It's been a while since I've hosted any guest posters, but today I'm taking you to Leipzig, Germany where our host will be Michelle from Circles and Dots and Other Distractions who (in her own words) "wrote a thesis on American mommy blogs, speaks German, is learning to live healthier, reads lots of books and blogs, plays the piano, fights her never-ending to-do list, cooks, rides her junky but charming 30-Euro bike over cobblestones, makes random trips, writes and sleeps." A frequent contributor to the Write-Away Contest with excellent entries (hint, hint--have you entered yet?) make her feel welcome.
Although when most people think of visiting Germany, they think of either the big cities like Berlin or Münich or the tiny towns with tudor-style chalets tucked into green hills and dark forests, I’m here today to tell you about one of my favorite cities in Germany: Leipzig. I also happen to live there.
Leipzig is an old city, boasting nearly a thousand years of recorded history. As a fairly small city with a compact but charming city center, it has a surprising amount of famous figures, historical events, and places of interest.
So let me tell you about some of my favorites. The very first place I would take you if you came to visit would be the St. Thomas Church, or the Thomaskirche. Not only do European churches inspire awe in Americans, this church has two things to make it especially dazzling. The first is that Bach was the cantor there for years (and the city records show that when they were looking for a new cantor, they were a little put-out that the best man for the job took a different job, so they settled with Bach), and what are thought to be his remains are buried in the church.
The other reason this church needs a visit is because the famous Thomas Boys’ Choir sings there twice a week. These boys have a knowledge of music that I could never measure up to as they go to a special school for music. Hearing them sing with the acoustics of a historical church is simply not to be passed up. Plus, entrance to one of their concerts, held on Fridays at 6 PM and Saturdays at 3 PM is only 2 Euros.
You can also visit the nearby Bach Museum, which presents his life with 20 children (10 survived to adulthood) and the responsibility to write weekly new music for the two main churches of Leipzig. Some of his handwritten music is on display.
Bach isn’t the only one who gives Leipzig its reputation as “The City of Music.” Leipzig is also famous because Mendelssohn and Schumann lived here. The city has a famous opera, many orchestra concerts at the Gewandhaus, and smaller independent concerts spread out all over the city.
Walking over cobblestone streets and past the impressive old city hall would take us to our next stop: The Forum of Contemporary History. This is a free museum with one of the best exhibits I’ve ever seen. It is a collection of the simplest facts and the most interesting occurrences in the history of East Germany, with videos, postcards sent across the wall, the famous “Trabi” car, etc.
To come to a more local level in the history of East Germany, our next stop would be the St. Nicholas Church, or the Nikolaikirche. This church, though also really old and very pretty inside, is most famous for the peace prayers offered there before the Berlin Wall came down. After ten years of these prayers, more and more people began to gather until 100,000 people crowded the streets of Leipzig, peacefully holding candles and signs protesting the government that was holding them back. Though a protest behind the wall was dangerous and could prove fatal to some, a miracle occurred and no one was harmed. A month later, the Wall fell.
For those who are still thirsting to hear about East Germany, the free Stasi Museum is a place where you can see how the government spied on people. Fascinating and unbelievable.
Another detail that makes me love Leipzig is the varied architecture. I love to see classy old buildings next to modern glass and steel buildings. The University of Leipzig, which turns 600 years old this year, has many of these lovely contrasting buildings, especially in the area of the main library, the Bibliotheca Albertina. You also won’t want to miss the enormous Hauptbahnhof, or train station, which acts as the city’s main shopping center.
From there, you can take the tram to one of Leipzig’s many green areas. Unlike where I am originally from, plants grow by themselves in Germany, and here the attitude is that natural growth is beautiful, unlike the well-trimmed parks of the U.S. And beautiful it is with a special kind of green only to be found in Germany. I would suggest going to the park where you can find the Monument to the Battle of the Nations, known as the Völkerschlachtdenkmal in German. This monument is the largest in Europe and was built for the 100th anniversary of a battle where many nationalities joined together against Napoleon, with upwards of 100,000 deaths. Although the monument was supposed to symbolize peace and brotherhood, its massive freemason design made it a prime spot for Hitler’s misuse; he gave several speeches there about the expanding power of Germany. Don’t miss out on climbing the stairs to see the view from the top and the exciting headphones tour.
There are many other museums of interest in the Leipzig area, and if you’re lucky, your trip will coincide with the annual Museum Night, where you can pay 5 Euros to have access to all the museums until midnight.
And finally, if you're thinking of a Christmas trip, December is especially charming in Leipzig because of the Christmas market, with lights and decorations and hand-carved toys, and amazing food . . . a perfect place for the holidays.
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