“This weekend, I am off to The Hollywood of Germany!” I announce with dramatic flair and jazz hands.
German 1: “What is that?”
“This weekend, I am off to The Hollywood of Germany!” I announce with slightly less dramatic flair and subdued jazz hands.
German 2: “Where?”
“This weekend, I’m off to The Hollywood of Germany. You’ve probably never heard of it.”
German 3: “Oh, you mean Babelsberg?”
“NEIN, Babelsberg is a film studio. Görlitz is The Hollywood of Germany!” The jazz hands are back.
“Why the fuck are you going to Dunkeldeutschland?”
“Because it’s The H… sod it. I give up.”
Dunkeldeutschland (dark Germany) is the not-very-nice name given to the former GDR and, even though the Wall came down in 1989, you’d be surprised how many “Wessis” still think this way. But not me. Nope, I was off to visit Görlitz, the easternmost city in Germany, otherwise known as Görliwood or… yep, you guessed it, The Hollywood of Germany!
Thankfully, the trains worked the way you’d expect German trains to work as I only had five minutes to change in Cottbus and, at 14:15 precisely, I was rolling into Görlitz. I bumped my wheelie suitcase over the cobblestones from the station to my AirBnB in the heart of the old town and arrived at 14:59, one minute before I was due to meet my host. Goddamn, I’m a good German.
On cue, a lovely, smiley lady by the name of Angela opened the door and showed me in.
I may have gasped a little when I saw the staircase…
… and made a mental note not to drink too much during my stay there. Or at least not while I was in the flat. Crawling back up the stairs, fine, falling down them, not so much.
Angela gave me a quick guided tour, handed over the key, and then I was on my own. The flat was huge, with a balcony, big comfy double bed, fully-equipped kitchen – not that I’d need it – more chairs than you could sit on in three days, and more lamps than you could use in a lifetime.
As I hung up the couple of dresses I’d brought with me, I did notice something odd though.
Mystery unsolved, I was off to check out what Görlitz had to offer. Mainly in the way of cake. Luckily, in Germany, you never have to walk more than around 20 metres before you hit a café or a bakery and, sure enough, there was Café Gloria, pretty much on my doorstep.
I selected a rich, chocolatey number and demolished it, all the while making rather porny “hmmmm, hmmmmm” noises. It was totally worth it. My cake craving sated, I took a couple of snaps of the square I was staying in – the Untermarkt (lower market).
Then I decided to walk to Poland.
And no, your eyes do not deceive you. I mean, literally, walk to Poland. Görlitz is situated on the Neisse River and, when you walk over the bridge, you’re in Zgorzelec. (Don’t ask me how to pronounce it.)
This is what still blows my mind about living in the EU (suck it, Brexit) – one minute, you’re in Germany, where they speak German, use the euro and customer service is questionable; the next, you’re in Poland, where they speak Polish, use the złoty (but accept the euro) and customer service is non-existent! Boom! No border control, no ID required, just toddle across a bridge and there you are!
The first indication that you’re in Poland is a burnt-out car on the river bank and massive signs advertising “Zigaretten”, which are significantly cheaper in Poland. It also only took around thirty seconds until I spotted a man swigging vodka from a bottle, and another five seconds until I saw a “yoof” clad from head to toe in stonewashed denim.
I found a slightly less terrifying-looking establishment and ordered a glass of wine which, disappointingly, cost €4 rather than 4 cents.
I sat there sipping away and trying to read my book, but really, I couldn’t concentrate as I was Sitting. In. Poland. Looking. At. Germany. Which, incidentally, is the right way to do it as I don’t think anyone sits in Germany looking across at Poland.
I took a few more photos on my way back but it was pretty overcast and doesn’t really do the place justice. In fact, it looks rather dunkel…
Back at the ranch, I had a rummage through the flyers there, but already knew what I had in mind for the next day – a bus tour on the Görliwood Entdecker (Explorer). If you’ve been wondering why on earth I’ve been referring to Görlitz as The Hollywood of Germany, it’s because over a hundred movies have been shot there.
German 3: Yeah right, what do they film there? Their own belly buttons? Har har har…
Me: (Smug Wessi prick, I’ll show him…) Er, no, actually. Try Grand Budapest Hotel, Inglourious Basterds, The Reader, something with Jackie Chan that I can’t remember…
German 3: Oh.
With great excitement, I read the flyer – a Hollywood Great as Tour Guide! Oh my God, it’s frickin’ Samuel L. Jackson! Oh no, wait, it’s the guy who does the voice of Samuel L. Jackson for the German market. Hmm, “Hollywood Great” seemed like a bit of a stretch – unless you’re intimately familiar with the work of Engelbert von Nordhausen. I was not so I googled him.
I would say the similarities end with the glasses but maybe that’s just me.
Stay tuned for Part 2 with me, sunshine, and Hollywood Great, Engelbert von Nordhausen…