Upper Lusatia — The Simple Beauty Of East Germany

It’s hard to be confused about where you might be when you visit Upper Lusatia. Yes, you’re in Germany; more specifically in Lusatia. But, you could very well be in Poland, too. Upper Lusatia is found mostly within modern day Saxony, and stretches to Brandenburg and Poland.

It’s an old piece of real estate near the River Kwisa that once belonged to the Kingdom of Saxony, the Kingdom of Prussia; as well as being under both Bohemian and Habsburg rule.

That’s confusing, right? Please, for as many rulers as Upper Lusatia’s had, it’s got just about that many languages. OK, I’m exaggerating some; but you’ve got High German, Upper Sorbian, Lower Sorbian, and Silesian to name some.

FYI, long before these guys came to power, Upper Lusatia was settled as far back as the Stone Age in 8000 B.C. It’s pretty here, I understand why people would want to stay.

There are about 20,000 Upper Sorbian speakers within Upper Lusatia, just about 6,000 more than Lower Sorbian in Lower Lusatia.

It appears that the Sorbs (a minority Slavic group) suffered the most under all these rules, especially under the Holy Roman Empire. The Feudal System was just kicking off, and many of the nobility considered the Sorbs their serfs.

They also suffered terribly during the days of the Third Reich. The Sorbs of Upper Lusatia today have a thriving culture, with a museum dedicated to it in the “capital city” of Bautzen.

First lesson, Upper Lusatia is called Hornja Lužica. And just so you know, it’s called Oberlausitz in German. (You’ll see that addition to some town names proudly showcasing which German region they belong to.)

The region is also a UNESCO Biosphere area (as is Lower Lusatia) with both a hilly and mountainous (the Zittau and Lusatian Mountains) landscape. OK, mountain hiking might not be your idea of a good time, but you’re still able to find plenty of walking and cycling trails through this UNESCO reserve.

There’s a lot of ground to cover; and with only about 780,000 people living within the whole Upper Lusatia region, it’ll feel like you’ve got the whole place to yourself.

Depending on what you like, there’s bird watching at the Grey Heron colony; or hike the Dubringer Moor. Choice is yours.

For those of who that rather have nature better left on the Discovery Channel, there are some things for you too. Upper Lusatia would never leave you out. ;-)

There are many historical cities found within the region. The most notable is Bautzen (which I mentioned earlier and is the largest city within the region).

This is a right proper medieval town with bilingual street signs (about 10% of its population in Sorb), a gorgeous yellow Rathaus, a local history museum, and the Sorbian Museum. Its historic downtown area is only about 50km from Dresden, so it won’t take long to get here from there.

Hoyerswerda is another Upper Lusatia town. It’s got a 13th century castle (with a museum), houses with cannon balls still imbedded in them (this area was hit hard during the Thirty Years’ War and World War II), a Soviet Cemetery, and its Altes Rathaus dates to 1449. It’s also where you’ll find mile markers from its Prussian days.

I have to give Bad Muskau and Löbau an honorable mention. The former is a little village of around four thousand people with a Renaissance castle, a 16th century church (Jacobuskirche), botanical gardens, and (of course) its own war memorials.

The latter, has a most lovely Marktplatz, surrounded by a historic Town Hall (a Rathaus) and the fantastic St. Nicholas Church. Charming is an understatement.

Whether you choose to see the medieval or hike, follow history or the natural; you couldn’t find a more wonderful place to do it than Upper Lusatia. I’m going to have to find the Sorbian and Silesian word for perfect. ;-)

 

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