try the local beer and some Kluski, which were Klöße or dumplings filled with meat!

Polish food dumplings kluski
Dumplings and local beer at Kucie Smaku in Jelenia Góra

Some other things to check out around Jelenia Góra are the neighborhood called Cieplice and Chojnik Castle. They aren’t in walking distance, but you can catch a train using your Euro-Neisse ticket. Ciepliece used to be the land belonging to the Schaffgotsches, an old noble Silesian family, and their palace can still be seen there. The neighborhood is known for its spas and promenade and is surrounded by parks.

Chojnik Castle is a ruin on top of the mountain Chojnik in a nature reserve. Each year they hold a knight’s tournament there.

If you’re looking for a weekend getaway that won’t break the bank and a cute old town surrounded by nature, visit the charming Jelenia Góra in Lower Silesia!

Here are some other wonderful places you can visit in our region that are in the area of the Euro-Neisse ticket!

Görlitz Photo Marathon 2017

I decided to take part in the first photo marathon in Görlitz during the Fotofestival 2017. We were given eight photo assignments, all having to do with the bigger theme of the festival which was “Lebenswelten” (living environments). We were told that they were looking for photos to be cohesive and have an overarching theme. When I got the photo assignments I immediately came home to brainstorm & try to come up with a theme that would set my photos apart. I decided that my photos would all be taken in the Nikolaivorstadt – my favorite neighborhood in Görlitz, where we are renovating a house. I did my best with what I had: my talent level, my equipment and the weather in Görlitz. No cell phones were allowed and we had to use a digital camera – absolutely no editing was allowed outside of the settings on your camera. The photos had to be taken in the order given, so you couldn’t go back and redo any unless you wanted to redo them all. We had six hours to finish and turn in our SD cards for judging. I (mostly) enjoyed myself – I like taking pictures of Görlitz! But it also got quite exhausting towards the last few pictures and a bit frustrating when they didn’t turn out like I’d hoped.

1. Start-Nummer fotografisch in Szene setzen. Beginne deine Serie mit deiner Startnummer. / Stage your starting number. Begin your series with your starting number.

I tried for a while to find the number thirteen in a cool style on houses in the neighborhood but quickly realized I was wasting far too much time and not finding anything so I gave up and took a picture of my lanyard with starting number hanging on the entrance gate to the Nikolaizwinger, a green path between the former city walls.

2. In jeder Stadt gibt es unzählige Türen, in Görlitz gibt es sehr viele alte Türen und Portale. Finde einen EINGANG, der dich besonders anspricht und setze ihn so in Szene, wie du es magst. / In every city there are countless doors, in Görlitz there are many old doors and portals. Find an entry that appeals to you and stage it as you like.

I took this photo inside the Nikolaifriedhof, the super old cemetery beside the Nikolai church. This is the door to a crypt. I decided afterwards that I would prefer all of my photos to be in landscape orientation but this is the best photo I had for the door theme and what I ended up going with.

3. Wasser – ist das Lebenselixier einer Stadt. Du findest es in vielfältiger Form. Stelle das Element WASSER im Bild dar. / Water is the lifeblood of a city. You can find it in many forms. Present the element WATER in your image.

I initially wanted to take pictures at a fountain near the Nikolai church but the lighting was not right and I didn’t like the pictures, so I ended up going to Ölberggarten (Mount of Olives Garden) which is part of the Heiliges Grab – Holy grave replica in Görlitz. I was happy with the amount of reflection I got at the pond in spite of the mostly overcast skies.

4. Heilige Stätten – viele mittelalterliche Kirchen zeugen von einer bewegten Vergangenheit. Sie sind aber auch Orte der STILLE. Halte einen Moment des Innehaltens und der Besinnung fest. / Sacred sites – many medieval churches testify to a turbulent past. But they are also places of SILENCE. Hold a moment for pause & reflection.

Because I had decided to focus on the Nikolaivorstadt, the choice of church was easy – the Nikolaikirche. The inside has long been used as a memorial instead of as a church, so I decided to take a picture in the graveyard because it is always so peaceful and quiet there. It happened to be quite noisy and full of people setting up for an event while I was there photographing but at least that isn’t evident in the photo I took!

5. Görlitz – die Stadt der Türme. Es gibt bestimmt an die 100 Türme und Türmchen. Türme bieten ungewöhnliche PERSPEKTIVEN. Zeige uns deinen Blick durch den Sucher! / Görlitz – the city of towers. There are certainly hundreds of towers. Towers offer unusual perspectives. Show us your view through the viewfinder!

