A couple of weeks ago, PC and I took a little trip down to Leipzig.
Leipzig, Saxony’s largest city, bears a striking resemblance to Dresden the Saxon capital city. Both cities boast beautiful Renaissance and Baroque architecture…along with the telltale communist apartment of dreary East German days. Both cities have a history of commerce and culture that probably made Berlin look like a back water until about 1800.
Leipzig was certainly a hub for commerce and culture. The city sits at the crossroads of two Medieval trade routes, and continues to put on a international trade show that dates back to the Middle Ages. In Leipzig, Johann Sebastian Bach worked as choir master at a church, Wagner was born and raised, and Mendelssohn-Bartholdy operated a music academy. Oh, and Goethe included his favorite Leipzig wine bar from his student days in Faust.
Nowadays, people argue whether Leipzig is the next Berlin with its young, hip population. I’ve even seen it referred to as “Hype-zig”. PC and I checked into our hotel near the old city hall, and strolled around the mostly deserted city center to check out the hype.
Then we made our way to the St. Thomas Church where Bach worked the organ and directed the choir for almost 30 years.
The church now houses Bach’s remains. Dying in 1750, Bach was originally buried in an unmarked grave in a cemetery elsewhere in the city. It wasn’t until the 20th century that the remains were found and relocated. Some question whether the remains in the church are actually those of the great man…but let’s just go with it.
The next day we struck out to see more of the beautiful city. Although it endured allied bombing, Leipzig escaped the horrific firebombing which destroyed most of Dresden, and many of Leipzig’s old buildings remain intact.
We found the school where Wagner studied.
Then we had a look at the St. Nicholas Church. It served as a center for protest and demonstrations against the East German regime in the late 80’s. In fact, the dramatic images of protest in Berlin were a direct result of the fervor and strength of the movement in Leipzig.
The colossal monument commemorates the 1813 Battle of Nations and first major defeat of Napoleon. After this battle he’d be exiled, but then he came back and got beaten again at Waterloo a couple of years later. The monument was finished in 1913, ironically one year before the breakout of the First World War.
During the Third Reich days, Hitler often convened assemblies in front of the monument. Again, it’s ironic given Hitler would go on to make the same exact friggin mistake Napoleon made by trying to invade Russia and creating a two front un-winnable war. Idiot. Thank goodness.
The GDR came pretty close to destroying the thing given it was such an imposing symbol of the German nationalism that had led to two catastrophic wars. In the end, they let it slide since the Battle of Nations featured Russian and German soldiers fighting together to take down Napoleon.
We climbed all the way to the top, and I would share photos, but the city was covered in fog so they’re pretty boring pics. After our visit to the memorial, we made our way back to Berlin refreshed for the week ahead.