The Town Where I Was Born
July 26, 2017 2:20pm CST
Bautzen is a small town of some 40.000 inhabitants in the south east of Germany near the borders with the Czech Republic and Poland. It lies 50 km east of Dresden and 50 km west of Görlitz, the easternmost German town. Due to its geographical position at the ’fringe’ of the country and the political situation until 1989 (when the GDR = German Democratic Republic ended) Bautzen is not well known among international tourists which is a pity because it’s as pretty as many famous tourist destinations in the West. The town has a compact and well preserved medieval, Renaissance and Baroque centre with a castle, one leaning tower and several straight ones, many churches, a bastion and an impressive city wall high on the steep embankment of the River Spree which is still largely intact as well as the oldest preserved waterworks in central Europe (built in 1558). The first written proof of Bautzen is from the year 1002. In 2002 the town commemorated its 1000th birthday with a big festival. How many towns can look back on such an event? A tour through the old part should start on the market square (Hauptmarkt) in front of the town hall. There’s a tourist information office (open from 9 am to 6 pm, on weekends to 3 pm) which also offers guided tours. The tours last 1 ½ hours and are in German. Audio guides with an English text can be got together with a map of the town if you want to explore it on your own. If you’re facing the town hall, the pedestrian precinct goes off to the right from the market square. At its end you can see the Reichenturm, not as impressive as the Leaning Tower in Pisa, but quite leaning as well. Behind the town hall is the Dom St. Petri (Saint Peter Cathedral), one of the two, and the older one, interdenominational churches in Germany. Catholics and Protestants have shared it peacefully since the time of the Reformation. A low fence divides the nave into two sections. There’s a timetable for the services so that they don’t disturb each other. The cathedral tower can be climbed right up to the tower keeper's lodgings. Between the Cathedral and the Orthenburg (the castle), a mainly baroque building, you can find a lot of restaurants, wine bars and pubs. Walking along the town walls you pass the youth hostel which is in one of the big medieval towers. Its walls are so thick that the beds stand in niches *in* them. The graveyard situated in the ruins of the Nicolai Church is worth a visit. Even if you don’t know German, you’ll notice that many tombstones have foreign - Polish? Czech? - looking names. Here Sorbs are buried. Bautzen is the ‘capital’ of the smallest Slav people, the Sorbs. They’re like cousins to the Pole and Czechs. Their languages are so close to each other that they can understand each other, each speaking their own language. Bautzen is bilingual, all street signs, every public information is in German and Sorbian. There’s also a secondary grammar school in which the subjects are taught in Sorbian. The official definition of a Sorb is that someone who claims to be one is one. No legitimation is necessary. It’s estimated that nowadays there are about 60.000 Sorbs, 20.000 to 30.000 still speak the language actively. The number is declining. One important reason is that many Sorbian villages were in the area where soft coal is mined. In order to be better able to do so they were evacuated. The inhabitants now live wherever they want. Without a Sorbian neighbourhood their ‘Sorb-ness’ can’t be preserved. Should you ever consider visiting Bautzen, Easter is the time to go. You can then experience the rich and colourful Easter traditions of the Sorbs. On Easter Sunday in Bautzen and some surrounding towns and villages more than 1000 colourfully embroidered riders and horses go on processions carrying the tidings of the resurrection of Christ to the neighbouring parishes singing songs in the Sorbian language (most Sorbs are Catholics). Like all Slav peoples also the Sorbs have wonderfully decorated Easter Eggs. Tourists can see them in the town museum, learn how to make them and buy them as souvenirs. Something very special to take home! --- Photo: pixabay
30 people like this
26 Jul 17
@MALUSE Because of Johann Bessler and his wheel ; he was born in "Upper Lusatia" near Zittau, in a place now in the Czech Republic. I found his place of birth (it was not known) a few years ago in a French article from his time and added it to the English Wikipedia.
28 Jul 17
Yes, I've been able to visit there whenever I want since reunification in 1989. But that is not so interesting. What is more interesting is that the citizens of the former GDR can now also travel all over the world if they have time and money. For 40 years they could only visit other socialist countries and not even West Germany.
3 people like this
• Goodfellow, Texas
30 Jul 17
@MALUSE - "M.-L." - A very fine photograph of a most interesting and picturesque town. You might even say that it is an "ABsorbing" sort of place. Your posting here was most appreciated. To a degree, I was reminded of visits to places such as Rothenburg and some of the older parts of other cities that have retained sections from many years ago. -Gus-
30 Jul 17
I like ABsorbing. But AbSORBing would look even better, don't you think?. Yes, you can think of Rothenburg ob der Tauber with the important difference that this town in West Germany has always been a touristy place but Bautzen was not until the fall of the Wall.
• Goodfellow, Texas
31 Jul 17
@MALUSE - " M.-L." - Your AbSORBing is so much better a fit. I did some heavy-duty work in the laboratory back in the day using chemicals and methods to ADsorb human hormones. In the process of that I became aware that many workers did not know the difference beween "absorb" and "adsorb." I noticed the same difficulty some folks had in the understanding of "pDexa" bone densitometry studies (where "pDexa" refers to "peripheral dual energy X-Ray absorption." ) Both absorption and adsorption are very much alike, but the former "soaks the stuff up internally whereas the latter grabs whatever is being adsorbed and hangs onto it without "taking it inside or incorporating it." Words. Can't live with them and can't live without them, either. -Gus-
1 Aug 17
You have made an unknown town to us sound an interesting place to visit. :) I am not a catholic, but I love, really loved it when nuns made us walk in the city singing carols in the night on Christmas. We got a lot of goodies to eat but mostly it was fun and nuns did not yell at us on Mother Mary's feast and Christmas eve and Christmas and Easter. We were told to walk in a row but around midnight there is no traffic so we would really be jay walking. Your description of the procession reminded me of ours. :)
• South Africa
27 Jul 17
That is a beautiful little place to lay claim to the birth place of Malu. You all have such magical stories that come from Europe - All of the European people now down in the South can only recall our ancestors fleeing or being shipped off to foreign land. Being born in a sandy old town is our heritage