Germany: Exploring Leipzig in the autumn
Susanne Kries and Nicky Gardner take the seasonal pulse in Leipzig:
“Berlin with a shade more flair” is how our Leipzig friend describes her home town. This magnificent city, overshadowed in Saxony by Dresden and too close (some say) to Berlin to really pull the crowds, is a place to visit in fall. For hundreds of years, merchants and traders from across Europe made their way to the city’s Michaelmas Fair, held in late September and early October.
Catching the Zeitgeist
Kim Rupp-Gregory, co-editor of Leipzig Zeitgeist magazine, sees more than merely trade in the mood of the season: “Fall in Leipzig is revolutionary. As the leaves turn and become restless the people here revive the spirit of autumn 1989, when they took to the streets in peaceful protest against the East German communist regime. The knife-edge bravery of so many paid off with the subsequent fall of the Berlin Wall and ultimately Germany’s reunification.”
21 years on, visitors to Leipzig can still catch the buzz of a city that has long punched far above its weight. A well-marked trail through town recalls the highpoints of the peaceful revolution that was wrought on Leipzig’s streets. “Things come to a head on 9 October,” explains Kim. “That’s when the city positively glows for its annual commemorative Festival of Lights.” It’s a chance to mingle with the crowds and just experience Leipzig’s distinctive flavors and style.
Throughout the edgy months of political protest in 1989, Leipzig folk were just a tad more daring than Berliners. Perhaps it was easier to be daring away from the capital. That still holds true today. Liveable Leipzig sticks its neck out, and the many facets of city life are beautifully captured in successive issues of Leipzig Zeitgeist, an unpretentious magazine that is a must for English-speaking residents and visitors.
Leipzig by Bike
Kim’s co-editor on Leipzig Zeitgeist is Christina Nielsen-Marsh who is quick to emphasize that Leipzig residents are still quick to take to the streets, though nowadays it is more for fun than for protest.
“The finest way to see Leipzig is by bike,” says Christina. “My favorite route is to pedal down through Clara Zetkin Park and along the Karl Heine Canal into the western district of Plagwitz for a taste of a more alternative Leipzig.
“Kanal 28” is a great place to refuel and take in the industrial architecture of the area. And, when it comes to industrial architecture, the Spinnerei, also in Plagwitz, is something special – this former cotton mill is now home to a collection of artists, artisans and galleries, and has been attracting local, national and international interest in recent years.
“After an afternoon exploring the city by bike, an evening at Noch Besser Leben drinking a Beton (German for ‘concrete’), or three, will hit the spot, as will the live music at their frequent concerts.”
Leipzig-Halle Airport is north-west of the city. Regular trains will whisk you from airport to city center in just 15 minutes. The airport is served by twice-daily flights from both Paris (with Air France) and Vienna (with Austrian Airlines). Ryanair will debut at the airport next month, launching five flights per week to London and three to Rome.
Travel times to Leipzig Hauptbahnhof on direct InterCity or the sleek fast ICE trains from other German cities are as follows: