My first real post is all about Leipzig, the city I have been living in for 10 months now. Leipzig is located in the east of Germany in the federal state of Saxony with around 500,000 inhabitants, and was named 10th on the New York Times' list of places to go back in 2010, much to the locals' pride. So what did the New York Times see in the city? The main points mentioned were the city's famous residents, who include Bach, Schumann and Mendelssohn. Goethe, who I have quoted above, also set part of his novel Faust in the Auerbach Keller in the city. Somewhat overshadowed on the tourist radar by its neighbour and the capital of Saxony, Dresden, Leipzig is nevertheless very much worth a visit: here are some of my tips.
1. Retrace the steps of the Friedliche Revolution (Peaceful Revolution)
Leipzig was where it all began; a few months before the GDR (German Democratic Republic or East Germany) collapsed, people began expressing their discontent in a series of peaceful marches and prayers originating from the Nikolaikirche in the city centre. The movement gained momentum over the next few months and turned into the Monday Demonstrations. Spreading all across East Germany, these demonstrations and marches eventually pressured the Communist totalitarian government into submission following a mass march on 16th October where 120,000 people took part; the following week, over 300,000 showed up and the demonstrations only ended when the first free elections were held in the GDR, eventually resulting in German reunification. A fascinating subject, and a tangible piece of history of which many traces still remain in Leipzig today. Anyone interested in finding out more can follow a route around the city to the important sites of the marches and other events crucial to reunification; information boards are located on these sites and provide a unique way to explore the city and delve into its recent history.
2. Chill out in one of Leipzig's many parks
Clara-Zetkin-Park, Johannapark, Rosental, Wildpark and Cospudner See are all wonderful places to spend a hot summer's day. Cospudner See is a large lake to the south of Leipzig, and Leipzigers flock here in summer to swim, hang out on the beach (yes, it's a beach) and barbecue. Germans love to barbecue (who doesn't?) and as soon as the sun comes out, you'll spot trails of smoke from parks and balconies across the city and smell the delicious scent of cooking Bratwurst. The Wildpark is also to the south and is a large wooded area where many wild animals live; for example, you might see a wild boar ambling along, totally oblivious to passers' by.
3. Head to the Spinnerei to check out Leipzig's arty credentials for yourself
The Spinnerei in Plagwitz, one of Leipzig's up-and-coming studenty areas, was once a textile factory and now houses art galleries and a hostel. Leipzig has an incredible amount of art galleries and some real gems can be found in tiny, independent art galleries in places such as Lindenau, Plagwitz and the Südvorstadt. Shortly after arriving, I took part in Lindenow, a weekend where many of these small ateliers and studios were open to the public; Leipzig often has such events where you can meet young artists and see their work for yourselves.
4. Sample some Leipziger Gose at the Bayerischer Bahnhof
This restaurant, as the name suggests, is located within the old train station on Bayerischer Platz in the south west of Leipzig, not far from the centre. It is also a working brewery producing and serving its own beer, amongst them Leipziger Gose. This beer has a slightly sour yet pleasant, refreshing taste, and is often ordered with a shot of syrup to sweeten it up. The food served here is typically German in a good way - 'Brauhaus' or brewery specialities involving lots of meat and potato dishes typical to the region (and many typical of Bayern as well) and is sure to go down well with the boys, particularly for the range of beer on offer.
5. Catch Happy Hour on Karli
Karli, or Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse, is Leipzig's famous bar-lined street to the south and THE place to go for a drink in the city. Particularly great in summer, where all the bars have outdoor seating and happy hours (usually from 6pm - 8pm) with extensive cocktail menus. Most themes are represented, from an American sports bar and, of course, the ubiquitous Irish pub (Killiwilly's - brilliant name!) to a Spanish bar and more traditionally German places.
6. Marvel over the stunning architecture of Leipzig
This really is one of my favourite things about Leipzig. Much of the city is full of Gründerzeit buildings from the 19th century. Other personal favourites include the newly-finished university building designed to resemble a church on Augustusplatz, the fairytale castle-like Neues Rathaus and the awe-inspiring Bundesverwaltungsgericht (housing the federal law courts). There is also something beautiful yet sad about all the empty houses in certain parts of the city, relics from the migration to the West after the Wall fell in 1990.