The Journey to Zeitz, Germany: Prescott’s Sister City

by Elaine Earle, Publisher of Prescott LIVING Magazine

When I heard about the Prescott Sister City in Germany — the city of Zeitz — I just had to go! Germany is a place that I adore to begin with and I have been there several times, including a period of time in 2017 when our family went to live in a German village and my children got to experience going to a German elementary school.

Compared to my other trips to Germany, which were all in the “West,” Zeitz was a different experience for us. Zeitz is in East Germany, otherwise known as the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). Many people may think the former GDR has recovered economically given the Berlin Wall came down and the GDR was dissolved in 1990. However, almost 30 years later in Zeitz, they still feel the effects of the GDR today. Effects of the GDR on Zeitz include but aren’t limited to:

Loss of markets for factories and industry — markets for industrial products were in the East and traded in rubles with the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.). Markets are not competitive for the West.

Abandoned buildings and unknown titles on properties.

Workforce talent moved West.

Cost of reunification — taxing on the West to pay for the East rebuilding.

Where does Zeitz sit in reunification recovery? Zietz has a charming and very beautiful town center, like most Aldstadts in Germany. It is vibrant in appearance but was not vibrant in activity. Many buildings are abandoned and empty and we found the streets completely void of activity, even on a Friday evening in June.

What does Zeitz have planned for the future? We met with the Mayor of Zeitz, Christian Theime, and discussed this topic. Zeitz is working on a transportation plan including high-speed passenger rail to connect themselves with the city of Leipzig, also a former GDR city, approximately 27 miles away. Leipzig is a city of approximately 600,000 people far larger than Zeitz with just over 20,000 people. Leipzig is known as Germany’s “Boomtown” and has become very prosperous post-reunification. Leipzig underwent significant change with the restoration of historical buildings and the development of modern transportation infrastructure. Leipzig today is an economic powerhouse in the East and has attracted many young professionals and high-tech companies and according to GfK Marketing Research Institution has been named the “Most livable city in Germany.” The boom of Leipzig will have a very positive impact on Zeitz with improved transportation to connect the existing country corridor between the two cities.

Zeitz has a future in tourism as well, given the many outstanding places to visit within a few hours drive. These include :

  • Frankfurt, Germany, 220 miles, 3 ½ hour drive
  • Munich, Germany, 241 miles,
    3 ½ hour drive
  • Berlin, Germany, 140 miles,
    2 ½ hour drive
  • Nuremberg, Germany, 151 miles, 2 ½ hour drive
  • Potsdam, Germany, 126 miles,
    2 hour drive
  • Dresden, Germany, 92 miles,
    1 ½ hour drive
  • Leipzig, Germany, 27 miles,
    45 minute drive
  • Prague, Czech Republic,
    180 miles, 3 hour drive

I am thankful for the hospitality and warm welcome received from the Prescott Sister City partners on our journey there and certainly learned a lot about East and West Germany in the visit. We stayed in a wonderful boutique hotel called the Hotel Maximilian, and enjoyed many delicious German meals while we were there. We visited with dignitaries and residents of Zeitz and hope to stay in touch with them in the future.

Fun Fact About Zeitz, Germany

The town of Zeitz is associated with Martin Luther’s successors. Indeed, Luther’s male descendants all left their mark on the town. In 1542 Luther ordained Nicolaus von Amsdorf as the first Protestant bishop at the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul in Zeitz.

Johann Ernst Luther, a grandson of the great reformer, was married at St. Michael’s Church in Zeitz. He and his wife, Martha, had eight children and established the Zeitz line of the Luther family. His headstone is embedded in the wall of the cloister at the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul. There are still descendants of Martin Luther living in Zeitz today.

In the late 19th century, a copy of Luther’s 95 theses dating from 1517, was discovered in the library of St. Michael’s Church in Zeitz. It is a rare treasure among the original documents dating from the time of the Reformation.

Favorite German Foods

Spätzle – noodles made from wheat flour and egg are often served topped with cheese

Sauerbraten – delicious roast pork dish usually served with braised cabbage or sauerkraut and dumplings (knoedel)

Schnitzel – thin, boneless cutlet of meat, which is coated in breadcrumbs and often served with a slice of lemon

Wurst – the most popular include Bratwurst (fried sausage) made of ground pork and spices, Wiener (Viennese), which is smoked and then boiled, and Blutwurst and Schwarzwurst, which are both blood sausages

Apfelstrudel (apple strudel) – popular dessert of buttery pastry filled with apples flavoured with sugar, cinnamon, raisins and breadcrumbs