They make their way westwards with only a little luggage and sturdy shoes. For centuries, pilgrims have followed the scallop shell – the emblem of St James – to Santiago de Compostela in search of inner peace, and still do so to this day. In Saxony, the Way of St James begins in the middle of Görlitz and follows long stretches of the 2,000-year-old Via Regia. Kings and queens traversed this royal route along with traders from all over the world and countless travellers, long before the word tourism was invented. Nothing about it has really changed much in the meantime, except there are fewer kings nowadays …

In return, Görlitz has seen a rise in the number of visitors who come to the town purely because of its rich history. The Neiße valley provides the perfect spot from which to marvel at the towers of the Peterskirche, which has been a prominent feature of the town’s skyline since the 15th century. Visitors arrive by the pilgrim’s path and also by the Oder–Neiße cycle route to enjoy this unique town that stands on both German and Polish soil. Attractions nearby include the Zittau mountains, the Fürst-Pückler-Park in Bad Muskau, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the colourful “Kulturinsel Einsiedel” adventure park.

A lively cultural scene flourishes in the town on both banks of the river. Its creativity really comes to the fore in the diverse programme offered at the annual Via Thea street theatre festival. During the festival, the historic Görlitz alleyways throb with life and the hustle and bustle resembles the hubbub of a medieval market. The town provides the perfect backdrop for scenes like this, which means big stars have also been coming to visit for years. Kate Winslet and Jackie Chan have stepped in front of the camera here, while directors who have filmed in “Görliwood” include Quentin Tarantino and Detlev Buck. More recently, Wes Anderson shot “The Grand Budapest Hotel” in Saxony, for which he received the grand jury prize at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival. So it’s quite possible that the next time you’re enjoying a beer on the banks of the Neiße, the lady at the next table might look strangely familiar …

Curious?

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