Category Archives: Sights

The University that brought down a regime

By Carlos S. Francis

St Pauls church Leipzig
University of Leipzig with St Pauls Church © Universität Leipzig

For more than 700 years St Paul’s University Church, the heart of the University of Leipzig (1409), had survived. The Thirty Years War (1618-48) that killed 20 percent of all Germans, the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), and even the ferocious Anglo-American air raid on December 4, 1943 that showered bombs on the city, had not touched it. The bombs slid off the steeply sloping roof and the interior of the church was untouched. The brave people of Leipzig threw water at the roaring flames and rushed into the burning church to save priceless artifacts.

After all, the Church was the symbol of the city. Just as Notre Dame is the symbol of Paris.

First founded in 1229, as a Dominican Abbey, just inside the Eastern city walls, the church had become the center of the city as the city grew, prospering from trade and then industrialization. Dedicated in 1240, and renovated in the 15th century, Martin Luther, the monk at the center of the 16th century Reformation, preached in the Church, which became Protestant in 1545. It was left unscathed by the religious wars that swirled around. A quote from an old travel book captured its splendor. “St Paul’s Church was known as one of the most splendid, well preserved, open churches of Middle Germany it was ornate with tombs, epitaphs and other artifacts, intertwined with a tradition of Johann Sebastian Bach’s music and the history of the Reformation”

The use of “was” is significant. It no longer exists. 

University of Leipzig with St Pauls Church
University of Leipzig with St Pauls Church

The Church was destroyed. Not by war. By a deliberate act. An act that eventually, a mere 21 years later, would destroy the GDR.

After 1968, there are no references to the Church in official guide books of the GDR. For the regime itself had brought down the Church, using explosives, on May 30, 1968. That was the Day the GDR actually ended. For a regime that had a semblance of legitimacy based on the anti-Fascist resistance, starting in the 1930s, showed a brutality as callous as  Stalin’s Russia. In 1968, the hardline regime of Walter Ulbricht, a Leipziger mockingly called the “goatee” by the citizens of the GDR, decided to blow up the Church to redesign St. Augustus Square or Platz. At the center of this campaign was Paul Froehlich, the SED regional secretary who wanted to bring down the university church and the Augusteum to design what the party promised would be “the most beautiful square in Europe.” Of the five plans that the GDR regime had to redesign the Square only one let the church survive. This was the plan that the Communist GDR politburo would not approve. Four wanted the church destroyed.

To the shocked surprise of the people of Leipzig the Communist party chose the dull designs of the Berlin architect Prof. Henselmann, who had built the Stalin Allee in Berlin, over that of the local architect Siegel. The only difference was that Henselmann’s plans got rid of St Paul’s University Church.

The reason? Opposition groups, especially the Church, gathered in front of St Paul’s. Such protest was inspired by the Biblical verse “He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”(Isaiah 2:4). A verse that is on the wall of the United Nations Headquarters in New York. A verse that inspired Christians to show up in small numbers to protest the GDR regime. As a symbol of their protest, inspired by pure idealism, they wore the ploughshares on their sleeves. For the regime this was an intolerable provocation. Just three hours away by road, the people of Prague had risen against their oppression, and the Warsaw Pact, including East Germany, had sent tanks against the people. 

The GDR, under the regime of Ulbricht, wanted to send a message. That message was the destruction of St Paul’s University Church.

St Pauls Church Leipzig being blown up
St Pauls Church Leipzig being blown up

To show the people of East Germany that the Communist party stood mighty over the people the party decided, on May 7, 1968 that the Church and the Augusteum, a neoclassical building of great beauty, were to be demolished. On May 30, the decision was carried out. At 10 AM on that day, all the church bells of Leipzig rang at the same time. A few minutes later the first muffled explosions were heard. Contemporary eyewitnesses describe how the first explosions knocked down the foundations of the 700-year-old Church. And then an enormous cloud of dust enveloped downtown Leipzig. It was the end of an era.
A brave graduate student and a friend at the Department of Physics at the University decided to protest. Their act would change history. Harald Fritzsch, and his friend, Guenter, bought a large piece of yellow cloth, about 2.5 x 5 square meters in a shop in Potsdam, painted the picture of the destroyed University Church with the inscription: “We Demand Reconstruction!”  and rigged it with a clock. Disguised as a worker, Gunther smuggled the banner into Congress Hall, part of the Leipzig Zoo, where the award ceremony of the International Bach Festival was to take place at the on June 20, 1968. At precisely 8.08 PM, during the award ceremony, the banner unfurled. The applause, the whistles, and the stomping of feet, lasted for more than six minutes and was a grand gesture of defiance from the people under the Communist regime since 1945. A Japanese and a Czech television crew recorded the act as cameras clicked. West German television picked up the event and broadcast it around the world. 

