“Simply the most beautiful city in Germany” the marketing board proclaimed recently – hyperbole, certainly, yet the accolade was one bestowed by the chairman of the German Foundation for the Protection of Historic Monuments. Geographically speaking, though, it’s only just in Germany. The postwar redraw of the map shifted the German–Polish border onto the Neisse River, thereby cleaving GÖRLITZ in two. Perhaps that’s apt for an Altstadt that is pure Central Europe – it flourished on the east–west Via Regia route that linked Kiev to Santiago de Compostela, and in 1815 was amalgamated into Silesia, a definitively Central European province along the Oder River that took in slices of modern Poland and the Czech Republic. The GDR regime surveyed the town and slapped a preservation order on the entire Altstadt, while Untermarkt is arguably the most romantic town square in East Germany: less a collection of buildings than a living Old Master, gorgeous at dusk. “At nightfall I long to be in Görlitz,” Goethe once sighed. In recent years, film directors have taken notice: Görlitz was Paris in Jackie Chan’s Eighty Days Around the World (2004) and its streets featured in Kate Winslet flick, The Reader (2009). The urban fabric is tatty outside of the centre, however, and Görlitz is probably not worth a long detour. Yet more than most towns in east Germany, the Altstadt rewards those who stray down whichever lane looks interesting.

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