FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Twenty four hours in Leipzig

Posted in Germany, Leipzig by folkestonejack on May 5, 2014

After a good night’s sleep at the InterCity Hotel Leipzig I bounded out into the city centre, relishing the prospect of a single full day of sightseeing in Leipzig. As it was a monday (a day that many museums close in Europe) my options were already limited but there was plenty on my agenda to keep me happily engaged.

The first stop was to grab breakfast in the cathedral to the railways that Leipzig Hauptbahnhof, the world’s largest railway station (albeit with an alternative guise as a shopping centre). It’s an imposing space by any standards, with it’s vast interior reminding me of Grand Central Terminal, New York and Milano Centrale. Not only that, but it has facilities that really make travel a pleasure – a marvellous bookstore, a good selection of bakeries and even a few heritage locomotives.

Leipzig Hauptbahnhof

Leipzig Hauptbahnhof

The first stop of the day was to be the Museum in der Runden Ecke, a place that I have wanted to visit ever since I read ‘Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall by Anna Funder’ and it did not disappoint. The full story of the organisation was astonishing and would have seemed laughably absurd in many instances, were it not for the terrible impact it had on the real lives of the people in the DDR (especially the description of how the Stasi manufactured ‘life crises’ to destabilise those that they saw as a threat).

The audio guide is absolutely essential for any english speaker as it describes the original features of the building in its stasi era configuration as much as it explains the exhibits on display, such as the fact that the doors could only be opened from the outside (anyone wanting to leave had to be let out by a Stasi officer). I spent 90 minutes in the museum having listened to all the commentary available and taken a reasonable look at the exhibits, but could easily have spent longer.

Markers for the Friendly Revolution of 1989

Markers for the Friendly Revolution of 1989

On a similar theme, there are signposts throughout the city that highlight where the significant actions of the ‘Friendly Revolution’of 1989 took place. It really helped put events into their local context, especially with the insights from the Museum in der Runden Ecke to draw upon.

A chance stop at a local bakery gave me an opportunity to try one of the traditional local pastries, a Leipziger Lerche, which takes its name from the larks that used to be baked in pies. I think the modern replacement of larks with a mixture of almonds, nuts and cherries is a vast improvement!

My next move was to take the tram out of the centre. The first stop was the Russian Orthodox church, of which more in another post, followed by Sudfriedhof cemetery. The cemetery was a haven of quiet solace with some quiet astonishingly beautiful memorials, including a monument to the local lads who died in the First World War. It was the individual memorials that really grabbed me though – a man clutching at a tomb door, a mother laying plants at a son’s grave and a hauntingly young face carved into a soldier’s grave.

First World War memorial at Sudfriedhof

First World War memorial at Sudfriedhof

The next couple of hours were taken up with the colossal memorial at the Völkerschlachtdenkmal and the modest but fascinating museum about the battle. Finally, with my energy a little sapped, I headed back into the centre and took a more leisurely wander around. Sights that I passed included the Leipzig Bayerischer Bahnhof, Germany’s oldest preserved railway station, the Neue Rathaus and lastly, the City-Hochhaus. I took in the sunset from the City-Hochhaus (aka Panorama Tower) and headed back to the hotel, satisfied to have seen so much in my one day in Leipzig.

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