Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Leipzig, First Impressions

Leipzig, to hear them tell it, is an amazing city. They are not shy about tooting their own horn. They are the biggest town in Saxony. They are the real capitol of Saxony. Oh, and they also single-handedly brought down the iron curtain.
There is a saying in Saxony, regarding the three major cities of the state. It basically describes the character of each city by saying that Chemnitz is for work, Dresden is for celebration, and Leipzig is for shopping and trade. Stepping out of the train station (the largest one in Europe and itself a shopping mall) and heading into the town center, one is struck by the concentrated nature of the buildings. The streets are narrow and most blocks are bisected with alleyways and the whole place is full of shops. This is indeed a shopping town.
Three buildings stand out to the first time observer. The Nicholas Church, named for the patron saint of tradesmen, is the site of the historic prayer meetings that helped bring down the wall. The Thomas Church a few blocks over was the church where J. S. Bach worked. Finally, the new Town Hall is probably the most stunning town hall anywhere. It has been built on the ruins of the castle where Martin Luther debated Johann Eck. Like everywhere in what used to be East Germany, half of the city center seems to under reconstruction. The new University building looks like it will be a sight to see.
One day is just enough to get a glimpse of downtown, and that is not nearly enough to get a true idea of this wonderful city. They may be a proud town, but it seems they have some reason to be.

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