Imagine, you were a citizen of a usually quaint pretty small town situated close to the Polish border and, all of a sudden, George Clooney crossed your path! Or one of the ‘Inglorious Basterds’. Or perhaps you would happen to bump into Bill Murray right in front of ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’. Theoretically, you could. Practically, although the mentioned protagonists were physically present, you would probably have had to be satisfied with a clandestine glimpse of the desired human objects (one of which was voted „sexiest man alive“ not too long ago) from afar. With film sets meticulously cordoned off and actors well protected against curious intruders at all times, one does not just walk into stars of such calibre at random! Not even in the narrow alleys of remote Goerlitz. Unless, of course, one becomes an extra in one of the productions – allowed to play an (in?)significant role within the twinkling orbit of much-admired international celebrities.
Real-life backdrop for filmmakers
Goerliwood, as it is now marketed quite self-confidently, is predestined to serve as a picturesque backdrop for movie-makers seeking a location beyond the regular filming studio of the Hollywoodian variety. Even the famous Babelsberg Studios near Berlin – a little closer to the real world than it’s Californian counterpart – may not be entirely suitable. Movie directors looking for a genuine historic location alive and kicking rather than for artificial cardboard façades, have lifted this treasure in the eastern-most part of Germany, but not as recently as it may seem. Sequences playing in New York, Berlin, Frankfurt, Paris, Heidelberg or Munich have all been simulated successfully here in Goerlitz, whose popularity amongst the film-making crowd reaches back well into the 1950s – albeit with interruptions and limitations. Due to the chilly political climate prevailing for decades of Cold War in a Germany split in two, access into the country from the West was not easily gained – or desired.
Goerlitz’s authentic historic cityscape served as the filming location for parts of these two movies:
- The Grand Budapest Hotel starring Bill Murray, Ralph Fiennes, Jeff Goldblum, Owen Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Jude Law, Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel und F. Murray Abraham.
“Thank you, Goerlitz! You are the coolest place for making movies – Goerlitz was the best possible choice to produce the film “The Grand Budapest Hotel”. Ralph Fiennes, actor, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2013), “The reader” (2008).
- The Monuments Men with George Clooney, Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett.
More information on the filming location Görlitz at: Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung www.mdm-online.de
Goerlitz – a survivor
During WW II, Goerlitz was fortunate not to be flatened to debris by raging bombardments cities like Dresden an hour away had to endure. Escaping virtually unscathed, original features of most buildings have never been tampered with – thus rescuing a heritage monument covering an area unrivaled in size within Germany. The town consists of approximately 4,000 buildings deriving from Medieval, late Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Wilhelminian eras. And they are in good shape. Wherever one turns, arcades, lavishly decorated portals, façades painted with acanthus ornaments and splendid courtyards deliver a delightful sight. It were Bohemian master builders who – having refined their skills in Italy – rendered the city its Mediterranean touch.The oldest parts of the impressive City Hall date back to the mid-14th century; the two clock faces adorning its tower were installed later in 1524.
In the historic centre, thirty-five so-called Hall Houses mirculously survived the ravages of time. Their cross vaults, stretching across the width of the entrance hall, provided ample space for horse-drawn carts. Past merchants used to stack their bales of cloth here when travelling along the buoyant trading route „via regia“ to find lucrative business in wealthy Goerlitz.
Once upon a time in the East
From 1945 to 1989 Goerlitz lay on Eastern German soil of the former GDR. After reunification with the Federal Republic, the city largely profited from the reconstruction and rehabilitation hype the perished Democratic Republic was blessed with (or gripped by) and which was financed with enormous subsidies raised by the (West)German government, the European Community and private investors. 25 years later, the German state still levies from all of its citizens an additional five percent in ‘solidarity tax’ – whose initial purpose was to change the run-down socialist economy of the former GDR back into the flourishing free country it used to be before the war.
Accommodation in Goerlitz
Among the (full-fledged) hotels Goerlitz offers, these may be of special interest:
www.dreibeinigerhund.de (meaning three-legged dog :-))
Goerlitz’s geographic position is in Upper Lusatia/Saxony.
How to get there: Best by car – in 1,5 hours from Dresden (small airport), in approx. 3 hours from Berlin.
All pictures courtesy of ©Goerlitz Tourism.