Catching Up, Part 2: Leipzig

How do you pick the places you visit on your weekend road trips? Before our move to Germany, I feel like 9 times out of 10, where we went depended on a particular event (having tickets for a concert in Nashville, for instance) or family gathering. These days, I feel more like we should have a map posted on the wall with a set of darts! That would be kind of fun, though, wouldn’t it? Perhaps not with small children in the area (if your aim is anything like mine), but interesting nonetheless. Our trip to Leipzig, which is about 2/3 of the way between our apartment and Berlin, was born of several factors. 1 of which, of course, is the Starbucks mug checklist. Another is that among Mike’s German coworkers, this city is one of the only ones that they seemed to feel is “interesting.” Meanwhile, I’ve felt like Leipzig kept showing up in my life – in books (one of which was Larson’s “In the Garden of Beasts,” which I thought provided an interesting perspective on the start of WWII, both in Germany and in the U.S.), in conversations with people, in reading about other places/events/people. So… we were off to Leipzig.

Although I’d never heard of Leipzig before we arrived in Germany, I would echo those who say that it is one of the most (if not THE most) underrated cities in Germany. Although it has been a major part of significant events in history, I felt like they do a better/different job than many places of focusing on the present without trying to sweep the past under the rug.

Adorning a building near our hotel, I thought this was a good representation of Leipzig:  colorful, pretty without being tidy, and with a strong sense of value.

Adorning a building near our hotel, I thought this was a good representation of Leipzig: colorful, pretty without being tidy, and with a strong sense of value. (people in Leipzig don’t really have fish faces, though.. just so you know…)

Several weeks ago, more towards the home front in Aschaffenburg, there was a fair amount of drama stemming from what should be basic household decisions. Particularly around the temperature of the individual homes. Well, let me back up. As you are well aware, this German winter and I were NOT BFFs. So, I didn’t really “mind” this, but I found it interesting:  Walking along most cities and towns, even in the dead of winter (how apt is that expression??), it is very common to see storefronts with their doors open. Yep, just pumping heat out into the open air like they’ve got energy to spare. What was extra-interesting to me about this is that Germans in general (perhaps most of Europe, really) have a reputation for being much more energy-conscious than Americans in general. This reputation is supported by LOTS of facts, too:  smaller cars/greater reliance on mass transit/trains, MUCH more alternate energy focus (even our little building’s roof is completely covered with solar panels), and on and on (even many-most escalators have motion sensors so that they are running for no reason). Check out ifitweremyhome.com for some other interesting comparisons (including energy use) between where you live and other parts of the world. I could play with it for longer than I’m proud of admitting…

Anyway… back to the story… a nastygram email got sent to all of Mike’s coworkers saying that we Americans were being excessive on our heat use, and that there were reports of apartments being kept at 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit). One of the many reasons that this is inane is that we don’t have thermostats and the radiators were timed such that for significant parts of the day, no heat was really available. Anyway… Imagine, if you will, waking up in your cozy little hotel room in downtown Leipzig with the heating system in your room being inhabited by a poltergeist which ACTUALLY FACTUALLY read 28 degrees Celsius (82.4 degrees Fahrenheit). It was out of control. Ain’t nobody got time for that at 2 am, I can promise you that! I literally felt like I was melting. We were finally able to turn the stupid system off (we had tried when we first arrived, because it was a smidge warm when we got there), and eventually piece together something resembling a nap (well, Mike can sleep at any time in any place under almost any circumstances so HE probably resumed his near-coma state quickly (which honestly, I (not the heat) had awakened him from as my skin literally began melting as I paced the room, trying to generate a breeze as I walked). Wait… did that sound jealous?? Well, take it for what it is…). I was ready to send all kinds of nasty grams myself, but… fortunately, Leipzig awaited and is really much to charming in its own eclectic way for me to hold the whole city responsible (which I was ready to do at 2 am, I promise).

Nikolaikirche is important for several reasons... the one that stands out is that the church held Monday demonstrations which were eventually a major turning point in the peaceful revolution against the communist rule in East Germany (it has been said that the church itself was the leader of this revolution). Nikolaikirche was built, originally, in the 1100s, and hosted J.S. Bach (who lived in Leipzig) several times. The church is also interesting to me because it is a protestant church, though Catholic services/functions are "allowed."

Nikolaikirche is important for several reasons… the one that stands out is that the church held Monday demonstrations which were eventually a major turning point in the peaceful revolution against the communist rule in East Germany (it has been said that the church itself was the leader of this revolution). Nikolaikirche was built, originally, in the 1100s, and hosted J.S. Bach (who lived in Leipzig) several times. The church is also interesting to me because it is a protestant church, though Catholic services/functions are “allowed.”

One of the displays at the Leipzig Rathaus... the image kind of speaks for itself, no?

One of the displays at the Leipzig Rathaus… the image kind of speaks for itself, no?

Seen at the Stasi museum, one of several streets that were renamed following the fall of communism.

Seen at the Stasi museum, one of several streets that were renamed following the fall of communism.

This one just made me laugh... I swear I've seen more Jack Daniels products in Germany than I've ever dreamed of in the US.

This one just made me laugh… I swear I’ve seen more Jack Daniels products in Germany than I’ve ever dreamed of in the US.

This depicts the evolution of work/man's work, I think. I can't remember for certain, but I still thought it was pretty cool.

This depicts the evolution of work/man’s work, I think. I can’t remember for certain, but I still thought it was pretty cool.

Lime trees are one of the symbols of Leipzig dating back a REALLY long time (the name means "city where the linden trees stand," which translates to "lime trees" in British English. This medallion was on display at the rathaus.

Lime trees are one of the symbols of Leipzig dating back a REALLY long time (the name means “city where the linden trees stand,” which translates to “lime trees” in British English. This medallion was on display at the rathaus.

Words can not depict how totally creepy this was... the Alte rathaus is now mostly a museum, was depitated in WWII, and only the beams supporting the roof were left. It has obviously been reroofed, but they have installed a bunch of old TVs up there depicting scenes from the bombing (complete with sound effects). Definitely made it feel real to me...

Words can not depict how totally creepy this was… the Alte rathaus is now mostly a museum, was depitated in WWII, and only the beams supporting the roof were left. It has obviously been reroofed, but they have installed a bunch of old TVs up there depicting scenes from the bombing (complete with sound effects). Definitely made it feel real to me…

Leipzig is famous (relatively speaking, anyway) for a variety of things, including their publishing, trade fairs (dating back to the middle ages), and arts scenes. They also apparently have a fairly strong athletic community, and launched an unsuccessful bid for the Olympics in 2012.

Athletic dude promoting the campaign to bring the Olympics to Leipzig.

Athletic dude promoting the campaign to bring the Olympics to Leipzig.

Yet another indication of their burgeoning athleticism.

Yet another indication of their burgeoning athleticism.

We took a little break at the Coffee Baum, one of the oldest coffee houses in Europe.

We took a little break at der zum Arabischen Coffee Baum, one of the oldest coffee houses in Europe.

And we had to sample the famous Leipziger Lerche (which we thought was very tasty)..

And we had to sample the famous Leipziger Lerche (which we thought was very tasty)..

We saw a lot, ate well, and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. That’s pretty much what a weekend trip should be, n’est pas?

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