Since the second leg of our journey was rather short, we're actually still within the same state, so it's time for another round of...
We're still rather close to Saxon Switzerland, though we're not quite in the next county over. Currently, we're within the Landkreis Görlitz ("Country Circle Görlitz = Görlitz County"), the crest of which features the Silesian eagle, the Bohemian twin-tailed lion, the Upper Lusatia battlements, as well as the Sorbian limetree leaf.
And within Görlitz county, we are now within the city of Görlitz proper, the crest of which is just the eagle and the lion. Founded sometime in the 12th century, it has grown into a sizeable city since then with about 55,000 inhabitants. Also, since it got lucky in the Second World War and spared any major bombings, it is today one of the best-preserved historic city of Germany, with over 4,000 cultural and historical buildings. Thus, Görlitz is also often referred to as Germany's biggest continuous historical site.
In fact, Görlitz would have been even bigger had it not been for aforementioned World War, for after the war Germany lost all territory to the east of river Neiße. That was particularly bad luck for Görlitz, which was effectively cut in two, with the eastern part becoming part of Poland and receiving the melodious name of Zgorzelec.
Finally, our stay place within Görlitz is located only a short walk from the station, and about a kilometre away from the Polish border, in a district known as Südstadt ("South Town").
So, now that I've told you where we are based, I might as well continue to tell you about...
This time around, we have our own little apartment, which mostly consists of one all-purpose room. About a quarter of the total space is already occupied by the bed.
One alcove of that room is also occupied by a kitchen... -ish thingy. It's basically a sink, a microwave, one portable stove plate, and a water cooker. Kinda reminds me of my stay in Numazu (see Book II ~ Chapter 22 ~ Nutty Numazu). Eh, it'll do.
Regrettably, among the things this place lacks is also a sharp knife, and in a fit of unfounded optimism I consciously left my trusty sharp Victorinox knife that has followed me all around the world back at home, assuming that Airbnb places in Germany would feature proper cutlery. Fortunately, I still have my leatherman, the knife of which is sharper than anything in this place.
Oh well, at least we have detergent, and since our host is apparently polish, so is the detergent. Now, while in Germany detergents have generally bright names like "Fairy", "Pril" or "Fit", in Poland it's apparently all about rinsing with Ludwik.
The bathroom, meanwhile, is okay-ish, I guess. The bathtub has a hole where the knob would ordinarily be, and shower curtains just don't seem to be very en vogue here in Saxony, but since we have a private little apartment this time around we can also leave our clothes and towels in the main room while showering.
Also, since this place is distinctly lacking even a table, I have to improvise in order to fashion my own Laptop-Firendly Workspace™.
All things put together, however, this place is still way better than the last one, especially considering that the closest supermarket is, like, literally next-door, and we don't have to walk along the car-car happy road each time coming and going.
Anyway, that's enough for this place, and since we actually arrived around midday today, there's still plenty of daylight left for some...
Instant City Scouting8-Sep-2020
With only half a day left today, and a big day planend tomorrow (plus me being The Fox Whose Knees Hurt after our hikes in Saxon Switzerland), we're not out for too long of a stray today. For my part, I want to scout out the bike rental place that our Airbnb host recommended to us, which is about 10 STEPs away, and Robert wants to drop over to the Polish side and see if he can find a tasty polish grilled cheese speciality by the name of Oscypek which he got to taste during a trip to Poland many years ago. Both of those can be combined into a neat little round-trip that also leads us right through the historic old town of Görlitz in one fell swoop.
Just a short walk away from our stay place, we learn that apparently the city of Görlitz venerates the castle-god Klotz Derprotz, for the very first church we come across reads "Eine feste Burg ist unser Gott" ("A solid castle is our god").
Soon, we reach the Postplatz ("Mail Square"), a green square in the heart of Görlitz that is decorated by a fountain sculpture known as the Muschelminna ("Shell Gal"), depicting the nature goddess Flora. Meanwhile, the castle-like houses all around stand testimony to the influence of the castle-god.
Other historic buildings demonstrating the influence of the castle-god in this city include the Frauenkirche ("Lady's Church")...
...the Reichenbacher Turm ("Riches' Stream's Tower"), which used to be a gatehouse tower...
...as well as the Jägerkaserne ("Hunter Barracks"), which nowadays technically serves as a town hall.
And along the way, I also manage to snag one of the few non-vegetarian (or at least pescetarian) meals of my in the form of a local speciality: a Görlitzer Bratwurst ("Görlitz Fried Sausage").
