Things to Do

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!

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. 

Birds’ Wedding – Sorbian Traditions

Lusatia is a region that is found in the area where Germany, Poland and Czech Republic meet and is home to the ethnic group of Lusatian Sorbs. The city of Görlitz lies in this region.

Today is Vogelhochzeit

There is a cute tradition celebrated in this region called “Vogelhochzeit” (or birds’ wedding) that takes place each year on January 25th.

There is also a popular children’s song called “Vogelhochzeit” that tells the story of the wedding of two birds: a male thrush (die Drossel) and a female blackbird (die Amsel).

On the evening of the 24th of January, children put plates out on windowsills or in front of doors with the hopes that the birds will leave some of the treats from their wedding behind. In the morning they find sweets and baked goods in the shape of birds and birds’ nests on the plate.

Naturally, once I heard about this tradition I had to rush out to the bakery to purchase some bird-related treats. I was sadly too belatedly informed to put a plate out so that my treats could be delivered by the birds instead!

Treats from the birds’ wedding

Old Town Festival Görlitz 2016

The 22nd Altstadtfest (old town festival) in Görlitz has come and gone. This was my second time at the festival and we attended on Friday evening. The first time was nine years ago (!) when we had just moved to Germany to live in Dresden for two years. Somehow I feel like those two years went by in a blur of homesickness & confusion, so I was very excited to get to experience the festival again this year!

View from the Ferris Wheel at the Altstadtfest
View from the Ferris Wheel at the Altstadtfest

I planned out the things I wanted to see, do and eat and dragged my semi-willing husband and Schwager (brother-in-law) along for my program. We were lucky to have beautiful weather and the sun was shining when we arrived at the festival quite early. We started by just generally checking things out and catching the traditional Anblasen at the Untermarkt, the start of the festival with the blowing of horns. There were many people dressed up in middle-ages or renaissance style costumes and vendors were selling things like local products & art, costumes, & toy swords for the kids. Next we headed to the Altstadtbrücke (old town bridge) to see the opening of the festival with the mayors of Görlitz and Zgorzelec and the firing of the cannons. The bridge was crowded with people and they spoke about the partnership between the two cities, releasing balloons that were in the colors of the German and Polish flags. In Zgorzelec they also had a festival coinciding with the Altstadtfest, the Jakuby fest. Jakub Böhme is a prominent figure in the history of Görlitz/Zgorzelec, so if you are at the festival next year make sure to cross the bridge so you don’t miss this part of the celebration!

Onlookers waiting for the cannon firing along the Neiße
Onlookers waiting for the cannon firing along the Neiße

After that we were ready to try some food and drink. The beer was flowing freely in our group of three and so I stood in line to try a Heurekaner, which was a pocket of bread filled with cheese and ham and topped with sour cream. My husband had a huge piece of meat on a skewer. For dessert I had Quarkbällchen, fried balls of quark dipped in sugar. Both were delicious!

Next on my agenda was to ride the Riesenrad (ferris wheel) for beautiful views of Görlitz. We even rode twice because the view was so nice! Beware – if you are not riding with someone very young or elderly they will give your car on the ferris wheel a good spin before you go up! Luckily I did not become ill and lose any of my Quarkbällchen.

Moments from the 22nd Altstadtfest
Moments from the 22nd Altstadtfest

The next thing we did was to catch one of the many live musical acts at the festival. We headed to the stage at Untermarkt and saw the band Triple Trouble play. They were a three man group and I was very excited to see that one of them was playing the banjo! If you don’t know, I have just started learning to play the banjo this year, so this made me very happy. The band was hilarious and I felt proud for understanding all of the jokes they told inbetween playing many well-known cover songs. I can remember when we first came here in 2007 not being able to understand such things, so it’s nice to relish in my hard-earned German abilities! I enjoyed the band so much that I purchased their CD and will be following them to see where they play next.

Because of our jet lag we did not celebrate as heartily as we might have but now I expect to be able to go to the Altstadtfest every year and look forward to the 23rd (and my third) festival in 2017! It’s a great experience to see all of Görlitz out enjoying the beautiful sights, weather and entertainment. And entrance to the festival is completely free! To support the Altstadtfest you can buy collectible pins, there were two on offer this year. The gold pin cost €10 and the colored pin cost €5. I look forward to collecting more!

Collectible pins from the 2016 Altstadtfest
Collectible pins from the 2016 Altstadtfest

Resources:
Altstadtfest Görlitz
Triple Trouble

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Landeskrone – Görlitz Landmark

The Landeskrone, one of the most famous landmarks of Görlitz, is a 420m (1380 ft) high extinct volcano located in the neighborhood of Biesnitz southwest of the city center. Visible basalt rocks show the evidence of its vulcanic past.

My in-laws live within walking distance. Since I was jetlagged while visiting them and wide awake at 4am, I decided to scurry up to the top to watch the sunrise.

View of the Landeskrone from Biesnitz
View of the Landeskrone from Biesnitz

You can reach the Landeskrone by taking Tram #2 all the way to the end station Landeskrone or you can park at the base. Once you have reached the base, you can either take a path that goes all the way around the base of the Landeskrone, or you can take the stairs that go up to the summit.

There is a road going up but you are not allowed to take your car. You can, however, arrange to be picked up by the hotel on top of the Landeskrone beforehand.

Once at the top you reach the Burghotel and Restaurant. The trees are thick here – in order to get the amazing views in all directions you need to climb to the top of the lookout tower. If the weather and/or timing is right you’ll be blessed with a gorgeous view like this:

View from the Landeskrone at Sunrise
View from the Landeskrone at Sunrise

Archaeological digs have found evidence of fortifying walls on the Landeskrone dating back to around 900. During the High Middle Ages a castle was built atop the Landeskrone and it was owned by wealthy noblemen from Lusatia and Silesia. Because of Görlitz’s location along the Via Regia, the Landeskrone also served as part of the defense system. (The Via Regia was a royal highway during the Middle Ages that connected east and west Europe and stretched from present-day Spain to Kiev). In 1440 when the city of Görlitz came into possession of the castle, they had it razed. After that it was used as vantage point during the Seven Years’ War and the Austro-Prussian War.

On the way down I was in less of a hurry, so I wandered along different smaller paths to see where they would take me. I stumbled upon a large column that I later learned is the Bismarcksäule, a large column which was erected in honor of Otto von Bismarck in 1901. The column was renovated in 1995. It was lined with empty beer bottles when I visited it, indicating that it’s a popular spot to sit and take in the view while enjoying a cold one. Unfortunately it was too early and I didn’t bring any beer with me. Maybe next time! But I will definitely be bringing my empties back down with me.

Bismarcksäule on the Landeskrone
Bismarcksäule on the Landeskrone

 

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