The Nikolaiturm wasn’t open during the marathon and I thought taking a picture of it might be too obvious and what everyone would be doing. Then I realized that from our favorite little park in the Nikolaivorstadt you have a really nice view of the church towers.

6. “Wem die Zeit ist wie Ewigkeit, und Ewigkeit wie die Zeit, der ist befreit von allem Streit.” (Jakob Böhme) Fotografisch bietet sich ein Spiel mit der Verschlusszeit an. Versuche das Thema ZEIT im Bild umzusetzen. / “To whom time is as eternity , and eternity as time, is liberated from all strife.” (Jakob Böhme) Playing with shutter speed is an idea. Try to implement the topic TIME in the picture.

There are no clocks that I’m aware of in the Nikolaivorstadt so I had a hard time coming up with something for this. I decided I wanted to show the changing colors of the leaves to represent time passing. I  tried to get some pictures of the leaves falling when I dropped them to play with shutter speed but it didn’t work out how I wanted, so this is what I came up with. I actually collected the leaves and arranged them there, shh! Don’t tell anyone.

7. Görlitz – bereits seit 1869 wird das köstliche Landskron-Bier gebraut. Der Genuss gehört heute zum Lebensgefühl vieler Görlitzer. Spuren der LANDSKRON -Braumanufaktur findest du überall in der Stadt. Spüre sie auf und halte sie in einem Bild fest. / Görlitz – since 1869 the delicious Landskron beer has been brewed here. Today the enjoyment belongs to the feeling of many Görlitzer. Traces of the Landskron brewery can be found all over the city. Find them and show them in a picture.

I really don’t think there are any signs of Landskron brewery in the Nikolaivorstadt so I decided to bring a beer with me to enjoy somewhere on my long walk. This was taken inside the Nikolaizwinger.

8. Pflastermüde – das Görlitzer Kopfsteinpflaster hat es in sich. Wahrscheinlich geht es nicht nur dir so? Wie FÜHLST du dich kurz vor dem ZIEL des Marathons? Wie geht es deinen Füßen? / Tired from walking – the cobblestones of Görlitz pack a punch. Probably not just you? How do you FEEL just before reaching your end goal of the marathon? How are your feet?

I was indeed very worn out by the time I got to this picture. I felt like taking a shot of my feet on the ground was a bit too “instagrammy”, so I noticed this cool view from Steinweg, one of the prettiest and oldest streets in Görlitz. I waited until no one was around and then I laid down in the middle of the street on my belly to get this shot.

I’m glad that I participated in the photo marathon, even though some of the participants and the judges were overall more serious & professional than I anticipated. I think it would have been nice to have a few laymen on the jury in addition to the photography experts and would have made it less intimidating for more casual participants like me. It was nerve-wracking to have to take the photos in order and to not be able to touch them up at all – these are photos I normally wouldn’t post to my website without touching up a bit. I also think my theme was not apparent to the judges & feel that I would need to do something more obvious next time to stand out. You can see the winners of the marathon at this website. There were some really beautiful photos taken that made me feel out of my depth, and a few others that had me scratching my head a bit. I’m not sure if I’ll take part next year – we’ll see how I feel when the time comes!

The Untermarkt in Görlitz

The Untermarkt in Görlitz (lower market) is the older of the two main market squares in Görlitz and, in my opinion, the most beautiful spot in the city!

The Untermarkt is lined with beautiful Renaissance buildings and is divided in two by a row of buildings in the center of the square called die Zeile (the row). During warm seasons you can find people sitting out at the cafes and restaurants in the evenings, enjoying the magical atmosphere of the historic market with its cobble-stoned streets and arcades. Many of Görlitz’s festivals take place on the Untermarkt like the Tippelmarkt and Altstadtfest.

Here are a few things to be sure to look out for while you are exploring the lower market:

View of Waage and Rathausturm on Görlitz Untermarkt
The Untermarkt – The Waage and the Rathaus

Rathaus

The Rathaus (town hall) actually consists of several buildings from different time periods. The old town hall (Altes Rathaus) dates back to the Renaissance period – inside there are beautiful painted wood ceilings and you can peak into the inner courtyard with its bay window for the court.The Rathausturm (town hall tower) was built in the 16th century with elaborate clocks, dials and a lion that roars with organ pipes. If you take the tour of the tower you may be able to push the button that sets the lion roaring, like I did! But that’s not the only reason to climb to the top – the panoramic views of Görlitz from above are well worth the climb! The town hall steps are decorated with a statue of Justitia – but she is not blind, a symbol of the free jurisdiction that the city of Görlitz had.