Moving on thereafter, we pass by the Heiliges Grab ("Holy Grave"), which is a replica of the actual grave of Jesus in Jerusalem. Though many such replicas exist, the one here in Görlitz is the single most accurate in all of Germany. However, since they charge admission and I've actually been at the real holy grave in Jerusalem during a family vacation in Israel back in 2006, we give it a pass.
Instead, we proceed to check out the bicycle rental place for tomorrow, and subsequently turn eastwards along a way taking us through the Kidronpark...
...as well as the Ölberggarten ("Oil Garden Mountain").
Afterwards, we pass through the old town of Görlitz...
...where we not only come across an originally-named copy shop...
...but also a bakery where you can apparently bake your own Jesus.
Next, we pass by the Nikolaiturm ("Nikolai Tower") - which together with the aforementioned Reichenbacher Turm is one of the four mighty towers dedicated to the castle-god that used to defend the city from dangers in the past.
Right beside it is the Nikolaizwinger ("Nikolai Kennel"), which is one of two remaining sections of the double city walls...
...as well as the Hotherbastei ("Hother Bastion"), the last remaining corner bastion of Görlitz, doubtlessly preserved in reverence of the castle-god Klotz Derprotz.
From there, we can ascend the bastion, and manage to gain a bit of a panorama view of the otherwise relatively flat city.
Moving on, we soon find ourselves in front of the Pfarrkirche St. Peter und Paul ("Parish Church St. Peter and Paul"), which is without a doubt the prime landmark of Görlitz with its shining white towers. A true patchwork church, it is based on a basilica from the 13th century, which was expanded and refurbished many times over the centuries until it got its current shape. The different building stages are still clearly visible.
We are now standing in front of the reconstructed Altstadtbrücke ("Old City Bridge") connecting Görlitz and Zgorzelec. Many bridges existed at this location since the 13th century, and most of them were fashioned from wood and only lasted so long before they were destroyed by either fire or water. In 1907 a steel bridge was finally built for permanence, only to be blow up in 1945 by the retreating Nazi forces - a pointless act with little strategic value which regrettably also shattered all but one of the historic glass windows in the nearby Pfarrkirche St. Peter und Paul. The current bridge was only built almost a hundred years thereafter, in 2004, and should serve as a symbol for an united Europe.
And just like that, we cross the Neiße…
…thus entering the Rzeczpospolita Polska, and with it Eastern Europe.
Well, okay, I know that was cliché, but really, I would be so much more inclined to attempt and paint a more positive picture of Poland if the first house we walk by on the Polish side did not looked like this…
…and literally all the speciality stores we come across did not sell cigarettes in reverence of the evil god of smoking Öchöt Kyött. I very much prefer Görlitz and its worship of the castle god over that, thank you very much!
The feeling I get from this place is actually quite close to my time in Brazil (see Book III ~ Chapter 2 ~ Brasilian Bolero), and so I instinctively assume a defensive and wary stance. Fortunately, the only threat we should encounter is a wire-frame wolf guarding a gift shop (selling cigarettes), and fortunately that one is quite passive.
Interestingly. even the zebra crossings are all wrong around here.
We make our way south more or less along the Neiße, all the while looking for a place that might sell Oscypek, but come up short. Eventually, we arrive at the Pabst Johannes Paul II Brücke ("Pope John Paul II Bridge") - which is the only car bridge across the river in the entire town - all the while not having seen so much as a sliver of grilled cheese…
…and subsequently cross it, returning to an at least halfway civilized country.
Thus, we are now back in Görlitz…
…where I finally notice that this city seems to have at least halfway original manhole covers. It's still nothing compared to the creative manhole cover designs found throughout Japan, but better than nothing.
On our way back home from there, we cross the Park des Friedens ("Park of Peace") with its statue of the first German philosopher Jakob Böhme…
…and eventually make our way through a stretch of forest on the slopes flanking the Neiße…
…all the way to the foot of the impressive Neißeviadukt, a 475m long and up to 35m high railroad bridge across the Neiße originally from the 19th century. Like the other bridges, this one was also partially destroyed by the Nazis in 1945, and eventually repaired by the Polish in 1957.
From there we walk for maybe another 15 minutes through the streets of Görlitz…
…and then we're back at the Airbnb place, ready to do some shopping at the nearby Netto so we'll have the ingredients to prepare…
Breakfast once again consists of various types of bread with mostly cheese on top. However, just to mix up thins a little bit (and since we also need it for dinner anyway) I also buy a tube of tomato paste and make myself a tomato paste bread that perfectly matches the color of my fruit tea.
