27 October 2010

Leipzig

A few days ago, we were in Leipzig. It's a beautiful city in East Germany, a place that has changed a great deal in the past twenty years, a place that's still changing. It has a lot of beautiful architecture, a lot of ugly buildings and a huge number of building projects. The fragment of wall in the picture above sat in a large construction zone - we weren't sure why they had left it up, but it seemed to be there to stay.
Our route through Germany followed a progression from rural to urban, and Leipzig marked the spot on the continuum just before "metropolis." It was a city, for sure, and it had a lot of great city things to do - but it still felt cozy and small. There were only a couple of areas where people gathered at night, and it was easy to find where they were.
A good part of the city fit the "post-communism punk" aesthetic that is actually somewhat of an unfair stereotype. Despite the graffiti and peeling paint, Leipzig is a prosperous city. People dress well, drive new cars and shop in expensive, boutique food markets.
There are a lot of these currywurst places. Essentially, it's a hotdog in a curry-ketchup sauce. I'm sure Germans would argue that it's more nuanced than that, but I don't know if I could ever understand what the fuss is about.
We stumbled upon this flea market in the south of the city, in a courtyard off Karl Lieberstrasse. There were a large number of vendors selling used children's clothing and toys, which was interesting. It was frustrating for Rebecca, though, because nothing fit her.
Leipzig has a huge zoo, which is famous in Germany and which was over-run with little kids, as zoos typically are. We spent a long time there, even though it was depressing. They had all the usual zoo animals - lions, tigers, bears plus giraffes, monkeys, gorillas, etc. We took a lot of pictures but - predictably - they are all very sad. Nobody wants to see pictures of animals in their pens. The aquarium section was less inhumane, of course, because fish don't have feelings. These carp-type fish were in a special "petting tank," so that kids could grab at them and push them around in the water. It was fascinating to watch.
One of the coolest things about East Germany is the abundance of cool, old cars I'd never seen before. This one is a Wartburg 312 (not a name that would go over well with Americans), and it has a retractable fabric panel over the rear section of the body. Someone took very good care of it, obviously, because it was in great condition. Of course, we joked, it might have been made in 1989.

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