Budyšin, Budyšyn, Budyšín, Budziszyn or Bautzen?
Report on weekend excursion

Group picture with tour guide Mr. Mendow
Group picture with tour guide Mr. Mendow

For the second time now, the TUD Welcome Center and international researchers from Dresden visited the charming town on the river Spree, Bautzen. This ancient hill-top town that is more than 1000 years old has much to offer. Our intense 10-hour excursion started in the morning with a visit of the Sorbian museum, the Sebrski Muzej. The Sorbian people are a very tiny minority from Slavic descent with a rich and distinctive culture situated in the east German territory commonly called Lusatia. Mr. Brützke, having Sorbian roots himself, guided us through the very modern and well-curated exhibition, which informed about the centuries-long history, the outstanding traditions and the fascinating fashion of this small folk. The greeting ceremony that followed and the lunch at the Sorbian restaurant, Wjelbik, intensified this cultural experience, which felt strikingly familiar to our researchers from East Europe.

From this, for international guests surely, less known but nevertheless interesting part of the town’s history we went to the probably most known but also most disturbing part of the same – the Bautzen prison for political dissidents. Visiting the former worst prison of the German Democratic Republic, „Bautzen I“, was a demanding but an enlightening undertaking, too. A guided tour informed us about the alternate use of the building under different regimes, the organization of the prison during GDR era and also about which role, for example, the „trade“ of inmates against D-Mark from former West Germany played. Moreover, it have been the stories of inmates, narrated by our guide, which created a lively image for us of how challenging life in „Bautzen I“ actually was being captive.

A coffee break at the sun-lit market place helped us to digest the dark stories from Bautzen I. From there, our guided evening city tour started. Thanks to Mr. Mendow we were shown the most beautiful and captivating places of the town. From the impressive outside of St. Peter’s cathedral, the romantic ruins of St. Nikolai church and the inside as well as the top of Matthias tower, we have seen all of the town’s famous landmarks. Casual conversations with the very dedicated guide also revealed some special facts about Bautzen and furthermore about his life during GDR times. Mr. Mendow was patient with us and gave us a lot of time for all our questions. It was then already late in the evening when we caught a train back to Dresden.

(Text & Photos: M. Kusche)

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