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Advice with Planning a trip to Goerlitz

Hello,

I am planning a trip to Germany and need some advice from experienced travelers. Here is what I have planned so far. I want to go to Goerlitz because of family history. I explored airfare from US to the region of Germany and found flying to Berlin is far cheaper than to Prague or Dresden. So at this point, I know we will be traveling to Berlin and will take a train to Goerlitz. My question is what to do with the time in-between. My 10 and 13 year old will be traveling also. I am looking at traveling in November around Thanksgiving and spending 8 days (excludes travel time). I was thinking of spending several days in Berlin, going to Dresden for several days, then to Goerlitz for 2 days. On day 8 - go straight from Goerlitz to Berlin leaving for the US the following day. While in Dresden, would like to visit the SaxonSwitzerland national park. When I look at a map of the region, I notice Potsdam and Magdeburg - is it worth taking time to visit? Is it worth taking time to visit Bautzen on the way to Goerlitz or try to stop in Cottbus on the return to Berlin (Sorbian culture). I am a history buff but will my kids become bored? What are the "must visit places" in Berlin? I am excited with the time of the year because of the Christmas markets. I appreciate any suggestions.

Posted by
16 posts

It is probably too early for Christmas markets. Most of them start midweek in the week after Thanksgiving (Dresden e.g.) or the weekend after that. When will you land in Berlin?

A day trip from Berlin to Potsdam is highly recommended. Skip Magdeburg. If you want to do a day trip from Dresden to the National Park (a must!) then spend at least 3 nights in Dresden (minimum!) Yes, visit Bautzen enroute to Görlitz, a couple of hours are probably enough for you (unless you want to dig deeper, which is of course a good idea). If you are interested in Sorbian culture then Bautzen is the place to go (there is a Sorbian museum there), not Cottbus (which you can skip). Görlitz is wonderful, too, and two nights are minimum.

Posted by
4658 posts

People never tell us enough about their Above Average children to guess what they "want" to do. But I wonder if Dessau-Worlitz Gartenreich (in winter??), Leipzig, Weimar, Erfurt might be of interest to them. Do they care about art museums? If not, I wouldn't go to Dresden too early. Check climate and weather forecasts before going to Saxon Switzerland, but they might prefer the replica (actual new engine) steam boat ride to or from it. You may need to consider the chance of gloomy weather.

Posted by
857 posts

First of all: Görlitz is one of Germanys most beautiful towns, and deserves one or two days, especially if your family comes from there. Consider two or three nights in Frenzelhof, a wonderful small hotel in a Late Gothic merchants home from the 15th century with a private chapel. You can use Görlitz as a base to see Bautzen and maybe the Zittau mountains. Bautzen is the historic capital of Upper Lusatia (the region where Görlitz is located) and the Sorbs. If you want to know more about the Sorbs visit the museum in Bautzen, which is also a pretty nice town, with a Baroque old town surrounded by medieval fortifications.
The Zittau mountains are probably not THAT picturesque in late November, but offer one of the country's most spectacular castle ruins (Oybin), on a mountain that looks like a bee hive. You can take a nostalgic steam train to get there from Zittau, and the village features cute little Upper Lusatian houses, which are typical for the area.

I am excited with the time of the year because of the Christmas markets.

In this case: Saxony is Germanys Christmas country. Period. No other region of the country has influenced Christmas more than the area between Erfurt and Görlitz. The epicentre are the Ore Mountains to the south of Dresden. All the handmade wooden Christmas toys you see on every German Christmas market are made there. There's a village, Seiffen, with nothing but Christmas shops all year round. And the people there also celebrate Christmas like no one else in the country. You could see one of the big miners parades for example, which are part of the festivities before Christmas, just like the markets.

Here are a few articles:
Longing for light
11 Reasons Why Germany's Ore Mountains Sparkle During Christmas
Dreaming of an Artisanal Christmas
It’s Always Christmas in the Ore Mountains of Germany

And btw: Dresden offers one of Germanys largest and oldest Christmas markets, Bautzen is probably the oldest of the country, and Görlitz one of the most beautiful. Oh, and the perfect souvenir from Upper Lusatia during that time of the year is a Moravian Star from Herrnhut, a few kilometres to the west of Görlitz. You can buy them on ever Christmas market.

So, forget Potsdam (the parks aren't THAT great in late November) and Magdeburg, and divide your time between Berlin and Saxony, according to your interests. Berlin is the big metropolis, and Saxony offers everything from old historic towns (Görlitz, Bautzen, Meissen), castles and palaces (Meissen, Königstein), to nature (Saxon Switzerland, Zittau mountains), museums (Dresden) and cute villages (Upper Lusatia).

With a few more details about your ancestors I could probably tell you a bit more about Görlitz and the region...

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you for the input! My mother's family were German Silesians living around Breslau (Wroclaw) since the middle ages. But since Germans were expelled from the Breslau area after WWII, my understanding is the region really doesn't capture the German Silesian culture of the past. Then I stumbled upon Goerlitz, reading that the city has preserved the German Silesian culture. Based on my interest - sounds like 3 days in Goerlitz would be ideal. Not sure if you know, but are there other places around Goerlitz with German Silesian influences that you would recommend?
My plans are to travel the Thursday before Thanksgiving. Would we catch the openings of some of the Christmas markets? I want to be careful and not overextend ourselves. I really don't care for crowds so we will definitely spend time in Berlin but I think we will enjoy smaller cities and towns.

Posted by
857 posts

No, the Silesia of your ancestors doesn't exist anymore. HOWEVER: they came from the vicinity of Breslau, and the heart of the city still (or again) looks like the city your family knew. It's "just" that almost every German trace was removed.
What I would recommend: visit the city, but read this book first: Uprooted: How Breslau Became Wroclaw during the Century of Expulsions. It describes the time between 1945 and today very well, and gives you a very good understanding of what you will see.
After Wroclaw see Görlitz. Visit the Silesian Museum, which is probably the best place to understand were your family came from.

Christmas markets will open early this year. The big ones usually start a few days before the first Sunday of Advent. The Striezelmarkt in Dresden for example will open on November 26, the Wenzelmarkt in Bautzen on November 29, and the Christkindelmarkt in Görlitz on December 4.

So, my recommendation would be:
Fly into Berlin - Wroclaw (4h by train) - Görlitz (Bautzen) - Dresden (Saxon Switzerland, Meissen) - Berlin

PS: I'm not really a fan of Berlin during that time of the year.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you Martin. I envision two trips and have explored tours to Silesia. I have found guides who focus on an individual's family history and will plan an personalized itinerary. The last place my family lived was Breslau but the first records showed they lived in Rosenberg (Olesno). Over the centuries, the family lived in Frankenstein (Zabkowice), Namslau (Namyslow), and finally Breslau. I would like to plan a trip where we visit the different cities and towns so why I was thinking of not including Wroclaw on this trip.
I am glad you said not to feel we need to spend a lot of time in Berlin. I am now very excited with all the sites in and around Dresden. I now envision spending 1/2 to 3/4 of our time in Dresden and the rest in Goerlitz with the idea of a second trip to Poland.