Stolpersteine

The German word Stolperstein means stumbling stone, and today you may “stumble” over one of these 70,000 small brass stones placed all over Germany as well as Europe. This is a project initiated by German artist Gunter Demnig in 1992 to commemorate victims of the Nazis at their last place of residency or work. Most stones remember Jewish victims of the Holocaust, but there are also stones remembering other groups or individuals persecuted and murdered by the Nazis. When you “stumble” over the 10 x 10 cm stones while walking by, it’s meant to make you stop and think about the impact of Nazi terror and the lives that were destroyed.

In Görlitz, the first stones were placed in 2007. As of 2018, there are 21 Stolpersteine commemorating the victims of Nazi terror in Görlitz, and in the future we will probably have more.  Engraved on the stones is usually the text “Here lived/worked….” with their name and their fate, if known.

On November 9th each year, Germany commemorates the November pogrom in 1938, coordinated attacks carried out against Jews throughout Nazi Germany in which their homes, businesses and synagogues were looted and destroyed and many Jews were arrested or murdered.

In Görlitz in 2018, this date was commemorated through several events, including a tour of the Stolpersteine in our city that I participated in. It was after taking part in this tour that I felt compelled to seek out all the information that I could about the 21 people commemorated and to share this information with you about the Stolpersteine in Görlitz:


Stolperstein for Eugen Bass in Görlitz, Luisenstraße 21

Eugen Bass was a veterinarian who was born in Berlin but lived in Görlitz at Luisenstraße 21.  His stone was placed there in 2007. In 1930 he published a book “Der Praktische Tierarzt” (The Practical Veterinarian). He was first sent to the Jewish ghetto in Tormersdorf, today a deserted village north of Görlitz on the Polish side of the Neisse River. In 1942 he was deported to Theresienstadt, today Terezín in Czechia. Theresienstadt was not an extermination camp, but the conditions there were appalling. Eugen Bass died there at the age of 80.


Stolpersteine for Paul and Jenny Boehm in Görlitz, Vogtshof

The artist Paul Boehm and his sister Jenny Boehm were both born in Breslau (Wrocław, Poland) and lived in the Vogtshof in Görlitz beside the Peterskirche where their stones were placed in 2007 near the entrance. Paul died in the Jewish ghetto of Tormersdorf at the age of 74, his sister Jenny was deported to Theresienstadt in 1942 and murdered at the extermination camp Treblinka.

Vogtshof in Görlitz

Stolpersteine for Sigmund and Betty Fischer in Görlitz, Demianiplatz 25

Sigmund Fischer and his wife Betty Fischer were textile dealers in Görlitz. They owned and operated the Textilhaus Fischer on Bismarckstraße, which was plundered and damaged during the November pogrom in 1938. They lived at Demianiplatz 25 and today when the doors are unlocked, you can step inside the entryway and read information about the Fischers and their descendants on the walls. Their stones were placed there in 2007. Betty was born in Görlitz, her husband Sigmund was born in Aussee (Usov in Czechia). They were both deported to Theresienstadt in 1942. Betty died there at the age of about 62, while Sigmund was murdered in Auschwitz in 1944 at the age of about 65.


Stolpersteine for Erich, Charlotte and Werner Oppenheimer in Görlitz, Jakobstraße 3

Erich Oppenheimer and his wife Charlotte Oppenheimer lived with their son Werner Oppenheimer at Jakobstraße 3 in Görlitz. Erich and Charlotte’s stones were placed there in 2007 and their son Werner’s later in 2012. Erich was a doctor born in Berlin and his wife was born in Görlitz Moys, now a neighborhood in Zgorzelec. All three were sent to the ghetto in Tormersdorf in 1942. Erich and Charlotte committed suicide by drowning themselves in the Neisse River to avoid being deported at the ages of about 48 and 46. Their son, about 21 years of age, was sent to the ghetto in Lublin in 1942. His fate is unknown.


