The 2nd Sunday every year is reserved for a special event: European Heritage Day. This day is celebrated all over Europe (with a different number of activities in each town :-)).
This day shall keep the rich architectural heritage of Europe to the citizen's mind. You can visit outstanding sites with fascinating architecture which are usually not open to visitors. (And in addition of course such which are always open.)
Görlitz is the perfect place for a visit on this special day. You can see architecture from Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, 19th century, Art Nouveau, Art Deco ... some in need of restoration, others perfectly reconstructed.
In 2004 I went to Görlitz and had a wonderful day. I'd like to share some of my pictures and what I learned in my General Tips. So, if you are an architecture fan, have a look at these tips!
One comment at last: the events are perfectly organised. At each site you find competent staff, either architects, owners or employees of the town administration. They are very friendly and provide a lot of information. Flyers with information for every site are available in German AND POLISH!
Liegnitzer Bomben are a traditional - hm what to call it, pastry maybe - from Silesia. They originate from Liegnitz, now Legnica/Poland, but are most popular in the eastern part of Saxony nowadays.
They consist of a very rich dark gingerbread dough with honey, marzipan, almonds, raisins, cherries, orange juice, orangeat, hidden under a coat of dark chocolate icing. Best, buy them from a bakery where they make their own. They come in various sizes (from a child's to a big man's fist) and are sold by weight. Don't underestimate them, they are absolutely tasty but really filling. A larger one feeds a family of three or four, small as it may look.
Beware, they sell bombs at the Christmas market...
When I bought mine on the market I got into a funny little 'situation' because there were two policemen sipping their coffee next to me at the booth. We had an amusing discussion about them having to observe me as someone who buys bombs. - You remember that media, especially abroad, caused lots of panic about alleged terror threats at German Christmas markets in December 2010. Police were present on the markets because of that. (I am grateful that nothing happened and we can joke about it now.)
Görlitz's Christmas market is short, so if you want to experience it, plan accordingly. The market takes place for some 10 days from the second to the third Advent weekend.
In Silesia it is not Father Christmas or Santa Claus who brings the gifts on Christmas Eve but the Christ Child (Christkindel). The Christkindel is not baby Jesus, it is rather an angel-like figure in a long white dress, although without wings. The Christkindel, impersonated by a girl, makes an appearance on the market every afternoon. On St Nicholas Day (Dec 6) you'll also meet Sankt Nikolaus himself, not in Coca-Cola Santa Claus outfit but dressed as what he really was, a Bishop.
The market in Görlitz is not very big, but it is perhaps the most atmospheric and romantic I have ever visited. Do you know those UNICEF cards with naive paintings of cutie town vedoutes, with little market stalls shattered over a wide square in the snow and old houses around, all decorated and pretty? Well, this is what Görlitz Christmas market looks and feels like.
The stalls are little wooden huts all over both parts of Untermarkt and adjacent Brüderstraße. There is lots of space between them, hence the market never feels crowded.
Most stalls are run by local artisans and shops. The products on offer involve some Silesian traditions.
The little stage has some musical performances in the afternoons and evenings. My favourite was the singalong a local choir did. They had prepared photocopied booklets with the lyrics of some two dozen Christmas songs that were distributed, and a large crowd gathered round the stage singing with them.
In case anyone wonders where I caught the first two photos with those birds-eye views from: These were taken through the windows of the oriel of Schönhof, which you enter during a visit to the Silesian museum (see things to do tips).
More photos in this travelogue.
It was the first trip to Germany for our young dogs Zarina and Zharden fom Irin Hof. Görlitz was the first German city for them. It was their first walking along the city and they fit to its medieval buildings and houses well. So we have been taking very pleasant photos and videos with our dogs while exploring the city on foot.
When being at home in Troitskoye we like to watch the videos and show them to our dogs, haha! Zarina and Zharden, do you remember those exciting days in Görlitz? Yes, they answer, Görlitz will stay in our memory forever!
You can watch my 1 min 36 sec HD Video Görlitz Sachsen German Shepherds fom Irin Hof out of my Youtube channel.
This quite hard to understand tip title refers to a day in June - usually the third Sunday that month - when the owners of recently restored (or almost completed) townhouses in Görlitz open the doors for visitors, mostly with the goal of renting in the back of their mind. Sometimes buildings that are privately owned or owned by the city join in this event, looking for potential investors.
I visited this event twice so far. Highlights and disappointments are close to each other. For example, in 2010 I was able to see an amazing, almost completely restored townhouse at Weberstraße and the landmark building Untermarkt 25, which is in very poor condition - but you could see the great potential. I could also see the new Youth hostel which will have its home right in the old town. Very nice construction, using and preserving old parts of the building.
On the other hand, the owner of a house at Kränzelstraße invited visitors despite having just begun restoration. And it was clearly visible he would not treat the building properly - too much cleared out and replaced by new structures.
Anyway, it is always fun to mingle with the locals, listen to their stories of old times and chatting with them.
The Christmas market in Görlitz is named "Christkindelmarkt", unlike most of the others in Saxony. Reason is that Görlitz has been part of Silesia for a long time and that's how they're called there.
As the town is located right between Saxony and Silesia it is influenced by both cultures and this shows on the Christkindelmarkt, too. Of course you'll see the wooden items from the Erzgebirge, like pyramids, smokers etc. but you'll also see many Silesian stuff - like the pottery, special food etc. I found the ambience was wonderful. The Christkindelmarkt takes place at Untermarkt square and Brüderstrasse, surrounded by historic architecture. Unfortunately it opens on 2nd and closes on 3rd Advent - a short time :(
A special architecture is reason for a special experience: If you whisper some words on one side of the portal an other person can hear that clearly on the other side. Perfect acoustics!
Can be good for a romantic moment with your sweetheart :-)
Location: Untermarkt square, northern front.
Street signs in Goerlitz are written in the old German letters. It's not always very easy to figure out which letter is which but the signs really make good sense with the old architecture.