The German city of Leipzig is located on the union of three rivers the Pleiße, the White Elster and the Pathe. Leipzig is located in the state of Saxony in Germany .The name Leipzig is derived from the Slavic word lipsk which when translated means ‘settlement of Linden Trees’.
The city is renowned for its trade fairs and exhibitions, which have been held here for over eight hundred years, since the Middle Ages. In April 1996 a brand new exhibition centre called Leipzig New fair was established in the city. It has five exhibition halls which are equipped with state of the art communication technology.
The University of Leipzig is also a world renowned center of learning. It was established in 1409 and this gave a fillip to the growth of the city as a center for Germany’s legal and publishing industries. The famous composer Sebastian Bach worked at the city’s St Thomas Lutheran church from 1723 to 1750. The location of the University and the Trade Fair in the city contributed to make Leipzig a center for the liberal movement and the city’s importance was further enhanced when in 1839 the first long distance rail service to Dresden was started from the city’s railway station. The railway station called Hauptbahnhof is the largest station in Europe. It has twenty six platforms and is served by important rail links to the rest of Germany and other European cities.
Leipzig’s growth was unabated for most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As the Nazis came to power, Jews in the city of Leipzig were also persecuted and discriminated against like elsewhere in Germany, until they were dispatched to Hitler’s concentration camps.
Towards the end of the Second World War the strategic importance of Leipzig as a transportation hub made it a prime target for much of the bombing by the US air force and the RAF. The American troops belonging to the 69th infantry division captured the city on 20th April 1945, however the Americans ceded control of the city to the Soviets in July 1945 and the city became a prominent city of the nation of East Germany until its unification with West Germany in 1990. In fact the seeds of the peaceful demonstrations against the East German regime were sown in learning center of Leipzig itself.
Today nearly twenty thousand students study in Leipzig’s various universities. The Leipzig University which is one of Europe’s oldest universities has produced greats such as the philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche and Gottfried Leibniz, writers such as Jonathan Wolfgang Goethe and Erich Kastner and Germany’s present chancellor Angela Merkel amongst others. The renowned composer Felix Mendelssohn was one of the founder members of the University of Music and Theater in 1843. Several other centers of learning such as Handelshochschule Leipzig, which is the oldest business school in Germany are located here as are many research institutes. These institutions have helped make Leipzig a center of liberal thought in Germany and have added to the vibrancy of the city. The city like Berlin also enjoys a thriving coffee house culture and underground rock music scene.
Leipzig by and large enjoys a temperate climate however average temperatures in the month of January hover around freezing which is 0°C (32°F). Sometimes the temperature can fall below freezing and then it gets very cold. Milder temperatures of 18°C (65°F) prevail in the summer months of July and August.
Getting to Leipzig
Leipzig Halle airport is located at a distance of 18 kilometers from Leipzig, near a junction of a motorway called Schkeuditzer Kreuz(A9,A14). There are direct connections from Leipzig to many European cities such as Paris, London and Madrid. Flights from Leipzig serve twenty five Mediterranean destinations as well as some long haul destinations. There are direct flights from here to other German cities such as Hamburg, Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Munich as well. The city has another airport Altenburg-Nobitz located at a distance of 50 km to the south of Leipzig from here there are connections to Barcelona and Stansted in London.
Leipzig Halle airport is well connected to the city by rail connections. In 2002 the Airport Express was introduced which gets one into the Leipzig Central Station in a mere fourteen minutes. This train makes a stop at the new fairgrounds of the Leipzig trade fair.. Taxis are also available outside terminal B at the airport and a journey to central Leipzig takes forty minutes and costs about € 30.
The Central Station of Leipzig is the largest terminal railway station in Europe, it covers an area of 30,000 square meters and encompasses a large shopping and dining area. It shopping mall is on three levels and there also exist two multi storey car parks within the station. The station has extensive rail links which radiate in all directions served by a plethora of services such as the Intercity, Intercity Express, Eurocity, CityNightline and DB NachtZug. There are also public commuter trains and suburban railway links to nearby cities from the central railway system which functions as the heart of Leipzig’s transport system.
The city is accessible by Germany’s excellent autobahn system of highways and the nearest highways are the A14 in the North, A9 in the West and A38 in the South.
Characterized by German precision and efficiency using the public transport system is very convenient in Leipzig. It consists of the far reaching light rail system. This is composed of thirteen tram lines which cover an area of 152 kilometers and thirty bus routes which even serve the suburbs. The company which operates the transport of Leipzig is called “Leipziger Verkehrsbetriebe”(LVB).
A common ticket is valid not only on the buses and trams of the city but it is valid all throughout central Germany. With this common ticket one in travel in buses, trams, suburban trains, regional express trains and regional trains as well as the scheduled taxi service. For tourists there exists a Leipzig card which is sold at various points all over the city and online as well. This card can be bought for a day for € 7.
