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Archive for June, 2013

Leipzig

Connewitz_PleißeThe city is situated at the confluence of three rivers, Weisse Elster, Pleisse and the Parthe. The name is derived from the Slavic word ‘Lipsk’ for a “settlement where the linden trees are”.

From these idyllic sounding beginnings Leipzig has become a centre of trading, arts, culture and learning. Due to its location on the crossing of the two major trading routes of the Holy Roman Empire, the Via Regia and Via Imperii, it became a prosperous and pleasant city to live in.

692px-Via_Imperii_und_Via_RegiaEven though its economic importance waned during the 20th and beginning of the 21st centuries, the Leizpig Trade Fair is a constant reminder of the trading history of the town, as it was founded in the Middle Ages and is now the main destination for the Games Convention, Leipzig Book Fair and Auto Mobil International.

The prosperity created a fertile environment for all kinds of artists, scientists and philosophers. The opulent architecture, like Palais Rossbach for example, demonstrates how this wealth translated into everyday and public life.

Musicians like Bach, Richard Wagner, Robert Schumann, Felix Mendelsohn and Gustav Mahler to name a few, have throughout the centuries flocked to the city and created world famous masterpieces. At the same time, education in the fields of science, arts and literature were being fostered in the various institutions, like the University of Leipzig, the German Institute for Literature and the Academy of Visual Arts.

365px-Leipzig_Palais_RoßbachThe wiki entry regarding Leibzig University demonstrates its level of excellence by stating numerous famous students: ”Leipzig University, founded 1409, is one of Europe’s oldest universities. Nobel Prize laureate Werner Heisenberg worked here as a physics professor (from 1927 to 1942), as did Nobel Prize laureates Gustav Ludwig Hertz (physics), Wilhelm Ostwald (chemistry) and Theodor Mommsen (Nobel Prize in literature). Other former staff of faculty include mineralogist Georg Agricola, writer Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, philosopher Ernst Bloch, eccentric founder of psychophysics Gustav Theodor Fechner, and psychologist Wilhelm Wundt. Among the university’s many noteworthy students were writers Johann Wolfgang Goethe and Erich Kästner, mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Leibniz and philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, political activist Karl Liebknecht, and composer Richard Wagner. Germany’s chancellor since 2006, Angela Merkel, studied physics at Leipzig University.”

During your guided walk through the city on your Southern Delights tour you will be shown who did what and why!

 

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

 

 

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Görlitz bridgeThis is Germany’s easternmost town and lies along the river Neisse, together with its Polish twin Zgorzelec. Just before the end of WWII German troops destroyed all bridges crossing the Neisse. After the war the boundaries were redrawn between Germany and Poland and the Oder-Neisse Line divided this and other cities along the border. As to be expected the GDR confirmed the border from 1950-90, but the FRG took until 1970 to accept the border to Poland. In 1990 the reunified Germany signed a treaty with Poland recognizing the border between the two countries. These few sentences of course cannot convey the seriousness of this decision and for more info on the developments around these parts of Europe check out the articles on the Oder-Neisse line, the flight and expulsion of Germans, Former eastern territories of Germany and Poland’s pre-WW history in general.

The city itself has been on record since the 11th century and because it was situated on a Via Regia, a major trading route in the Middle Ages, it soon prospered and grew. Its name is derived from the Slavic word for “burned land”, describing the method predominantly used for clearing land then and there. Over the centuries and millennia its fortunes rose and fell, alliances and trade agreements brought different masters and it was a constant pawn in politics.

Modern times are looking better: since the reunification a lot of effort has gone into restoring and beautifying the town and it is becoming the eastern equivalent of a charming, history rich country town like Heidelberg. As the city was hardly damaged during WWII many of its medieval buildings have survived. Part of the city’s appeal to tourism, nationally and internationally, is its proximity and friendly neighbourhood to Poland, demonstrated in the 2006 joined application for European City of Culture 2010 award. Even though it wasn’t given them, they came second, they were renamed ‘just’ City of Culture to continue the German-Polish friendship and cooperation.

As the city was part of Silesia since 1815 it has a lot of museums and activities recording the cultural heritage and keeping it alive in music festivals, youth groups and a dedicated newspaper.

Goerlitz portal Silesian museum

 

 

 

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Sorben mapEven though the region had been inhabited since the Late Stone Age, a proper Germanic settlement existed here since the 3rd century AD. In the Middle Ages Bautzen was a member of the Six Cities Alliance of Upper Lusatia. Modern Bautzen has spread to both sides of the river Spree, with the historical centre located on the plateau above the Spree.

While Bautzen’s fame up to the first part of the 21st century was based on battles, concentration sub-camps and penitentiaries, the end of the century is defined by an effort of preserving the history and traditions of the indigenous Sorbian-Lusatian people. As Bautzen was the unofficial capital of Upper Lusatia, it still plays an important role in the economics, culture and politics of the region. A peek on the city’s web site will give you a glimpse of the year round activities centred around the Sorbian traditions.

This map shows the location of Sorbish speaking people and has some images of the traditional costumes of the region.

As the population in the region declines due to economic pressures, the groups struggle to keep their culture and language alive. In an effort to change this, the Witaj Projekt was started in 1998. Basically like Te Reo, they want to teach the children from an early age on, through immersion, their regional native language and continue the teachings at high school and Universities level. The lack of numbers is as always an impediment, but they manage to support a daily newspaper and children’s magazine in Sorbian.

Your guided city tour on the Active in Eastern Germany tour will give you the historical and architectural highlights and you should try to pick up the local paper to take home as a souvenir!

Bautzen town hall Bautzen historic town

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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