Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Leipzig

Saturday

I was honestly a bit worried that when I arrived in Leipzig I wouldn't find my host, Mina, at the train station. While she told me directions on where to go and to look for her yellow bike, I was worried that I would be lost and stuck in this city alone. This probably began because of the fact that I had a host lined up and at the last minute he canceled so Mina was a last minute kind of thing. Though, I'm happy I stayed with her instead!

 Of course, I had no issues, as soon as I got off the train, I followed her "complex" directions to turn left and went outside. Relief literally washed over me when I saw her standing with her yellow bike and she hugged me hello. Whew!

We decided to walk back to her apartment and she showed me the room I could stay in and let me settle a bit. She was hungry so we made some lunch and it was nice to talk with her about almost anything. She's a vegetarian so no meat was used but we made couscous, zucchini, onions, chick peas, and red sauce. I even got to help cook! We sat together at the table to enjoy our meal and just talked a bit.

When we were done with lunch, Mina gave me a key to her place as well as a few maps and guide books to help me tour the city. She had a big exam coming up on Tuesday so she couldn't show me the city, but that's fine. I never really expect a host to show me the city and I at least know of a few things to see and do in the city if I'm stuck wandering alone.

I decided on walking everywhere rather than paying for the trams and buses, plus, knowing me, I'd get really lost if I did that. Somehow I can navigate a subway without a single issue but when it comes to a bus or an above ground train, I'm useless.

When I got into the city, rather than looking the part of a tourist and using the map, I just wandered and wandered and, oh yeah, wandered some more. I found a ton of statues of / for famous composers and I even found the church where many of Bach's works were first performed. This particular church required an entrance fee first though and, get this, not only were they asking for 9 Euros each, they were sold out until the next Friday! (I later discovered that this was for an evening of organ music, but still!)
Leipzig, with more than 530.000 inhabitants, is one of the two largest cities in the Saxony, Germany. It is is situated about 200 km south of Berlin at the meeting point of the Weisse Elster, Pleisse, and Parthe rivers at the southerly end of the North German Plain.

Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing. After World War II, Leipzig became a major urban centre within the Communist German Democratic Republic but its cultural and economic importance declined.

Leipzig later played a significant role in instigating the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, through events which took place in and around St. Nicholas Church. Since the reunification of Germany, Leipzig has undergone significant change with the restoration of some historical buildings, the demolition of others, and the development of a modern transport infrastructure.

The Leipzig region was the arena of the 1813 Battle of Leipzig between Napoleonic France and an allied coalition of Prussia, Russia, Austria and Sweden. It was the largest battle in Europe prior to World War I and ended Napoleon's presence in Germany and would ultimately lead to his first exile on Elba.

The city was also heavily damaged by Allied bombing during World War II. Unlike its neighbouring city of Dresden this was largely conventional bombing, with high explosives rather than incendiaries. The resultant pattern of loss was a patchwork, rather than wholesale loss of its centre, but was nevertheless very extensive.

In October 1989, after prayers for peace at St. Nicholas Church, established in 1983 as part of the peace movement, the Monday demonstrations started as the most prominent mass protest against the East German regime.
The main sights I saw were:
  • St. Thomas Church (Thomaskirche): Most famous as the place where Johann Sebastian Bach worked as a cantor and home to the renowned boys choir Thomanerchor
  • Monument to Felix Mendelssohn in front of this church. Destroyed by the Nazis in 1936, it was rebuilt on 18 October 2008.
  • St. Nicholas Church (Nikolaikirche), for which Bach was also responsible. The weekly Montagsgebet (Monday prayer) held here became in the 1980s the starting point of peaceful Monday demonstrations against the DDR regime.
  • Old Town Hall: the old town hall was built in 1556 and houses a museum of the city's history
  • New Town Hall: the new town hall was built upon the remains of the Plei├čenburg, a castle that was the site of the 1519 debate between Johann Eck and Martin Luther.
  • City-Hochhaus Leipzig: built in 1972, it was once part of the university and is the city's tallest building
  • Bundesverwaltungsgericht: Germany's federal administrative court was the site of the Reichsgericht, the highest state court between 1888 and 1945
 
After wandering the city, I headed back to Mina's house because I was exhausted! I got back and laid in bed for a few minutes but Mina soon came in and invited me to help her and a friend make dinner. We had wine and beer and cooked some pumpkin and veggies to go in a salad. We even baked an apple cake for desert. 

It was great to meet these girls and all share our experiences with couch surfing. Though, I think I'm the only one who had such awkward experiences through the site. Maybe it's me?

Sunday

I woke up early like every other day, and left the apartment around 7 AM. I walked into the city and explored but since it was Sunday, nearly nothing was open. Obviously. I wound up literally walking in circles for two hours and finally ending up at the St. Thomas Church where I had free entry during mass, heck yes! The famous boys choir sung during mass too, unreal.

After mass, nothing was open yet so I stopped for breakfast in a coffee shop. I then went back into the city and found the information shop which I had searched for before but couldn't find and didn't really find any useful information other than some city maps which I took to give to Mina for future guests to use.

 The art museum beside the information booth was open for for 3,50 Euros I went inside. I didn't see any signs saying I couldn't take pictures (like there were in the St. Thomas Church) so I took a ton! As you can probably see...

After that, I didn't do much else in the city but wander and look in shop windows and decided to head back to Mina's apartment to grab my things to leave.

On the way back, it wasn't just a nice, normal, soothing walk. I was being followed! Yeah, yeah, tell me I"m paranoid..... OK, go it out of your system yet?

Seriously. This guy, yes I took a photo, I needed it for this post, was following me. Why? Who the hell knows but he kept looking at me and it creeped me out so I decided to let him walk ahead and I just slowed down to look into some shop windows. When I looked up though, he was waiting for me, looking right at me on the other side of the street.

So I kept walking, took a few wrong turns and sure enough, he was following me. Finally when I got to Mina's street, I crossed and he stayed on the other side and I walked right past her place and when I thought the coast was clear, I turned around and went to go into her place but he was on the street in front of me looking at me!

I ran inside as fast as possible and sprinted upstairs. Dear lord I was worried he'd follow me!

Once inside and safe, I relaxed a bit and said my goodbyes to Mina and roommates and was about to leave when Mina offered me some food for the trip home. I packed a sandwich and headed out, hopeful that my stalker would be gone.

Thankfully, he was gone and I walked in peace to the train station. I was a bit early so I read some of my book then boarded the train and without and mishaps, I was in Paderborn at 8 PM, took the bus to my apartment, and Skyped with my family.

Shortly after that I was down for the count and sleeping quite soundly.





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