Let’s begin our journey in the easternmost German restaurant of the easternmost German town Görlitz. The restaurant is built into a former watermill in the river Neisse, which is now the border between Germany and Poland. Before the Second World War the town stretched across the river, now the eastern part is the Polish town Zgorzelec. We could walk there across the bridge, we could also hop over to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, only about 1½ hours away by car, but no, not now, you can come back for that another time.
Görlitz is one of the most beautiful German towns, there are Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Art Deco buildings. During the war only few bombs hit the centre, so it survived with all its treasures. But during the time of the GDR (German Democratic Republic) nothing was done to preserve the buildings and 40 years of neglect did nearly the same to the ensemble as bombs did to other towns. Walls crumpled, roofs leaked and the people who lived in the centre fled from their houses and toilets without flushes. Outside the centre a suburb was built in a style that was typical for many towns in the GDR: ‘Plattenbau’ which means multi-storey houses constructed of prefabricated elements, not nice, but convenient.
The u-turn came just in time, nearly all houses could be saved, reconstructed and modernized and now people are moving back into them (if they haven’t left for good because of the high unemployment rate in that region).
The tourist office is located in a beautiful house in which Napoleon stayed and from whose balcony he surveyed the parade of his troops. You can walk with a guide through the centre and learn many interesting things, for example that nearly each landlord had the right to brew his own beer! The inhabitants of Görlitz could built all those wonderful houses because they traded in textiles, salt and amber and became extremely rich. The town is situated at the junction of two of the oldest European trading routes, one leading from Kiew to Santiago di Compostela in Spain, called the Via Regia, the other from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.
We follow it to the west and find a road going straight on for miles and miles up to the horizon, no bends or curves or twists, all thanks to those early tradesman who crossed the continent many centuries before our time. The region is called Lusatia, the countryside is hilly and ideal for walks and hiking tours.