Roughly an hour after finishing our half day visit to Dresden, the train delivered us to our next stop – the east German city of Leipzig. Leipzig probably doesn’t strike you as a must visit European city and whilst it’s no equal to Berlin, Paris or perhaps Florence, it still has plenty to keep its visitors busy. Since German reunification, Leipzig has undergone a lot of change with some historical buildings restored, other demolished and the development of a modern transport system which connects all corners of the city. Nowadays the city is an economic centre and has even been crowned the most livable city in Germany. As always, I was keen to explore and with 48 hours in Leipzig, there was no time to lose!
Arriving in the city we made for our accommodation, this time a self catering apartment not far from the Old Town’s centre. After the statutory settling in period (and of course, cup of tea!) we decided it was about time for some dinner and so headed out to meet up with a friend of ours and Leipzig local.
Our ‘tour guide’ took us on a mini city tour, before we settled on Zum Arabischen Coffe Baum as a place to get a meal and catch up on the news. Although we did not take coffee with our meal, Coffe Baum is one of the oldest coffee-houses in Europe and has on its third floor a museum that tells the story of the coffee trade in Saxony over the past three centuries (coffee was first served here in 1711). We ate our dinner in the Schumann room, named after the composer Robert Schumann, who was apparently a regular here (1828 – 1844). The food was rustic German and when washed down with the local beer made for a very tasty meal.
Over dinner we discussed our plans for the following day and once the food was gone and after another drink, we slowly walked back to our apartment, once more through the Market Square.
Our second day in Leipzig started with an early morning stroll around the city centre. We set off, in the relative quiet of the day and our route took us up past the twelth century St Nicholas’ Church, via Grimmaische Str. to Augustusplatz, site of the Opera, Leipzig’s Concert Hall and the university.
A wander around the side-streets took us along Gewandgäßchen and into Neumarkt, where we could see the frontage of Kaffeehaus Riquet, with its trademark elephant heads. The coffee-house culture in Leipzig, has over the centuries, been so well supported that the city-dwellers have the nickname ‘the Kaffeesachsen’ – the coffee drinkers of Saxony. The culture still exists today with historical houses such as the Coffe Baum and Riquet complemented by more recent additions.
The Market Square was next on the list, a much more peaceful area than the night before, and then a stroll along Salzgäßchen and Schuhmachergäßchen, which brought us back to our starting point, St Nicholas’ Church.
There were still sights to see from historical buildings, churches, statues of the many musical greats who had an association with the area; Bach, Wagner, Schuman, Mendelssohn and Mahler. There seemed to be surprises around almost every corner, hidden passages, such as the Mädlerpassage, inviting the curious visitor to enter and explore. For example, Auerbachs Keller, one of the oldest restaurants in the city and frequented by Goethe in his student days, can be found here. Two sculptures of Mephisto and Faust and Bewitched Students can be found at the entrance.
Just before midday, we once again met up with our friend for a spot of Kaffee und Kuchen and after an hour or so of chatting, it was decided that we would start off the rest of the day by visiting the Russian Gedächtniskirche (memorial) Church which was not too far away. The church was built in 1913 to commemorate to Battle of Leipzig (1813), in which 130000 Russians fought for liberation from Napoleon’s armies. The last time we had seen the church, four years ago, the interior was undergoing renovation, so we hoped that this time things would be better. Sadly, scaffolding was still in place inside, indicating that the restoration of the iconostasis remained incomplete and, we were to be denied, again, a close-up view of this masterpiece of religious art. Still, the church itself is an architectural work of art, so the journey itself was not a complete waste of time.
Lunch beckoned, and as we discussed where best to go, we spotted a sign for ‘Gartengaststätte ‘Siegesmund’’ pointing to a location just behind the church, so off we went. It transpired that this small eatery served the locals and members of the surrounding gardens/allotments, as well as visitors, serving up typical German food, freshly prepared and cooked on site. The ‘staff’ were friendly, the food decent and the surroundings very quiet and pleasant. The only slight problem was that the locals spoke with a mild Saxon dialect so at times we had to refer to our friend for ‘translation’.
Over lunch our plan for the afternoon was discussed and we discovered that we were going to be taken on a tour of the canals and waterways of Leipzig, something we were unaware existed, for an alternative view of the city and a relaxing boat-ride. The journey to the start of our tour involved a short tram ride to Rödelstraße, and from there it was a short walk around the corner to Herold’s, the start-point for our next adventure.
Before long we were boarding our launch and as soon as everyone was settled in their seats, we began our ‘cruise’. The circular route lasted the best part of seventy minutes and took us along the hidden and mainly unknown waterways of Leipzig, with full and informative commentary from the ‘skipper’. Even with a spot of rain, it was a lovely way to spend an afternoon!
All too soon, we were back outside the station and saying our farewells to both our friend, and to Leipzig. The following morning would take us west, to Wurzburg, and to the first place I travelled to alone on my year 9 German exchange trip.
Have you been following along with my summer Interrail trip or have you just landed on this blog post? You can read lots more about my trip here. Also do let me know what you think of my post and if you have any questions, please do ask them in the comments below. Love V x