We scheduled a weekend visit to Görlitz, the easternmost town in Germany located on the Lusatian Neisse River along the border of Germany and Poland, to see its architectural heritage. With a rich history of being conquered and held by various kingdoms, emperors, and states, the village was first founded in 1002, becoming a town in the thirteenth century, along an ancient and medieval trade route.
Over the next almost one thousand years, the government of Görlitz changed many times; the town prospered with its rich farm lands; the Protestant Reformation was responsible for most of the population becoming Lutheran; later and in succession, the Thirty Years’ War, the Napoleonic Wars, and World War I impacted the town’s government. Görlitz, the city, survived relatively intact during World War II, although manufacturing was converted to munitions factories. The eastern boundary of the city, along the Oder-Neisse Line, divided the town after the end of the war. Görlitz, on the left bank, became part of East German. Zgorzelec, on the right bank, became part of Poland.
Our interest was in the historical buildings, undamaged physically by the various wars but often decayed and in disrepair until a campaign to restore many to their colorful magnificence started in the 1960s. The site of numerous films (think of the inside of the hotel in “The Grand Budapest Hotel”), the city takes one back in time to what many other towns and cities in Europe would have been like without several wars and hundreds of years of weather and other environmental issues.
Immediately upon disembarking from the train from Berlin, we became enmeshed in the historical feel of this town. The various town squares (or markets), the narrow streets, the pastel-colored houses, the medieval wall still partially surrounding the city, the numerous churches and monastery, the winding river dividing the city, commanded our attention and awe.
But then, we unexpected saw a huge metal sculpture, looking to us like a woman with horse legs. Upon closer examination, we’d stumbled upon “Görlitzer Art,” a ten-piece, year-long, contemporary art installation around and about the city. The pieces, conceived, created, and installed as a project by the Capital of Culture 2016/Wroclaw and Breslau, were unique, evocative, and distinct. While we saw all ten installations, I was only able to capture eight of them on my camera. My comments or impressions of each named installation are my own, perhaps not exactly what the artist(s) intended.
The two remaining installations comprised several life-sized crystal boxes and a yellow-blue-grey colored cobbled street. I found messages of the present and future tied to the past; the evolution of the city due to profound changes in our environment; and hope as we move forward toward the unknown. I am so glad one of my searches for “places to visit outside Berlin” highlighted this area.