Stolpersteine for Hugo, Robert and Elsbeth Schaye in Görlitz, Salomonstraße 41

Hugo Schaye lived at Salomonstraße 41 in Görlitz with his wife Elsbeth Schaye and son Robert Schaye. Their stones were placed there in 2007. Hugo and Elsbeth Schaye owned a hide and fur trade in the neighborhood of Rauschwalde. Hugo was born in Görlitz but his wife was from Bernsee. They were deported to Theresienstadt in 1942 and died there at the ages of about 78 and 71,while their son was sent east and murdered in the concentration camp Madjanek at the age of about 47.


Stolpersteine for Carl and Hans Jacobsohn in Görlitz, Bismarckstraße 16

Carl Jacobsohn and his son Hans Jacobsohn lived at Bismarckstraße 16 in Görlitz, where their stones were placed in 2012. Carl was born in Gollub and Hans was born in Görlitz. They both fled to Holland in 1938 but were sent to Auschwitz in 1944 and murdered there at the ages of about 67 and 35. Their son and brother Walter Jacobsohn escaped and lives today in Israel.


Stolpersteine for Fritz and Käthe Warschawski in Görlitz, Postplatz 10

Dr. Fritz Warschawski, a dentist, and his wife Käthe Warschawki were wealthy and influential citizens in Görlitz. Sensing that life was becoming increasingly dangerous for them in Germany, they fled in secrecy to Palastine in 1938.  Their grandson wants to remember his grandparents, who lived at Postplatz 10 in Görlitz where their stones were placed in 2012. Käthe struggled to cope after fleeing to a strange new country and killed herself in 1935.


Stolpersteine for Paul and Margarete Arnade in Görlitz, Jakobstraße 31

Paul Arnade and his wife Margarete Arnade owned and operated a suitcase and leather goods factory in Görlitz, which Paul’s father Julius Arnade founded in 1872. The factory was on Peterstraße until it was destroyed in a fire in 1876. Arnade took the opportunity to start a larger factory in Görlitz Moys. His business profited from a prosperous economy and increase in tourism. Julius Arnade died in 1915 and his tombstone can be found in the Jewish Cemetery in Görlitz. Paul and Margarete, both born in Görlitz, took over the business after his death and lived at Jakobstraße 31 in Görlitz. Their stones were placed there in 2014. Paul became chairman of the tourism association in Görlitz, but was pressured to resign in 1933 because he was Jewish. In 1936 the family was forced to sell the factory for a paltry sum. In 1941 both Paul and Margarete were sent to the ghetto in Tormersdorf. Paul and Margarete were both deported to Theresienstadt in 1942 where he died at the age of about 68. Margarete was murdered in Auschwitz in 1944 at the age of about 58.


Stolperstein for Martin Ephraim in Görlitz, Zittauer Straße 64

Martin Ephraim was born in Görlitz. His father, Lesser Ephraim, founded a successful ironmongery trading business. After it outgrew its premises on the Neißstraße in Görlitz, he acquired property on Jakobstraße 5. Today, you can see the initials EG on the beautiful ornate golden door, standing for Ephraim Görlitz. After Lesser Ephraim’s death in 1900, Martin Ephraim took over the business. Lesser Ephraim’s gravestone can be found in the Jewish Cemetery in Görlitz. Martin Ephraim had a villa built on Goethestraße 17 – one of the first houses in Görlitz built in art nouveau style. The villa was a youth hostel for many years and is now a hotel.

Martin Ephraim was a public benefactor who made huge contributions to Görlitz both culturally and commercially. He donated art collections to museums and helped to build the Ruhmeshalle (Dom Kultury) and the New Synagogue and to rebuild the railway station in Görlitz. His Stolperstein was placed outside of the office of the factory manager’s house on Zittauer Straße 64 in 2014. In 1944 at the age of 84 he was deported to the ghetto in Theresienstadt and he died there the same year.