View from the Rathausturm town hall tower in Görlitz of the Obermarkt and Landeskrone
View of Görlitz from the Rathausturm facing southwest
Clocks on the town hall tower Rathausturm in Görlitz
Clocks on the Rathausturm
Statue of Justitia on Rathaustreppe stairs to town hall in Görlitz
Justitia on the Rathaus steps
Neues Rathaus (new town hall) in Görlitz Untermarkt lower square
Neues Rathaus

The new town hall (Neues Rathaus) was built at the beginning of the 1900s in neo-Renaissance style and features the coat of arms of the Lusatian League – an alliance of six towns: Görlitz, Bautzen, Kamenz, Lauban, Löbau and Zittau. Lauban now lies in Poland and is called Lubań. This league increased the security and political influence of its member cities from 1346-1635.

From March through December there are tours of the tower Wednesday-Sunday from 11:00am-6:00pm on the hour. Tours are in German, require no reservation and cost 4€ for adults.

Schönhof

Schönhof Silesian Museum in Görlitz
The Schönhof houses the Silesian Museum
Painted wooden Renaissance ceilings inside Schönhof Görlitz Silesian Museum
Painted wooden ceilings inside the Schönhof

Schönhof is the oldest Renaissance building in Görlitz – after the city fire in 1525 it was rebuilt by the council’s master builder, Wendel Roskopf the Elder. The wooden ceilings and wall paintings inside have been preserved form the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries – that alone would make the building worth a visit, but it is also home to a fantastic collection of items housed by the Silesian Museum.

Waage

The Scales (Waage) is a Renaissance house in the middle of the Untermarkt, constructed in 1600. When goods arrived in the city they were weighed, registered and paid for here.

Untermarkt in Görlitz Waage and Ratsapotheke
Waage in the foreground and Ratsapotheke in the background

Brauner Hirsch

Brauner Hirsch Brown Deer on Görlitz Untermarkt
The Brauner Hirsch

The Brauner Hirsch (brown deer) is a baroque town house and one of the most extensive houses in the city. It used to be a hotel and brewery. The building (as well as the Untermarkt in general) is very popular with film makers, like Wes Anderson in his film Grand Budapest Hotel.

Click here see side-by-side photo comparisons of scenes from the film and locations in Görlitz.

Brauner Hirsch Gorlitz movie still Grand Budapest Hotel
Many scenes from Grand Budapest Hotel were filmed in Görlitz, this one in front of Brauner Hirsch

Ratsapotheke

The Ratsapotheke (the town apothecary) is a Renaissance building with a beautiful façade and portal rebuilt by Wendel Roskopf the Younger around 1550 for a merchant. Until 1832 it was the only pharmacy in Görlitz and today you can sit outside and enjoy a coffee and dessert in its café.

Ratsapotheke on the Untermarkt in Görlitz
The Ratsapotheke with cafe

Flüsterborgen

The “Whispering Arch”(Flüsterbogen) gets its name from a unique auditory effect – if you put your ear to one end of the arch while someone whispers into the other, you can hear them clearly at the your end. So climb up and put your ear to the arch – don’t be embarrassed, every visitor has to try it at least once!

Flüsterbogen Whispering Arch in Görlitz Untermarkt
Flüsterbogen

Schlesischer Tippelmarkt 2017

The Schlesischer Tippelmarkt in Görlitz is a Silesian pottery market where pottery makers from all over Germany come to show and sell their creations. There’s an incredible variety of different styles of pottery, something for everyone – from traditional to more modern looking pottery in many different colors & forms.

Silesia is an ethnic region that lies in present day Germany, Poland and Czech Republic. The city of Görlitz is in Lower Silesia, the Silesian flag is proudly displayed at the Tippelmarkt.

Source: Wikipedia

Tippel is the way they say Töpfe in the Silesian dialect. Töpfe means pottery in German.

Not interested in pottery? No problem! The Tippelmarkt has a lot more to offer – beginning with the traditional opening of the Tippelmarkt, when people in traditional dress, the pottery makers and the Landskron-Herolde parade down Brüderstraße. The traditional opening includes music, canon-fire, skits and Silesian dialect. I found the entire procession & opening ceremony extremely cute and entertaining.