The regime was furious and the entire city was turned over. However, Fitscher and Guenter had made their plans. A few months earlier they had noticed that while East German police boats closed in on anyone who was sailing a boat on the open sea near the East German coast the same was not true of Varna in Bulgaria. They escaped to Turkey on a folding canoe. 

The event turned East German history. Paul Froehlich, Secretary of the East German Communist Party in Leipzig was seen as a possible successor to Ulbricht. He flew into a rage and had a heart attack. His death, a few months later, paved the way for Erich Honecker to become the next leader of East Germany. A moderate, unlike Froehlich who  destroyed the Church, Honecker set East Germany on a path of economic modernization in the 1970s. 

This wanton act of destruction did not destroy the spirit of resistance. The Evangelicals merely moved to St. Nikolai Church a mere 200 meters away. It was here that, in 1989, the protests that would eventually bring down the Soviet Empire, took place. 21 years later the Church had taken it’s revenge.

Top Tips for Getting to Leipzig

Ventil-Plagwitz-Leipzig

Ventil

Leipzig is to the south west of Berlin in the east of Germany and while not quite as easy to get to as the capital, you have plenty of options available. While planning such a trip may seem daunting and time consuming, it is worth it to explore the fascinating city of Leipzig. Plus, with our top tips below, you will be able to quickly arrange the travelling aspect and save money at the same time. We will be waiting to welcome you on one of our tours when you arrive!

Airport Parking

If you plan to drive to your departure airport, don’t forget to book your airport parking in advance. By planning ahead and booking as far in advance as possible, you can save up to 60%, compared to last-minute and on the day bookings. Combined with using a comparison website, you can easily make big savings! A great example is Parkhero for UK travellers. This website helps holidaymakers find cheap Manchester Airport parking and many other airports across the country. These sorts of websites are simple to use as you just need to choose your airport and enter your travel dates for a full breakdown of the available parking options. To find a similar website for your country of origin, type ‘compare …airport parking’ into a search engine.

Choosing an airport

There is one main airport in Leipzig and two nearby in Berlin. The easiest to visit Leipzig is of course to fly directly to the nearest airport, but keep in mind that it is small with limited choice of flights. It may be a better idea to fly into one of the Berlin airports where there are many budget flights from across Europe and easy transport links to Leipzig. Below we will show you your transfer options from all three airports.

Leipzig Halle Airport

The airport is to the northwest of Leipzig city centre and you will find flights across Europe and North Africa with airlines include Eurowings, Lufthansa, Condor, Corendon amongst others.

Transfer options

By train

  • Train station directly at the airport with local and regional trains to Leipzig and beyond
  • Lines S5 and S5X operate from the airport every 30 minutes and it takes just 14 minutes to reach Leipzig central station
  • Tickets cost around €4 and you can buy them at the airport station (remember to validate your ticket)

By taxi

  • Taxi rank is outside Terminal B with taxis taking around 30 minutes to reach Leipzig city centre
  • Taxis cost between €30 and €40 but make sure that the driver has the meter turned on

Berlin Schoenefeld Airport

This airport is the second largest in Berlin and is used as a base by Ryanair and easyJet. It provides flights mostly across Europe with some flights to the Middle East and Turkey. The airport is located 18 km southeast of Berlin and almost 200 km from Leipzig.

Transfer options

By train

  • Take the train to either Berlin Hauptbahnhof or Berlin Südkreuz stations for connections to Leipzig
  • From the airport to Leipzig it takes between 1 hour 40 and 2 hours and costs between €90 and €100 depending on how far in advance you book and which class you choose

By bus

  • Bus station is right outside the airport
  • Flixbus offers routes to Leipzig that take just over 2 hours and tickets start at around €14

Berlin Tegel Airport

Berlin’s largest airport offering flights to destinations across the world with a great variety of airlines to choose from. It is a great option for travellers from outside of Europe. The airport is located just 8 km to the north of Berlin and 188 km from Leipzig.

Transfer options

By train

  • You can reach either Berlin Hauptbahnhof or Berlin Südkreuz stations in around 30 minutes by train from the airport and find connections to Leipzig
  • From the airport to Leipzig it takes between 1 hour 40 and 2 hours and costs between €90 and €100 depending on how far in advance you book and which class you choose

 

By bus

  • You can find connections from Flixbus to Leipzig directly from Tegel and journeys take around 3 hours with tickets starting at around €15

Arriving by train or coach

You will also easily find train and coach connections to Leipzig from across Europe with a good network of options available across Germany. You can find international trains directly to Leipzig or trains that stop in Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich and other large cities from where you can find a connection. The same is true of coach transfers with great value journeys offered by the pan-European Flixbus network. Make sure to book in advance for the best prices!

