The titular hostelry in writer-director Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” may be merely a Hollywood creation and not a real hotel, but fans can still revel in the timeless whimsy of Anderson’s world by traveling to the German city of Görlitz.
Left largely unscathed by World War II, Görlitz has become a film production hotspot of late, providing set locations for period war dramas like “The Book Thief,” “Inglourious Basterds” and “The Reader.” In “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” however, Görlitz — which is half in Germany, half in Poland, and close to the Czech Republic — stands in for the fictional Eastern European country of Zubrowka.As whimsically envisioned by Anderson, “Budapest” stars Ralph Fiennes as M. Gustave, the mustachioed head concierge of an elegant, Art Nouveau European hotel as the world teeters on the brink of a world war. After Gustave is accused of theft and murder, he goes on the run with his new lobby boy (Tony Revolori). Jailbreaks, ski chases, and delicious pastry-making ensue.
To create the Grand Budapest’s majestic entrance lobby, the film’s production team transformed the atrium of the closed Görlitzer Warenhaus department store, originally built in 1912, and used regional artisans and decor — a 19th century hotel in Prague, a chair from a spa in Karlovy Vary — to fill out the space. (The rest of the store housed Anderson’s production offices, art department and various props workshops.) The hotel’s exteriors, meanwhile, were provided by miniature models created in Potsdam’s Studio Babelsberg. As Anderson told NPR, the production created “a pastiche of the greatest hits of Eastern Europe.”
Visitors hoping to stop by the Görlitzer Warenhaus are in luck. Although the department store was closed and facing bankrupcy when Anderson first found it, renewed interest in the space spurred private investor Winfried Stocker to buy the building last summer. He is currently having the building renovated and will re-open the space in 2015.
Watch a behind-the-scenes featurette about Görlitz, Germany with “Grand Budapest Hotel” co-star Bill Murray below. Or, consider an excursion to Germany if you’re already cruising with us in and around Europe.