Heading to Gorlitz, we knew temperatures were going to soar in the next few days. After a week of touring, we were ready to relax a bit and the sleepy town of Gorlitz was just the answer.
Gorlitz is on the German-Poland border, split along the river (a natural border to Poland) after WWII, its downtown is in Germany and its suburbs are actually in Poland. It’s a quaint little undiscovered town. We arrived in town in time for dinner—and our hotel (Three Legged Hound) had a restaurant and a playground next door, so we ordered dinner and Dan took Nathan to burn off some energy at the playground. We had ice cream, Nathan played with the toys in the lobby and we headed for bed early-our room was beyond hot and we knew we were in for a long night.
I wrote about our hot attic room in my hotel review, but just to clarify-the hotel was great but the attic room in the summer offered no breeze and I would recommend asking for another floor. Also, the bells from the church rang A LOT. So we knew we would be up early and wanted Nathan to get a decent night’s sleep.
The next day we all woke up in a sweat nice and early and headed out for our Rick Steves walk of the town (yes, all my info and history on my blogs pretty much comes from his books). We headed to Marienplatz which is the home of the now defunct Hertie Department Store. This place reminded me of “Life After People.” It was built in 1913 but went bankrupt in 2009, the building just stands there empty-but you can see inside its gorgeous lobby from the little perfume shop-there is a little open door you can sneak a peak. It’s beautiful and abandoned.
We headed into the Church of the Trinity, this is the location of the church bells with the history I described in my hotel review (bells ring at 53 past the hour to remember the cloth and brewmakers that fought against the corrupt city council in the 16th century-they were tricked by council who made the clock go off at 53 past the hour instead of midnight, so they thought it was safe to leave the church after their secret meetings. They walked into a trap and were executed.
Here are some pictures of the church:
The most interesting bit of information to me, this town has a secret benefactor. Every year since 1993 $665,000 is donated to the city for renovation projects, and no one knows who it is!
At the end of town there is a bridge you can walk across to be in Poland. We decided we had not had enough Polish food so we decided to have lunch at the Piwnica Staromiejska. I had delicious borscht again, Nathan had more apple blintzes, and I had perogis that were fried (which made them too dry). I can’t remember what Dan had but dessert was an ice cream sundae!
We had a beautiful view of Gorlitz and the river and afterwards Nathan played in their playground in the courtyard for an hour (they had a little ball pool and his knees were literally black with dirt…but he had fun!)
Dinner that night was at Die Destille-I had really delicious venison with apfelrot (purple apple cabbage) and potatoes—it was pretty tasty! I have a picture of Dan’s food, but I don’t recall what it was. We sat outside and took in the atmosphere (even Nathan behaved and ate all his spaghetti!)
We had more ice cream and played with the toys in the lobby and headed back to the room for our second shower of the day because it was that hot. Bedtime was another torturous exercise and Dan was up by 5 AM because he was too warm to sleep. To say we were eager to leave Gorlitz would be an understatement-and not because we disliked it-we just needed relief!!!!
We had decided to extend our trip by a day to avoid 98 degrees at our house with no AC, so we detoured to Leipzig and booked a Radisson Blu-with all the amenities!! (Let’s be honest, I only cared about Breakfast, AC and internet). We got to town and our room was actually ready and it was only 1PM!
We settled in and headed to find grub-at the student plaza. This is a college town and we wanted cheap and easy. This place-called Moritzbastei was underground making it nice and cool as well. We had yummy egg salad sandwiches and another ice cream sundae.
Afterwards, we decided to take our usual walk around the town and check it out. It was kind of warm so we didn’t really want to spend the whole day outside. Leipzig is the hometown of Bach, Martin Luther, Mendelssohn and Angela Merkel, so it has a long cultural history. While we were walking around the massive shopping pedestrian area we noticed it was nothing like a typical European cobblestoned center, it had large walkways and tons of shopping. We read that in the 19th Century, the medieval town center was torn down to make it wider and bigger. During WWII, the town wasn’t destroyed but it was abandoned, neglected and damaged. Apparently, there was a coal mine on the outskirts of town and you literally couldn’t wear white in the 80’s because your clothes would turn gray quickly.
In 1989, Liepzig was at the heart of the “Peaceful Revolution” to overturn the Communist regime, and in just 20 years, Liepzig went from being an old neglected city to a young, vibrant and clean place to live.
We ran into a fountain and decided to let Nathan be a German (meaning shoes off and into the fountain he goes!), I left his clothes on and he got soaked splashing in the fountain with other kids.
Also, a giant Polar Bear (That looked freakishly real) was walking around on all fours both scaring and delighting small children (It was for GreenPeace). Nathan both loved and hated the polar bear, but he managed to give it a kiss before he became terrified.
Since we basically ran out of clothes for Nathan and he soaked his last pair of shorts in a stinky fountain, we ran out and got him another pair for the next day (hot weather and wet clothes= not being able to wear clothes twice). So we did a little shopping, found a Starbucks-YAY!!!-and then headed to the room to cool down for awhile.
Dan read up on the town during our break and wanted to see a few more sites after we ate dinner, so we decided to grab food at a currywurst stand we saw earlier. Nothing is quite as german as a good currywurst, and this did not disappoint!
Afterwards, we headed over to St. Thomas Church-Martin Luther’ s home to the Protestant revolution and Johann Bach’s home church. Bach was head cantor from 1723-1750, writing cantatas every week and he is supposedly buried here. (His body was moved here after they discovered what they thought was possibly his body, so no one is really certain it’s him). Martin Luther came here in 1539 to perform Liepzig’s first Protestant Service. We didn’t go in the church because it was closed for the evening, but it’s gorgeous on the outside.
Felix Mendelssohn, a Jewish composer, moved to Liepzig at age 26, and he alone was responsible for popularizing Bach’s work, 100 years after Bach’s death. Because he was Jewish, Nazi’s tore down the original statue in the town but a copy was made and erected in 2008.
We then headed over to the Memorial of the Great Community Synagogue. Built in 1855 and destroyed by the Nazi’s in 1938, this memorial features 140 empty chairs in place of what was once a thriving Jewish community. The symbolism of the empty chairs forces you to think about standing up for those that cannot, which is why the chairs are empty. It’s a nice memorial designed for reflection.
Then we headed to Augustplatz so we could go to the top of the MDR building for some awesome views of the city.
And that’s it! From a thriving Krakow, to a concentration camp, to a quaint border town, to a non-touristed Polish working town, our week long trip to Poland and other parts of Germany was an enriching and cultural experience.
And Nathan loved all of it! Well, most of it…