I think I am a bit obsessed with Eastern Europe. I've already visited quite a lot of it. This summer we decided to concentrate on the former East Germany. I first heard of Leipzig when I was studying psychology at university as we learned about a famous psychologist, Wilhelm Wundt, who worked at Leipzig University. I remember trying to find out where Leipzig was and planning that I would visit it some day.
We arrived in Leipzig's huge modern train station,then took transport out to the Days Inn Hotel. This hotel is away from the centre, but this was not a problem as they gave us a free transport card for our whole stay. We visited Leipzig Opera House, Leipzig University, the gewandhaus, the new town hall, Saint Thomas's Church, the old town hall, the market place, the stasi museum, Saint Nicholaus's Church, the Monument to Nations and the Russian Church. I liked Leipzig and found it interesting to wander around.
Leipzig is the largest city Saxony. It has a population of around 570,000. It is located at the confluence of the White Elster, Pleisse, and Parthe rivers. Leipzig was an important trade city during the time of the Holy Roman Empire. It is situated at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, which were two very important Mediaeval trade routes. This city was once an important European centre of learning and culture especially in areas such as music and publishing. Leipzig became part of the German Democratic Republic after World War II.
The hotel we stayed in is reviewed below.
Peaceful Hotel: Days Inn, Leipzig Messe.
We got to this hotel by taking the sbahn from Liepzig hauptbahnhof. A tram also runs past the hotel. This hotel is not central but we were given a pass for free public transport when we checked in. We made good use of this and were very happy with it. Near the hotel there are two supermarkets just a couple of minutes walk away. We also walked for about ten minutes to a nearby restaurant, Hotel Zum Absclepphof, on our first night and had a lovely meal there, much better than the meal we had in the city centre next day. Our room was in a separate building from the main hotel. It was clean, comfortable and very quiet. It did not have a safe, fridge or kettle. We did not eat breakfast at the hotel. We just purchased things from the nearby supermarket. I would stay here again due to the peacefulness and due to the free transport pass. Address: Seehausener Str. 29.
Here are some places we visited in Leipzig.
Augustusplatz is the largest square in Leipzig. It was once the most beautiful, but having been flattened during World War II, it was rebuilt during Communist times in a strange mixture of styles rendering it strange but interesting. On this square can be found Leipzig's Opera House, the Gewandhaus or concert hall, the new Augusteum which is part of Leipzig University, the KrochHochhaus with its restored bell tower, the City Hochhaus tallest building in Leipzig and an ornate fountain. The Leipzig Opera was first established in 1693, making it the third oldest operatic venue in Europe, but the present Opera House was built in the 1960s in modern style. The Gewandhaus is a concert hall and is home to the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. The first concert hall was built here in 1781. The second was designed by Martin Gropius and opened in 1884. This was destroyed in World War II. The third Gewandhaus opened in 1981. Nowadays the Gewandhaus is very famous and hosts some of the world's most prestigious orchestras. The Mende Fountain is located in front of the Gewandhaus. It is the largest fountain in Leipzig. It was built by Adolf Gnauth in 188386 using money bequeathed to the city by Pauline Mende, a rich merchant's widow. Also on Augustusplatz can be found the CityHochhaus. The City Hochhaus is a thirty-six storey skyscraper. At 142 m , it is the tallest building in Leipzig. It was designed by architect Hermann Henselmann and is supposed to look like an open book. It was built between 1968 and 1972. This building was once part of the University of Leipzig but is now owned by the U.S. investment bank Merrill Lynch. The Augusteum was the original site of the University of Leipzig. It was destroyed in the war and has been rebuilt in a modern style. The KrochHochhaus was built as a bank in 1927. It was then the tallest building in Leipzig. It is built copying the style of the Torre dell Orologio clock tower in Saint Mark's Square, Venice.
The New Town Hall and City Hall.
We walked through the park behind the Gewandhaus to the New Town Hall and City Hall. The Town Hall was constructed a few years after the New City Hall, and the two buildings are connected by a bridge. Apparently it is possible to tour the tower of the New City Hall. This was built on the foundation of the tower of the old Pleißenburg Castle. It is the tallest city hall tower in Germany. Tours are scheduled from Monday to Friday at 11am and 2pm. Tours cost 3 euros. This building was quite nice though difficult to get a good photo of. When we reached it, the skies opened and it started to pour. This was to be the pattern of our stay: travelling days roasting hot, looking around days raining. At least it was cool enough for walking.