Lunch once again is always eaten on our strays and rides, so next ups is dinner. One evening Robert cooks up a tasty tomato risotto, and just to continue the tradition of color-matching beverages I have a glass of orange multi-vitamin juice with it.
And on another night, it is up to me to cook up Rahmschwammerln mit Reis ("Cream-Mushrooms with Rice"). Juggling the pot and pan with only a single stove plate available is a bit tricky, but in the end I manage to cook up a delicious dinner.
So much for the food. Well-nourished as we are now, we feel prepared to embark on…
Day Trip ~ The Eastern Terminus Ride9-Sep-2020
Distance: 64.0km (7km stray + 57km ride)
Ascents: 320m (80m stray + 240m ride)
Duration: 8.5h (1.5h stray + 7h ride)
You may recall that one of our objectives of this journey is to visit the eastern-, northern- and westernmost points of Germany. Now, we are within extended strike distance of one of those points: The easternmost point of Germany is located precisely 15km away from our stay place as Dragon flies. However, the walking distance is a good bit longer, so hiking there and back again is out of the question. Instead, we could hike one way and take the bus back, or… since I just scouted out a bike rental place yesterday, we could go on an epic bike ride to the easternmost point of Germany!
This particular excursion would be a combination of a walk to the bike rental place, and a bike ride taking us up the Neiße to the easternmost point of Germany, then a bit north still and west into the woodlands, then southwest up to a little river by the name of Weißer Schöps ("White Wether"), and finally back east to Görlitz again. Knowing that Robert is not a biker like me, but evidentially has a good constitution as became apparent on our considerable strays through Saxon Switzerland, I settle for a circuit measuring about 2/3 of what I would call a comfortable ride… so something around 42km or so.
As I said, it starts with a little bit of a walk… and then a bit of a run back to the Airbnb place for me as about 1km into the trip I notice that I've forgotten something rather important.
My tails! Silly fox forgetting his own tails! These are not only of ornamental value, but also serve as containers for my geocaching supplies, and since we've got quite some caching planned for today, I couldn't possibly do without them.
With a bit of running, the 2km trip back to and from our stay place takes me about 22 minutes or so, and then we can continue, passing a very plastic mural of my favourite Roman goddess Diana along the way.
A little while later, we arrive at the bike rental place literally precisely at 9:00, which is an important time since it matches the opening time of that place. So technically, my little faux pas did not even cost us any time at all.
I quickly take care of the formalities, and then Robert and I find ourselves in temporary possession of two… well, let's call them "cute"… bikes that will take us all the way to our destination, and beyond.
I call them cute not only because of their somewhat suboptimal handle bar shape, but also because their gears only go up to 6 (and that despite having a Shimano 7 Speed gearbox). That's notably less than the 21 gears I'm used to from my trusty bike Jycily back home, but still five more than the single-gear bike with which I cycled up the flanks of Mt. Fuji in Numazu (again, see Book II ~ Chapter 22 ~ Nutty Numazu), and since today should not feature any considerable ascents, I figure that will be enough.
Anyway, it feels good to be on the road again, biking. My knees generally still hurt when I do certain movements, but the familiar motion of treading the pedals does not seem to fall into that hurtful category, so this is actually quite enjoyable and relaxing for me. Soon, we leave the city of Görlitz behind and cycle through the landscape and past extensive wind parks.
Geocaching wise, this trip should also be very motivating, as I should find all 8 geocaches that I would actually attempt on this trip, including this rather ingeniously disguised one.
Along the road, we should also come across what I guess is some sort of Green Shnolz installation (the sign reads "Waiting Room")…
…as well as a runaway lawnmower hat has broken its chains and is now on a quest for freedom.
We also pass by a group of trees populated by a particularly vocal flock of birds. In fact, the cacophony of their collective twittering can easily compete with the sound of the occasionally passing cars.
A little bit further down the road I realize that I've been wrong all along. I assumed that we left Görlitz about 7km ago, but apparently I was wrong and the official city borders of Görlitz stretch past several hundred hectares of farmland all the way out to Ober Neuendorf ("Upper Newcomer Village").
