Clinging on to the far eastern edge of German territory is the cultural city of Zittau. Close to the borders of both Poland and the Czech Republic this delightful destination is architecturally very Italian, and it sits quietly on the banks of the tumbling river Neiße.
The city was once a member of the 6 City League of Upper Lusatia (1346-1815) and was nick-named Die Reiche (The Rich) as a reflection of their wealth at the time.
Lusatia was a Sorbian culture which is still very evident today in the local traditions — and the language today attests to the strong indigenous population still found living and working here. You will find that many road signs are bilingual as a result.
The city center has many great plazas and fountains and appears very Mediterranean in layout. The secluded plaza outside the magnificent Italian-inspired Town Hall is a crack place to sit down and soak it all up!
The medieval church of St John is also a must visit due to its unique multi-story appearance — a very rare occurrence in German churches.
The recently formed International Via Sacra (Religious Route) stops off here in Zittau to see two very unique pieces of history: the Lenten Veils. The largest of the two is a massive sheet of linen which is hand-painted with the entire illustrated bible! This is a truly amazing sight, and is represented by around 90 different delicate and detailed scenes.
The smaller of the two Veils is also hand-painted but is decorated with details of the crucifixion. This particular work of art is thought to be one of only six of its type in the world!
For engineering fans, this region of former East Germany is a real treasure trove of old steam engines, tractors and trains — and here in Zittau is no exception. The working 110-year-old narrow gauge Zittau-Oybin-Jonsdorf Steam Railway will take you not only on a journey back in time, but one up into the mountains!
Alternatively, you can walk along many signed routes through this very scenic area. It is easy to reach remote spa towns and pretty resorts and villages in these highlands — which are also very likely to be covered in snow as well. What an awesome picture! :-)