To see and to do
The city enjoys a long sporting tradition and sports play an integral part of a Leipzig resident’s life. The Central Stadium with a capacity of seating 100,000 people was constructed in 1956; it has been modernized since and it served as one of the locations of the FIFA world cup soccer in 2006. The city is home to two soccer teams the FC Sachsen Leipzig and FC Lokomotive Leipzig. Swimming, Cycling, athletics, volleyball, handball and hockey are the chief sports pursued here in Leipzig.
Belantis Theme Park is a new attraction located on the southern border of the city and it covers 25 hectares of which 60,000 square meters is water and there is also a four kilometer walk which takes visitors down the ages of Leipzig’s history. In this city conducive to walks there is a Game park on the Auenwald Flood plain forest which features European wildlife enclosures.
Leipzig is essentially a city of trade and it has numerous markets held all through out the year but perhaps the most famous market after the trade fair is Leipzig’s Christmas market which is held in the old market square in front of the Old town hall every December. Stalls sell Christmas goodies including Gulvine which is a German mulled wine. An Antique and flea market is held in the Central Station on the first weekend of every month. There are other antique fairs as well at other locations in the city. The Leipzig fresh food green market is very popular amongst residents as well as visitors. The Leipzig book market is held in September every year.
Altes Rathaus, Markt 1
Leipzig’s renaissance style town hall stands on the pretty market square. This sixteen century building was built in 1556 by Hieronymus Lotter. It was destroyed by allied bombing in the Second World War but it has since then has been restored. The building houses the Stadtgeschichtliches Museum which is the city’s history museum chronicling the history of the city. The admission fee to the town hall is €3 for adults and € 2.50 for children.
Thomaskirche, just off Marktplatz
Johann Sebastian Bach, Leipzig’s most famous son was the choirmaster at this church from 1723 to 1750. He is buried here near the altar. The church stands on the site of a thirteen century monastery. Mozart and Mendelssohn preformed here too as does the famous St Thomas Boy’s choir which performs here every Sunday morning and Friday evening. The church was restored after the Allied Bombing of the Second World War.
Bach- Museum,Thomaskirchof 15-16
Close to the St Thomas church is the reconstructed Bose House which once housed the Bach family. It now has in its folds the largest collection of Bach archives in Germany as well as memorabilia of the famous composer
Museum der Bildenden Künst,Katharinenstrasse 10
The museum has an extensive collection of 2700 paintings and sculptures. The futuristically designed glass cube shaped museum has oeuvres of Rodin, Rubens, Dürer and Rembrandt amongst others. It is East Germany’s most impressive art collection which encompasses art from the medieval times up to the present. Admission is €5 for adults and €3 for students and children from the ages four to fourteen.
Museum in der Runden Ecke
Leipzig is called ‘Heldenstadt’ or city of heroes for its role in toppling the government of East Germany. An important tool of the former East German government was its secret police the dreaded Stasi. This museum is located in the former headquarters of the Stasi and chronicles the methods of espionage which were used to terrorize the local population. Exhibits include handwriting samples of the people of Leipzig, files on certain citizens, letter opening and resealing machines and hidden surveillance cameras. This is a unique and intensely interesting museum chronicling the Cold war which occupies an important place in German history.
Located in Gohlis, 20 km from Leipzig is the small farmhouse where Friedrich von Schiller wrote his “Ode to Joy” in 1785. This was used by Beethoven when he composed his Ninth Symphony
Gewandhaus Concert Hall, Augustusplatz
The Gewandhaus Concert Hall reinforces Leipzig’s tremendous reputation as an international center of music and culture. This is the home of the Gewandhaus Orchestra. The first concert preformed here was the “Grosse Concert” in 1743.The Orchestra performs at many locations in Germany all year round.
Leipzig’s zoo is world renowned for its efforts to preserve endangered species .It was established in 1878. It also has a large aquarium filled with many species of marine life in its environs.
Amongst the many hotels in Leipzig a few deserve a mention. Hotel Fürstenhof is Leipzig’s grandest hotel located in a mansion which once belonged to a banker. The opulent hotel is built in a neo classical style and is classified as a five star hotel. The interiors of the hotel have been recently refurbished to reflect this neo classical style too. Details of the hotel can be accessed online at www.arabellasheraton.com.
The Westin located near the railway station is a new landmark on Leipzig’s horizon it rises to a height of 27 floors and represents modern Leipzig. This hotel caters mainly to business folk and can be accessed online at www.westin.com/leipzig. Hotel Adagio is housed in a building which dates back to 1882 and is loaded with old world charm; this hotel can be accessed at www.hotel-adagio.de.