This place was a nice step upwards from the Rietzschgrund in almost all categories. We had a complete little apartment all to ourselves, the only downside of which was that it featured no proper workspace. Food supplies were not included this time around. The bed was comfy for me, but Robert did not like it as much. The host was nice (even if the check-in was a bit bogus) and the place was quiet. We had a bathroom as part of the room, and the location was a dream: Close to the station with shopping options literally next door. The WiFi worked fine most of the time, we had something like a kitchen, and the temperature was comfortable. And finally, at only 16€ per night and person, the price-value ratio was once again over 100%. Altogether, there's nothing that speaks against calling this one of the better places I've ever stayed in.
Now, we still have one day left here in Görlitz, and we should dedicate this to our...
What is Oscypek? According to Wikipedia, it is a is a smoked cheese made of salted sheep milk. According to Robert, it is the tastiest thing ever, and since he last ate it on a Poland trip many years ago and has never since grown tired of telling me and others about it, we figure that this might be the chance to try and get some. It comes in handy that our host is Polish and can recommend us a store Zgorzelec that might just have it. As such we embark on another excursion towards lovely Zgorzelec, walking through the inner town of Görlitz before crossing over via the same bridge as the last time because there really are only two pedestrian-friendly bridges within 10km or so. In addition to the trip to the store, we should also walk through Zgorzelec a little more, before finally crossing back into Görlitz again via the only other bridge within 10km.
Right near the beginning of the walk, just on the other side of the Görlitz central station, we come across the rare and elusive 20 Zone, where the speed limit is 20 km/h. This is a real rarity, because normally you only see 30 Zones all over the place. In fact, up until now I didn't even know that 20 Zones even existed.
A bit further into town, we pass another one of the four great towers of the castle god Klotz Derprotz. This one is the Dicker Turm ("Thick Tower"), which totally lives up to its name. Incidentally, that makes all three towers that still exist today. The fourth one, which went by the name of Neißeturm ("Neisse Tower"), was demolished in 1836 since the city gate that it was a part of was too low to permit larger carts to pass, and apparently it was architecturally impossible to enlarge the gate without demolishing the tower, and eventually they just got rid of gate and tower altogether.
Subsequently, we make our way across the weekly market, which due to the Green Shnolz is not quite as busy as such markets usually are. Just in case, we keep our eyes peeled at the cheese stalls, but there is no Oscypek to be found here.
Following the market street to its end, we soon reach the Ochsenzwinger ("Ox Kennel"), another bastion preserved in honour of the castle god. This one has been refurbished into a lush green park and serves as a wonderful little hidden gemstone in the middle of the city.
And then, we're at the city bridge again, ready to cross over once more into Zgorzelec.
This time around we have to venture in somewhat deeper into the... let's call them "rustic"... streets.
And again, I wish I could be a bit more positive, but with all the broken windows and crumbling facades, it's kinda difficult to put a positive spin to it. I mean, if I were a government, I'd make sure that border towns of all places would look good, what with them having a representative function and all. As it is, however, even the road signs look kinda improvised.
But anyway, we're not here to sightsee, but to shop, and after a positively uneventful walk through Zgorzelec, we reach our destination: A little traditional foods store by the refreshingly pronounceable name of Bacówka.
Now, we only speak one word of Polish, and that is Oscypek. Fortunately, that is enough to get us at least something like Oscypek, and although we realize that what the shopkeeper is selling us is not exactly what we're looking for, we also realize that it's probably the best we can get, and as such leave with two small "rolls" of whatever this particular somewhat Oscypek-like cheese is. As a side note, Poland is not in the €-Zone and instead uses the złoty as its currency. Fortunately, I can pay by card, so at least that's a hurdle we can clear easily. Afterwards, we continue south towards our return bridge.
On the way back, we eventually diverge from the main road, and unexpectedly find ourselves in a somewhat less run-down part of the town.
There, we come across a modern water tower that stands like a monument over the neighbourhood, presumably projecting its influence across the nearby blocks like an aura of modernity, protecting it from the deterioration that seems to hold the remainder of the city hostage.
And then, we cross the Neiße one last time, leaving Zgorzelec behind for good.
Back in Görlitz, and with not much else to do today, we take or time walking back to our Airbnb place. For starters, we take a little stroll through the city park just at the other end of the bridge and become witness to a veritable playground of squirrels chasing one another up and down the trees.
Afterwards, we take our time and leisurely stroll through the somewhat more pleasant streets of Görlitz...
- Come any closer and I'll serve you glitter!
- Please don't lick the lacquer!
- Sure you're faster. But I'm driving in front of you!