Just an hour’s train ride away from Berlin is Leipzig, the most populous city in the state of Saxony. We can begin our tour in Berlin, or I can meet you (or leave you) at your accommodation in Leipzig, should you be staying overnight there. On this tour, we will explore a remarkably mixed history – from (slightly crumbling) baroque architecture to the sinister headquarter building of the Stasi, East Germany’s Secret Police – and see why this newly hip city has earned its nickname ‘Hypezig’ in recent years.
Since the days of the Holy Roman Empire, Leipzig has been a trading post – located at the intersection of two mercantile highways, the Via Imperia and the Via Regia. In the 19th century, the city’s riches would come largely from the publishing and fur trades, and Leipzig is accordingly replete with grandiose architecture from the era of unification (as of 1871) – an epoch in which the Saxons were keen to demonstrate that not all German power was located in Berlin.
We will see the former Supreme Court (where the ill-fated Dutchman Marinus van der Lubbe was sentenced in the wake of the Reichstag Fire of 1933) and the gargantuan City Hall, which impressed Alfred Hitchcock enough that he used it as a backdrop for his film ‘Torn Curtain.’ Leipzig’s real fame, though, comes from its rich cultural heritage – it was the home of musical luminaries Clara Wieck, Robert Schumann, Friedrich Schiller, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and, indeed, Johann Sebastian Bach. We will visit the St. Thomas Church where Bach would work as a cantor for many years, and where he was eventually interred.
Another of Leipzig’s most famous residents was Wolfgang Goethe – we will stop for refreshments at the 16th-century beerhall, Auerbachskeller, where his play ‘Faust’ is set. Talking of dramatic works, we will also stroll through the old marketplace, site of execution of Woyzeck, an event made famous by the 1912 opera. The market square has been painstakingly restored after damage during WWII and neglect during the Cold War – we will see how the city has reinvented itself after a difficult recent history. We can pass by the Leipzig University, where Angela Merkel obtained her doctoral degree, and enjoy the ambience of the student quarter.
And one more thing – we will certainly try, should you wish, the local snack of a ‘Leipzig Lark’ – once a bird roasted in pastry, now a very tasty feather-free, vegetarian-friendly marzipan bun!