Jakobstraße 5
Today the Ephraim Villa on Goethestraße 17 is a hotel

Stolpersteine for Wilhelm and Elsbeth Ucko in Görlitz, Elisabethstraße 10/11

Elsbeth Ucko and her son Wilhelm Ucko, both born in Görlitz, had a photo studio at Elisabethstraße 10/11, where their stones were placed in 2018. Her husband had died earlier in WWI. In 1944 at the age of about 63 Elsbeth was deported to the ghetto Litzmannstadt (Łódź) where she died. Her son Wilhelm was deported to Theresienstadt in 1944 but he survived and went to Sweden.


Stolperstein for Alfons Wachsmann in Görlitz, Struvestraße 19

Alfons Wachsmann, born in Berlin, studied theology and was ordained as a priest in Breslau in 1921. From 1921-1924 he was the chaplain of the parish of the Holy Cross Church in Görlitz on Struvestraße 19, where his stone was placed in 2018. Alfons Wachsmann took an early stand against National Socialism, using his pulpit to criticize and speak out against the regime. He was declared an enemy of the state and his calls and correspondence were monitored. In 1943 he was arrested and sentenced to death. In 1944 they executed him at the age of 48.

The Heilig-Kreuz-Kirche in Görlitz

The 21 stones scattered around Görlitz remind us of the 21 lives that were destroyed by National Socialism. Some of them are well-remembered as influential citizens of Görlitz, and some of them were “average” people who left little behind to remember them by. One thing they all have in common – their lives were cruelly taken away from them. These stones remind us of the history everywhere we walk. So if you’re in Görlitz, and you happen to stumble upon one of these small brass stones, take a moment to think about what was lost.

Frýdlant – Day Trips in Czechia

I continue to be amazed by the many interesting and beautiful places that surround Görlitz, and Frýdlant in Czechia is no exception. We recently had a friend from the U.S. visiting us and he wanted to “check off” as many countries from his bucket list as possible. I told him that Görlitz was the perfect place for that, because we are so close to Poland and Czechia. Crossing Poland off the list was simple, since it only required a walk across the bridge. But we didn’t have a lot of time to go to Czechia, so I started looking at the map and saw that there was a small town called Frýdlant just a forty minute drive by car from Görlitz (about 30 km). I noticed that there was a castle and a brewery there, but I knew nothing else about the town before arriving. Sometimes it’s more fun that way! But I discovered that Frýdlant is a charming little town with a castle full of treasures, and the Duke who owned it became embroiled in a feud with Görlitz in the 14th century resulting in a gift to the city.

View of the Castle Frýdlant from the brewery
Castle Frýdlant
Castle Frýdlant

Frýdlant (sometimes also called Frýdlant v Čechách to avoid confusing it with the other Frýdlant nad Ostravicí in eastern Czechia) is a town in the district of Liberec in Bohemia, near the border of Poland with a population of about 7,600. The area, which is near the Jizera Mountains and on the Smědá River, was probably settled beginning in the 6th century by Sorbian tribes from Lusatia, while the castle in Frýdlant made its first appearance in the history books in the 13th century when it was acquired by Rulko of Bieberstein. The castle sits perched atop a hill above the river in the center of town, and has known many different owners over the course of time.

Important trade routes crossed through the area, including those to Görlitz and Lusatia. From Görlitz one could get on the Via Regia, or Royal Highway, which ran west-east through the Holy Roman Empire.  Bieberstein had a moat and curtain walls built to further protect the castle, but it was still raided several times during the Hussite Wars (1419-1434). The originally gothic castle was rebuilt into the style of a Renaissance chateau.

Frýdlant Castle
Frýdlant Castle

The castle in Frýdlant changed hands many times over the centuries due to death, politics, assassination and intrigue. Some of the famous people that owned it were the families Bieberstein and Redern, or Albrecht Wallenstein, a prominent military leader during the Thirty Years War who was later assassinated for treachery. But one of the owners worth mentioning here, because of his relevance to the history of Görlitz, is Friedrich von Bieberstein. He was a baron and one of the most powerful men in the kingdom of Bohemia, he also owned the castles Landeskrone and Tauchritz. In 1349 von Bieberstein became involved in a feud with the city of Görlitz.

