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Previously, I reported on the German city of Karlsruhe as a recommendation for an ideal city break. This week our travel series Germany will feature the East German city of Leipzig.
The city is situated in the federal state of Saxony and has currently about half a million inhabitants, comparable to Glasgow in size and population. Leipzig was a small settlement since around 800 A.D. and became a city in 1165. Today it is a very vibrant city, in particular famous for its art and music scene. Leipzig was Germany’s third city before the war and is until today world famous for the various exhibitions throughout the year. The city has a huge green area right in the centre, with a 2500 hectare forest giving its inhabitants the opportunity to escape into nature any time. The city also played a major role in modern history, as the silent and peaceful Monday demonstration against the East German Regime started in Leipzig. In 1989 over 100,000 people would demonstrate peacefully every Monday evening and finally bring the dictatorship to an end.
The world-famous classical composer Johann Sebastian Bach spent a large part of his life in Leipzig, where he was music director of St. Thomas church. Every year the city celebrates Bach with a 10 day festival in the middle of June. Various artists perform Bach’s music on the streets and churches and music theatres all around the city offer concerts with music of this famous musician. The quality of some of the concerts is world class and Leipzig is the place to go if you want to listen to J.S.Bach’s magnificent music.
Modern art scene
Leipzig has become Germany’s capital for modern art during the recent two decades. The city offers, in particular for young artists, a huge number of exhibition space and networks. Artists flock to the city from all over the country and not to Berlin anymore, as used to be still the case ten years ago. The South of the city (Connewitz) is particularly attractive for the modern art scene. What used to be a centre for politically left-wing activists, has now transformed to a vibrant part of the city with a very young average age.
The Monument of the Battle of Nations commemorates the great battle that was fought in 1813 around Leipzig and decisively defeated Napoléon. This was the decisive battle of the napoleonic wars and not Waterloo, as claimed by some historians. The monument was completed in 1913, 100 years after the battle. It is a huge monument made of concrete and granite blocks. it encompasses a great hall of heroes and warriors. Although the ascend through the narrow windy staircases can be daunting, the view than one has from the top over the entire city is magnificent. There are various parks situated next to the monument.
This orchestra is the oldest symphony orchestra in the world and one of Europe’s finest. The orchestra performs in the Gewandhaus, a beautiful building with magnificent acoustics. The building was completed in the 1980′s after the original building had been destroyed during the war. It is now considered as one of the best music halls in the world.
It is one of the oldest in Germany and gives home to more than 2000 animals of 500 different species. Now it is also very modern and is particularly known for its carnivores and the new areal for monkeys and apes.
Just as every German city, Leipzig also has its own Christmas market in December. It spans many streets and the market place in the centre of the city and is one of Germany’s finest.
Leipzig has two magnificent churches right in the city centre. St. Thomas church is famous for the St. Thomas boy’s choir, one of the oldest choirs in the world and St. Nicholas church is renowned for hosting the initial evensongs that then accumulated into the Monday Peace Demonstrations 1987-1989. It thus played a major role in recent history. Both buildings are absolutely beautiful. St. Thomas church has two grand organs, one of them being a Silmermann Organ. St. Nicholas Church has a beautiful marble interior.
The city is one of the greenest cities in the world with 2,500 hectares of forest spanning from the South to the North of the city. It is a nature reserve with many rivers and thus it is a great place for the local population to escape hectic life styles.
Leipzig has its own airport and is also easily reachable from any of the Berlin airports. Travel by train from Berlin is only just over an hour with the ICE high speed train. Hotels are relatively cheap in the East of Germany and I recommend the Hotel Fürstenhof if you are looking for luxury accommodation and the Hotel Markgraf if you are looking into accommodation with a lower budget at hand. There are also various Break & Breakfasts and Youth Hostels in the city.
Image courtesy of: www.upload.wikimedia.org, www.smart-travel-germany.com and www.sacred-destinations.com
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About the Author: Sebastian Müller was born and raised in Leipzig/Germany and moved to England as an adolescent. He is a trained research chemist and geneticist and is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Institut Curie in Paris/ France working in cancer research. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge and is still actively involved at the university today. He is fluent in English, German and French and has many fortés and interests including science, philosophy, linguistics, history, competitive sports such as rowing, fitness and nutrition. He is one of the co-founders of City Connect. He is a freelance writer also drawing from his experience as an author in peer-reviewed scientific journals. "I love writing and putting my thoughts down on paper. The written word to me is one of the most powerful ways of conveying thoughts and initiating discussions."