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Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel guide to Eastern Europe

Director Wes Anderson’s highly anticipated latest creation, TheGrand Budapest Hotel, boasts an all-
star cast including Ralph Fiennes, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe and Jude Law. This 1930s caper is set in an imaginary Eastern European principality called Zubrowka, in the striking pink alpine hotel that lends its name to the title.

Whilst you may not be able to visit Zubrowka in real life, the movie presents a glimpse into the ambience of some of Eastern Europe’s most historic destinations and a sense of nostalgia for a time between the two world wars, when the region thrived and flourished. To learn more about the movie and its inspirations, here’s a look into some key destinations for The Grand Budapest Hotel tour of Eastern Europe.

Berlin, Germany

Berlin was not only the launch-pad of the movie, which opened at the city’s film festival, but it was also one of the key filming locations. Visitors to the city can enjoy their own tour to learn about the city’s colourful history.

Learn about the East/West split at the Berlin Wall by visiting Checkpoint Charlie, where many East Berliners tried to escape to the West. The monumental Brandenburg Gate has been a key site for a number of major historical events and is one of the city’s most impressive landmarks – it’s now seen as a symbol of Germany’s tumultuous past as well as European peace and unity.
Not just for history lovers, Berlin offers a fun contemporary art scene, as well as plenty of options for shopaholics and foodies too (not to mention a world-famous nightlife scene).

Görlitz, Germany

Another key filming location for the movie, the bulk of the interiors for the Grand Budapest Hotel were shot on location at the Görlitzer Warenhaus historic shopping centre – an old, disused mall which was converted to represent the hotel.

by cpradi
This isn’t the first movie to use Görlitz as a filming location; scenes from The Reader and Inglourious Basterds were also filmed here, on the German border of Poland and Czech Republic. The impressive collection of Renaissance, Gothic, art nouveau and Baroque architecture (the town has over 3,500 monuments from the last 500 years alone) creates an imposing atmosphere and a visual treat for visitors. 

This friendly town also offers plenty of options for sampling rustic cuisine as well as a good range of accommodation, from hotels to modern apartments.

Prague, Czech Republic

The Grand Budapest Hotel offers an enticing sense of nostalgia for the Old World as decadent Europe is on the verge of giving way to the approach of World War II. Prague suffered its own piques and ruins, which is reflected in the beautiful architecture, music and historical core of the city. At the time of The Grand Budapest Hotel, the Czech capital flourished with a young democracy, before being trampled by the Nazis and Soviets through to the late 1980s.

Image Provided by Arthur Guy
Some of the city’s most significant monuments include the Charles Bridge, which dates back to 1357, and Prague Castle, the largest castle complex in the world. The area’s mixed past means that visitors can expect to see signs of the Holy Roman Empire, the Bohemian Empire, the Nazis and the Communists. However, it’s not just for its history that the city is renowned; its beer is considered by many to be some of the best in the world and its nightlife draws visitors from all over the world.

Budapest, Hungary

As Budapest is name-checked in the title of the film, it deserves a proud place in any The Grand Budapest Hotel round up. The city is the capital and largest city in Hungary and is historically two cities rolled into one. With west-bank Buda and east-bank Pest situated on different sides of the Danube River, unification in 1873 has created an exotic blend of history, art, culture and entertainment.

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Visitors can enjoy experiencing the Hungarian beerhouses, or tasting some of the country’s typical goulash dishes – perhaps even a cruise down the Danube to see both sides of the city. The city’s spa and thermal baths are ideal for unwinding, following a day of exploring the historic streets and monuments. Popular attractions include the Royal Palace, the Chain Bridge and the colourful Church of St. Matthias.

Vienna, Austria 

Grand Budapest Director, Wes Anderson, has cited Stefan Zweig, an early 20th-century Austrian writer as inspiration for the film. Zweig wrote extensively about Europe before it became overrun by fascism, which has led to the sense of nostalgia throughout the movie. Zweig himself lived and studied in Vienna before fleeing during the Nazi invasion and visitors today can walk around the city viewing the city in his footsteps. You can view the archive of his works at the District Museum Josefstadt, visit his birthplace on Schottentor 14 or explore the 8th district where he lived during his studies.

Image provided by Arian Zwegers
The city is also known for its Viennese coffee and delicious pastries, strudels and schnitzels, so there’s plenty to please food and drink lovers. The impressive St. Stephen’s Cathdral (or Stephansdom) is an imposing example of the city’s beautiful architecture and the many museums – like the Vienna Museum of Art and the Wien Museum – are an ideal attraction for culture vultures.

How to travel Eastern Europe

You can easily experience all of these fascinating destinations in one trip, as they are all located on each others’ borders. Perhaps consider a coach tour, like Contiki’s 13 day EasternRoad tour – these coach trips take in all of the key historic sites to inspire your own The Grand Budapest Hotel adventure.