The cause of the feud was a warrant for the arrest of a thief and general mischief-maker named Nitsche von Rackwitz. Görlitz wanted to lock him up, and they knew him to be a vassal of von Bieberstein, so the city sent a delegation to Tauchritz to demand the delivery of the criminal Nitsche, but von Bieberstein refused to hand him over. The delegation decided enough was enough, and they rode with an armed crew to the castle Frýdlant, where they suspected Rackwitz was staying, and they stormed the castle to capture and arrest him. Von Bieberstein anticipated this move, however, and he met the armed crew there and ordered his guards to slay them as enemy invaders. Two men from Görlitz lost their lives at the castle, the rest of the men ran but the guards caught up with them in the square and left five more dead.

Naturally, this angered the people of Görlitz, and they demanded some recompense for the lives lost in the pursuit of justice. After much negotiating, von Bieberstein agreed to pay Görlitz 200 Shock (the coin currency used at the time), so that a church could be built for the salvation of the seven slain men from Görlitz. That church is the Frauenkirche, which today stands beside the Kaufhaus in Görlitz. Read more about the Frauenkirche here. 

The Frauenkirche in Görlitz

Today the castle Frýdlant (Zámek Frýdlant) is open for tours and contains an incredible collection of original decorations, furniture and historical artifacts since it escaped damage or raiding after WWII. If you tour the castle you will see the Countess’ and children’s rooms preserved with decorations and contents, an exhibit on  Albrecht von Wallenstein, an armory containing thousands of historic weapons dating from the Hussite period up to the 19th century, the chapel of St. Anne which has both a Catholic and Protestant altar, the uniforms of staff at the castle, an impressive antique pipe collection, and a working kitchen. I am used to visiting castles that are beautiful from the outside, but quite empty inside as a result of war and looting, so I was quite blown away by the historical treasures this castle contains. The castle interior can only be visited during a guided tour – we took a tour in Czech language but were given a script to read along in German and English.  I can only show you pictures of the exterior of the castle and the kitchen, as photography wasn’t allowed inside. You will just have to go and see it for yourself!

Kitchen in Castle Frýdlant
Kitchen in Castle Frýdlant
Castle Frýdlant

The town square in Frýdlant is small but charming, lined with colorful houses and the town hall building which was erected in 1893 according to plans by the Viennese architect Franz Neumann. Located inside of the town hall is a city museum with archaeological and historical exhibits. The square is named after Thomas Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia after independence from the Austro-Hungarian monarchy in 1918. The town of Frýdlant, with a majority German population, became part of the newly-founded country. Masaryk was one of the first politicians to voice concern at the rise of Hitler, but he didn’t live to see the Nazi occupation of his country in 1938. After WWII ended, the Germans living in the area were expelled and replaced by Czech settlers.

Town square in Frýdlant
Statue of Albrecht von Wallenstein in Frýdlant town square
Frýdlant Town Hall
Frýdlant Town Hall
Church of the Holy Cross in Frýdlant

Just south of the town square is the Church of the Holy Cross (Kostel Nalezení svatého Kříže), which was built in the 16th century by Italian architects contracted by the Bieberstein family, and today has a mixture of architectural styles due to renovations over the years. The church contains the tombs of the family Redern.

North of the town square you will see a small half-timbered home hidden away on Zahradní, a tiny side street. This, one of the oldest buildings in town, is called the Bethlehem House and inside is an amazing construction – a moving, mechanical nativity scene. The man who created it, Gustav Simon, dedicated 60 years of his life to the construction. Today you can visit for a very small fee, make sure to peek underneath to see how all the figures are moved by string. Every so often they have to crank the machine to wind it up again. Watch the video below to see the nativity scene in motion:

We enjoyed a traditional meal and Czech beer at the restaurant U Wéwody fridlantského near the town square, and also stopped by Pivovar Frýdlant, the historic castle brewery that was built at the request of the Emperor Ferdinand I and has been restored today to a microbrewery. You should stop here not only to taste their Albrecht beer, named after castle occupant Albrecht von Wallenstein, but for the great view of the castle sitting atop the hill.