This cute family in traditional clothes headed up the parade at the traditional opening.
The Landskron Heralds (Landskron is the local brewery in Görlitz)
Silesian Flag at the 19th Schlesischer Tippelmarkt

In addition to beautiful pottery and cultural traditions, there are -of course! – delicious things to eat and drink at the Tippelmarkt in Görlitz. There is also a program filled with scheduled performances by Silesian dance groups and musicians.

The drums were too loud for this little boy in traditional outfit

Watch this video I made of impressions from the opening ceremonies of the Tippelmarkt.

The Rathaus (Town hall) on the Untermarkt in Görlitz

This is a little souvenir I purchased at the Tippelmarkt with something written in Silesian dialect – in standard German it would be Daheim ist am schönsten. In English this means “at home is the nicest” or something like “home, sweet home”. I look forward to hanging it in my new home…someday!

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Each year the Schlesischer Tippelmarkt is celebrated in Görlitz with beautiful handmade creations & fascinating Silesian traditions. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience it yourself while you are in Görlitz!

Barockhaus Görlitz

The beautiful Barockhaus in Görlitz is home to a cultural history museum and a stunning library. The building can be found on the southeast corner of the Untermarkt and was a major trade and residential home from the baroque period. I have been meaning to visit this place and finally had the chance to this week – it’s beautiful, fascinating, and absolutely worth a stop when you are in Görlitz!

Barockhaus Baroque House Görlitz Museum

The house was built in 1729, after two breweries which stood in its place burned during a city fire. Brewing rights were only granted to the privileged at the time, so many wealthy & important citizens brewed beer. The new building was built according to new fire safety regulations for a rich canvas and damask trader from Zittau named Christian Ameiss. The house was built in the style of a Leipzig “Durchhaus”, a house with a central courtyard that goes all the way through from front to back. On the first floor of the museum you can see the home as it would have looked while the Ameiss family was living there, with beautiful baroque furnishings and artifacts. Especially lovely are the colored stucco ceilings.

In 1779 the house was acquired by Karl Gottlob von Anton, the co-founder of the Upper Lusatian Society of Sciences. It became the seat of the society in 1804 and their library and vast collections have been preserved since then. It was also home to the Freemason’s Lodge Zur gekrönten Schlange (To the crowned serpent). On the second floor you can find a “black room” used by the Freemason’s for their initiation rites, as well as many rooms full of the collections of the society members which include antique scientific instruments, illustrations, textiles, coins and archaeological finds.

Barockhaus Baroque House Görlitz Museum

The Barockhaus is also home to the most extensive library between Dresden and Wrocław and one of the most beautiful libraries that I’ve ever seen! The library has 140,000 volumes with numerous rarities and treasures, including medieval manuscripts and incunabula, which are the earliest printed books before 1501.

Barockhaus Baroque House Görlitz Upper Lusatian Science Library

The library was established by the Upper Lusatian Society of Sciences, whose members felt that the region was lacking in great libraries. They wanted to promote learning and science in Upper Lusatia and so the members donated books from their private collections. Also housed in the library is the collection of a man named Johan Gottlieb Milich, who died in 1726 without heirs and left his library to Görlitz with the stipulation that his collection be made available for public use.

The oldest book in the library’s collection is a handwritten codex from the 11th century. The library also has an extensive collection of Jakob Böhme’s works, a famous mystic who lived in Görlitz.  During WWII many important works were transferred to the eastern part of Görlitz, across the Neiße River, for protection from air raids. After the war ended, this area that was once Germany became Poland and the books were not returned to the library. You can now find many of these important works in Wrocław. In 1945 the Upper Lusatian Society of Sciences was dissolved by the Soviets. Since 1950 the house and its collections have been the property of the city of Görlitz.

The unique and beautiful large book hall was arranged with beech shelves in the middle of the room, instead of along the walls. This was meant to emulate the look of a stage. The only adornment in the room are the lovely old books, which are the stars of the show. Today the hall, characterized by its simplicity, is one of the most beautiful library spaces in the world!

Old Books German Bindings Barockhaus Görlitz Baroque House

This museum and especially the beautiful library are not to be missed! The museum in the Barockhaus is also English-friendly with most of the descriptions translated. The museum is open Tuesday – Sunday and admission is €5. Currently there is a guided tour of the library every Monday at 11am. Find out more on their website.