Saint Thomas's Church.
Truth be told this was the first site in Leipzig that I was impressed with. Saint Thomas's Church is most famous for having had Johann Sebastian Bach as its Kapellmeister in charge of the choir from 1723 until his death in 1750. Bach is buried inside this church, though he was not originally. His remains were brought here after the destruction of his first resting place, the Leipzig Johanneskirche, in World War II. There is a statue of him outside and a museum to him opposite the church. There has been a church at this site since the twelfth century. Protestant reformer Martin Luther preached here on Pentecost Sunday in 1539. The church is now a Lutheran church. We seemed to be somewhere Martin Luther had been everywhere we went in eastern Germany.
The Old City Hall and Market.
Leipzig's Old City Hall was built on the foundations of an earlier town hall in 1556. This building includes a ballroom, which has been used for, among other things, the royal festivals of Saxon's princes and student balls. It has also been used as a court. Since 1909 the Old City Hall has been Leipzig's Museum of City History. There is a lively and colourful market outside the Old City Hall.
The Stasi Museum: Museum Runde Ecke (Round Corner).
I am not normally a fan of museums, but I wanted to see this one about the East German Secret Police the Stasi . This museum is located in a building known as the Runde Ecke or Round Corner which was the former headquarters of the Stasi. All the exhibits were explained in German. It was possible to hire headphones for English commentary for 4 euros. The displays dealt with surveillance techniques and propoganda. There was a replica of a former prison cell. It was also possible to look in the former headquarters next to the museum which had an exhibition about youth subcultures and how they were suppressed under communism.
St Nicholaus Church: Nikolaikirche.
Saint Nicholas Church is one of the major churches of central Leipzig. Work on building it first began in 1165. Johann Sebastian Bach was the music director of Nikolaikirch, as well as of St. Thomas Church, from 1723 to 1750. In 1989 peaceful protests against communism known as the Monday Demonstrations were held here. These helped bring about the end of the communist regime in East Germany.
Monument of the Battle of Nations: Völkerschlachtdenkmal.
We went here on the sbahn as it is a little out of the centre of Leipzig. The Monument to the Battle of the Nations, Völkerschlachtdenkmal, commemorates the 1813 Battle of Leipzig in which Napoleon and his armies were defeated. The monument was completed in 1913 in time for the 100th anniversary of the battle. It cost 6 million Goldmarks to build. The monument is 91 metres high and towers over a reflective pool. There are apparently good views from the top. We did not pay to go in. The monument stands where some of the bloodiest fighting of the battle took place. Both my husband I said the monument reminded us of our visit to Angkor Wat in Cambodia due to its shape.
The Russian Memorial Church: St. Alexej.
We came here by tram from the Völkerschlachtdenkmal and with our impeccable timing arrived just as it was closing, so did not get to see inside. The church was beautiful from the outside and was of an unusual design for a Russian Church. The Russian troops of Alexander I also fought in the 1813 Battle of Nations against Napoleon. This church was built to commemorate the 22,000 Russian soldiers who died in this battle. It was built in 1912.
Favorite thing: Johann Wolfgang Goethe was born on the 28 August 1749, so I am writing this on his birthday. He lived until the 22nd of March 1832. Goethe was a German writer and statesman. He studied law at the university of Leipzig. There is a statue of him behind the Old City Hall building . In his most famous work Faust Mephistopheles takes Faust to Auerbach's Cellar, the best known and second oldest restaurant in Leipzig. There are statues celebrating characters from Faust in the Mädlerpassage near the Old Dity Hall. The Auerbach Keller Restaurant is downstairs in this building.
We had our best meal in Liepzig in the restaurant below.
Hotel Zum Abschlepphof: Lovely Meal.
We did not stay in this hotel. We walked here from our hotel The Days Inn Leipzig Messe for dinner. The restaurant serves traditional German food. I had champignon schitzel, with potato croquettes and my husband had wiener schnitzel with roast potatoes. Both were delicious and portions were very large. This restaurant serves excellent draft beers, too.