Bethlehem House in Frýdlant
Restaurant U Wéwody fridlantského in Frýdlant
Albrecht beer from the microbrewery in Frýdlant

On the way out of town we stopped at an observation tower, Rozhledna Frýdlant, which you can climb for a nice view of the town and the area. While we were there they were having some kind of marathon and at the tower they were grilling and playing live music. There were many hiking trails here and people out enjoying the unusually sunny and warm autumn weather.

I was really impressed by this small town that I had never heard of: a castle stuffed full of beautiful treasures, an intriguing historical link to Görlitz, and all just a forty minute drive away! Discovering places like this in the area are a big part of why I absolutely love living in Görlitz and can’t wait to discover more.

Lookout tower Rozhledna Frýdlant

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

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

 

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!

Grand Budapest Görlitz

Last week I had a tour of the Brauner Hirsch (brown elk) in Görlitz, a massive former hotel on the Untermarkt that is now a popular filming location. Görlitz has acquired the nickname Görliwood because it’s featured so frequently in films. I always knew that the Kaufhaus in Görlitz was featured in the film The Grand Budapest Hotel directed by Wes Anderson, but I didn’t realize how many other scenes from the film also took place in Görlitz! I hurried home from the tour and finally watched the movie – yes, I’m embarrassed to admit that I’d never seen it – and was shocked that almost every scene in the film was a place that I recognized from my new home town! This is a tour of the city of Görlitz, as seen in the film!

The most well-known scenes filmed in Görlitz were the interior shots of the Grand Budapest Hotel lobby, which were filmed inside the gorgeous Kaufhaus in Görlitz. There are plans to reopen it as a store in the future.

An early scene where the author, played by Tom Wilkinson, is in his study was filmed inside the Brauner Hirsch in Görlitz. You can still see the funky wallpaper left behind by the film crew.

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The scene where Jopling, played by Willem Defoe, pays a visit to the sister with the wooden leg was filmed in the courtyard at the Brauner Hirsch in Görlitz.

This kitchen scene from inside Madame D’s (Tilda Swinton’s) palace was filmed inside the Brauner Hirsch in Görlitz.

Zero’s tiny room (played by Tony Revolori) at the Grand Budapest Hotel was also filmed inside the Brauner Hirsch in Görlitz.

Agatha’s room (played by Saoirse Ronan) in the attic above Mendl’s was filmed in the attic of the Brauner Hirsch in Görlitz.

A few bath scenes from The Grand Budapest Hotel were also filmed in the former baths of the Brauner Hirsch in Görlitz.

The interior shots of the convent in the film where shot inside the Dreifaltigkeitskirche on the Obermarkt in Görlitz. Click to read more about this beautiful church.

This scene of another hotel concierge was filmed in front of the Schönhof in Görlitz, a beautiful renaissance building that now houses the Silesian Museum.

This scene outside the convent was filmed in front of the Brauner Hirsch on the Untermarkt in Görlitz.

This enchanting carousel scene featuring the characters Agatha and Zero was filmed on Langenstraße in Görlitz, in front of the former restaurant Zum Flyn’s.

In this scene featuring the Lobby Boy, Zero, you can spot the Nikolaiturm in the background – I live just down the street from this tower.

This street scene where Agatha is riding her bike was filmed in the Fischmarkt in Görlitz. The building on the right is a great restaurant called Gambrinus and the tower is the Dreifaltigkeitskirche.

This scene was filmed on Bruderstraße, between the Obermarkt and Untermarkt in Görlitz. In the background you can see the Reichenbacher Turm.

This scene is several different buildings from the Untermarkt stitched together. On the left is the stairs to the town hall, in the center is the portal to the Ratsapotheke and on the right is the Scales building on the Untermarkt.

