Pirna, located in south-eastern Saxony close to the Czech and Polish borders, is at least 780 years old. Its medieval buildings, including the ‘Sunshine Palace’ and narrow alleys, make it one of the most beautiful towns in the province and the country.
When Merten Heynemann rented a studio at ‘Dohnaische Strasse’ in Pirna exactly 556 years ago, he probably knew why. The man they called “the beauteous tailor” must have paid a rather high rent. In return, he got a spot on the elegant main shopping street in Pirna. And the Elbe river was only a few steps away.
Street Has Hardly Changed in 500 Years
Today, ‘Dohnaische Strasse’ does not look very different. The medieval houses lined up there accommodate shops and restaurants, including the ‘Arme Sau’ (‘Poor Sod’) in 2019. It is still the nicest shopping street ever, more than five centuries later. Because travelling is so much easier today, lots of tourists invade Pirna.
In 1463, when tailor Heynemann was active, Pirna was already 230 years old. The town was mentioned in a certificate in 1233. Another 36 years later, in 1269, the fortress of Pirna was first written about. Erected from 1545 to 1548, ‘Schloss Sonnenschein’ (‘Sunshine Palace’) is the building standing at the fortress’ location, on a hill overlooking Pirna. It is one of the many tourist magnets in town.
The Darkest Period in Pirna
Around that time, there was a port village between Pirna and the Elbe river. Since it was not protected by the former walls around the town, the village was destroyed in wars several times. Today, the port is part of Pirna, where some 36,000 residents live these days.
In Pirna, 40 percent voted for Hitler’s Nazi party NSDAP in the 1933 general elections. Germany’s darkest period followed. Books were burned right in the town’s center. In 1940 and 1941, 13,720 mentally ill people and 1000 inmates of concentration camps were murdered in Pirna.
Communist Regime Neglected Historic Center
After the war, the next bad period came: communism. The GDR’s regime had dozens of those typical ugly apartment blocks built in the outskirts. At the same time, the medieval heritage, meaning those historic buildings Pirna is full of, were neglected and fell apart.
After Germany’s reunification, they were renovated. The outcome is stunningly beautiful. Pirna has been back in shape for quite a while now. Another flood in 2002 did a lot of damage, but it was all repaired.
‘Hamburgers’ Know a Wider Elbe River
Walking Pirna today is a nice experience. So is trying the town’s culinary treasures. The market place in the center offers stunning views of ‘Sunshine Palace’. At the same time the palace up on that hill provides just as wonderful perspectives of the town. Climbing up those stairs is mandatory.
For a real ‘Hamburger’, or someone who has seen the Elbe river in Hamburg, the same river seems rather narrow and wild over here. In Hamburg, the port, docks, huge factories, including Airbus, musical theaters and expensive villas are lined up along the Elbe riverbanks. Huge freighters and countless ferries go up and down the river 24/7.
In comparison, the port in Pirna is tiny. It has one ferry and one tourist boat. Instead of a never ending concrete wharf, beautiful flowers garnish the riverside. It is truly nice down here. The view of Pirna from the other side of the river is priceless too.
A trip to Pirna can and should be combined with other Saxon marvels, including Görlitz and Meissen, but also Dresden and Leipzig.