Waking up to the smell of fresh bread wafting up from the bottom floor bakery. Chugging coffee like it’s water throughout the day. Persuading the bureaucratic train conductor that my ticket is very much still valid. Having a breakdown over the dative case, yet again.
It feels like a life-time ago since I lived in Germany for those few months in 2019: it was the scariest, most liberating experience of my life. Never before would I have thought of a small city, and its people, teaching me so much about life and myself. I remember looking out of my friend’s flat window one evening, gazing at the lit-up skyline, recognising every miniature building in the distance, and realising: Leipzig is a part of me now.
Unfortunately, what has followed this exhilarating stay has been a pandemic: when the travel borders shut, my second home was also shut away from me. I could no longer see the host family who took me in, the friends I made, and the little girls I used to look after. Face-timing would have to suffice for the time being. In the dreary days of online-learning, the picture calendar and photos of Leipzig hanging on my bedroom wall have been the closest thing I’ve had to travelling in the past two years.
What is fascinating about Leipzig is its history. It’s rich and extensive – every building you walk past has a personal story to tell. You can get in touch with the darker side of the East German city, for example, the ‘Round Corner’ Museum, which was the former headquarters of the Stasi. But at the same time, there are positively inspirational locations like the St Nicholas church, which hosted the peace protests in 1989, ultimately leading to the Reunification of Germany. A bit further out from the city centre is a breath-taking and unique monument which commemorates the Battle of the Nations in 1813.
Leipzig is also a city that bleeds the arts. Live music can be found on every corner of every street you go to. It’s always been a musical city dating back centuries before – it’s where classical composer Johann Sebastian Bach first achieved fame, as well as Mendelsohn and Wagner. However, it’s also the host city for the annual world Gothic festival. Whatever your music taste is, you’re sorted! The contemporary galleries are very current and out-there, some are even located in former factories and a gasometer.
One region of the city I miss the most is a street called Karl-Liebknecht Straße, or as the locals call it, the ‘Karli’, away from the tourist cornucopia. By day, it’s an attractive place to browse in independent shops, markets and cafes. By night, the energy of the street livens up, as bars, music and the best kebab shops start up.
One thing I would love to do when I return to Leipzig is hop on a bike and cycle to the lakes in the outskirts of the city. Originally an old mining site, the land has been developed to become a stunning landscape. Bring your friends, crack open a couple of beers (and then maybe a few more), swim freely with the dragonflies and nature, and watch the best sunsets you can imagine.
We’ll be together soon, Leipzig.