This scene inside the hotel Grand Budapest was filmed inside the Stadthalle in Görlitz.

In the beginning of the film when the girl is visiting the grave of the author, they show a wall which can be found on Bergstraße in Görlitz and the background features several of the city’s towers.

Nearby Filming Locations

There were also several locations in the film The Grand Budapest Hotel that can be found near Görlitz.

The scene when Zero and Agatha marry takes place in Sächsische Schweiz (Saxon Switzerland National Park), which is a popular hiking destination near the border with the Czech Republic.

The scene with the lone phone booth in the middle of nowhere was filmed in the nearby Königshainer Berge.

The interior of the sweet shop Mendl’s where Agatha works was filmed inside the Molkerei in Dresden, a beautiful milk shop that is covered with hand-painted tiles.

When you visit Görlitz, it’s easy to see why it is such a popular location for films, The Grand Budapest Hotel being just one of many. It has a variety of well-preserved, historic buildings from all different time periods as well as some buildings that look “old”, in spite of many of the buildings having been restored. Görlitz is very proud of their nickname Görliwood and they go out of the way to make it easy and attractive for film makers to feature our beautiful city.

The Kaufhaus is currently open to visitors on Thursday and Friday from 3pm-6pm.

Tours of the Brauner Hirsch in Görlitz during the summer are offered on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month at 4pm. The price is €4 and it lasts about one hour.

The tourist office i-Vent also offers tours showing locations where movies and television shows were filmed in Görlitz. These tours are offered in German, check the website for more information. 

Frauenkirche – Churches in Görlitz

The Frauenkirche in Görlitz sits right in the center of the city, surrounded by the tram, the famous Kaufhaus and a shopping center. It wasn’t always in such a crowded spot, however. When the church was first built in the 1300s, it was outside of the city walls.

Frauenkirche in 1684 Source: Wikipedia

The Frauenkirche is the youngest of the pre-Reformation churches in Görlitz. The three-naved Protestant church was first likely a wood structure and then eventually rebuilt in late Gothic style.

In 1349, Görlitz asked a powerful local lord, Friedrich von Bieberstein, for help. He ruled over parts of Bohemia and had a castle in Friedland (now Frydlant in Czechia). The town of Görlitz needed help apprehending and arresting a “disturber of the peace” named Nitsche von Rackwitz. They asked the lord for help and it was promised, but when no help came, some armed citizens decided to take matters into their own hands.

They tracked down von Rackwitz and found him hiding on von Bieberstein’s lands. But when Bieberstein found out that the men from Görlitz were on his land, he declared them invaders and had them attacked by his men. Seven of the men from Görlitz died.

The city of Görlitz was very upset about this betrayal. After some back-and-forth, von Bieberstein decided to try to make amends by funding the building of a new church, the Frauenkirche. It would be a hospital church outside of the city walls with a graveyard. However, the money he gave was insufficient and the building stalled until the plague came along, making the completion of the church and its graveyard more urgent.

The Frauenkirche was never the most popular church in the city, the Peterskirche was inside the city walls and had a large congregation. However the church grew in importance after the extension of the city in 1840 to the south. The wall surrounding the church and the graveyard were removed to make way for the extension, a few gravestones remain on the outer church walls today.

In 1989 during the peaceful revolution in East Germany, the Frauenkirche was the first church in the city to hold prayers for peace, a weekly meeting of people on Monday who would meet and then march peacefully, protesting the East German government.

The church is very simple inside and out with three aisles, vaulted ceilings and high windows. The organ which was added in the 1970s had to be renovated recently. During renovations, 500 year old graffiti was found in the room behind the organ on the walls, probably left behind by pilgrims. They are similar to the markings on the Holy Grave in Görlitz, another popular place of pilgrimage.

Although the Frauenkirche isn’t the most beautiful church in Görlitz, it has a fascinating history and still has highly attended services and concerts. The church is open seven days a week until 6pm to visitors and entrance is free. Permission to take photographs costs €1.50.

Click here to find out more about the other historic churches in Görlitz!