Day Trip to Guben-Gubin

Guben is located in the Brandenburg countryside between the rivers Neisse and Spree and forms, as a twin city of Gubin, the bridge to neighbouring Poland. As one of the oldest cities in the Lower Lusatia, Guben looks back on a turbulent history of over 775 years.

After the Second World War, the almost completely destroyed city became split by the Potsdamer Agreement – Guben in Germany and Gubin in Poland. The historic old town has since been on the Polish side, and the industry-characterised part on the German side.

With the turn of the 90s, the economic infrastructure of Guben collapsed. In 2002 extensive renovation measures began, and Guben received a new city centre. In order to further promote the German-Polish cooperation, a central axis (Berliner Strasse/Frankfurter Strasse) between Guben and Gubin was created.

We experienced this and much more during our recent visit to Guben-Gubin. In addition, the expert staff of the two city administrations guided us through the ‘double city’. The tour started on the Promenade am Dreieck, the hub of the Guben city. The hat factory of C.G. Wilke stood here, in the middle of the city, for a long time as industrial wasteland. After extensive remodelling and renovations, the former manufacturing plants accommodate now the Guben Town Hall, the Municipal Library and the Municipal Music School.

We walked through the town, passing the Church of the Good Shepherd (1903 Art Nouveau) and the gatehouse (former guardhouse of Villa Wilke), as well as some stately houses, which lie on the main axis to Poland. On the banks of the River Neisse was once the site of the huge Guben Textile Factory, and is today, thanks to EU-funds, a green oasis, with direct access to the Neisse. Thus the Neisse, border river of the past, has become a tangible and connecting element in the German-Polish cityscape. We went over the footbridge (2007) to the theatre island, and we were at once in Poland. Remnants of the original columns of the former theatre and a small monument for Goethe's muse Corona Schröter, who was born in Guben, can still be seen here.

The ruins of the Guben city and main church (1294), destroyed during World War II, were among the most impressive buildings of Gubin. The church shall be rebuilt and shall serve as a German-Polish activity centre to promote and strengthen intercultural relations. Right next to it is the old Town Hall (built 1502 / renovated 1672 / rebuilt 1986) where we had our lunch.

Directly on the border, on the historic bridge, the main axis over the Neisse, we were greeted by Mayor Bartlomiej Bartczak (Gubin) and Governing Mayor Fred Mahlo (Guben), as well as many journalists, a reporter from the RBB and a TV crew.

"The road to a united Europe, challenges and potential - a German-Polish history" was the topic of the lecture in the Guben Town Hall. As a result of the geopolitical changes since the end of the 90s, the border with Poland has received a new function as “the Gateway to the East". Guben-Gubin have recognized the opportunities early and have taken initiatives for cross-border collaboration. The spatial structural concept of the Guben-Gubin Eurocity was created in 1998. Main idea of this common concept is the development of the bi-central urban structure with the focus of a joint design and functional enhancement.

Mr. Carsten Jacob of the GTS (Joint Technical Secretariat of the Operational Programmes for cross-border cooperation Wojewodschaft Lubuskie - Brandenburg 2007-2013), an agency for EU-funded incentive programmes, explained through project examples how the European funding for regional development works. It has thus succeeded in overcoming borders through joint investments into the future.

Before proceeding on our homeward journey, we were able to take a look in the town and industrial museum, where we virtually or actually tried on the famous hats of Mr. Wilke.

We would like to express our special thanks to the Deputy Head of the Polish Embassy in Berlin, Mr. Andrej Szynka, who accompanied us throughout the day. Our thanks also go to Mrs. Olivia Nikel, former WIB board member, now wife of the German Ambassador in Warsaw, who came from Warsaw specially to get to know Guben-Gubin with us together.

English translation by Linda Mei-Ying Ruediger
Photos: © Bernhard Schulz