So, there you have it, your travel options for reaching us in Leipzig. If you want more information about what you can do in the city, make sure to check out our blog!

Top Sehenswürdigkeiten in Leipzig

Leipzig hat viel zu bieten, da fällt die Wahl auf die Attraktionen für den ersten Besuch oft schwer. Ich möchte euch deshalb hier einige meiner persönlichen Highlights vorstellen. Einige davon sind im Rahmen unserer Free Tour Leipzig auch zu bestaunen, andere etwas weiter außerhalb zu finden.

barthels-hof-leipzig_www.leipzigfreetours.com

Barthels Hof Leipzig

Wer in Leipzig ankommt, der kommt zunächst and der Innenstadt und den herrliche Fassaden des Stadtkerns nicht vorbei. Besonders imposant sind hier die zahlreichen alten Handelshöfe mit ihrer Jahrhunderte alten Geschichte. Der älteste und versteckteste ist hier Barthel’s Hof – der letzte Handelshof mit erhaltenem Ein-und Ausgang (früher für Pferdefuhrwerke) und der ersten Leipziger Renaissance Fassade. Hier lässt sich auch gut speisen, für traditionelle Küche noch mehr zu empfehlen wäre jedoch der unweit gelegene Ratskeller.

Eine weitere wünderschöne Fassade findet sich ganz in der Nähe in Gestalt des Alten Rathauses aus dem 16. Jahrhundert, direkt am Markt der Stadt Leipzig.

Figuren aus Goethe's Faust um Faust und Mephisto

Von dort aus gelangt man recht einfach zu einem der Wahrzeichen der Stadt – der Mädlerpassage. Eine wunderschöne Passage, im Design angelehnt an die Viktor – Emanuel – Passage in Mailand wie an der Dachkonstruktion leicht ersichtlich. Die Passage des frühere Kofferfabrikanten Mädler bietet neben allerlei Shopping auch ein Glockenspiel von Meißner Porzellan zu jeder vollen Sunden, genau am Kreuzungspunkt der Passagenarme. Es lohnt sich ein Blick in Auerbach’s Keller mit seinen herrlichen Deckengemälden. Wem es nach edlen Spezialitäten zu Mute ist der wird sich in den Feinkostläden der Galerie wohl fühlen.

Kaffeehaus Riquet

Kaffeehaus Riquet

Für einen anschließenden Kaffee empfehle ich das Wiener Kaffeehaus Ambiente des Café Riquet. Das imposante Gebäude zeugt von der Tradition des Kaffee-, Tee und Kakaohandels der französischen Hugenottenfamilie die einst nach Leipzig kam.

In punkto Kaffee findet sich in der Südvorstadt außerdem das Café Grundmann im Art Deko Stil. Hier trifft man die Leipziger und kann sich bei hervorragendem Kuchen und einer großen Zeitungsauswahl am Interior des Kaffeehauses erfreuen.

Uni-Riese-Leipzig

Uni-Riese Leipzig

Ebenfalls im Zentrum der Stadt und für seine herrliche Aussicht bekannt ist der Uni-Riese mit seiner Aussichtsplatform auf 142m Höhe. Der Aufzug ganz rechts im Gebäude bringt dich im Handumdrehen nach oben.  Mit nur 4 EUR Eintritt zur Platform eine Erlebnis für jedermann.

Nach dem Erkunden des Stadtzentrums empfehle ich den Weg zu den Leipziger Parks ganz in der Nähe zunehmen und durch den Clara-Zetkin-Park zu schlendern. Zu einer Erfrischung lädt im Herzen des Parks das Glashaus ein.

KARL-Heine-Kanal, Leipzig, Plagwitz

KARL-Heine-Kanal

Dem Weg folgend ist es nicht mehr weit und man stößt auf die ersten Kanäle der Stadt. Sehr zu empfehlen ist hier eine Bootsfahrt, zum Beispiel beim Bootsverleih Herold oder auch einfach nur ein Spaziergang entlang des Karl-Heine-Kanals in Plagwitz. Folgt man den Weg hinunter am Westwerk Richtung Kirche öffnet sich eine super schöne Route der man bis zum Mörtelwerk folgen kann.

Für den Abend lohnt sich der Weg zum Völkerschlachtdenkmal um von den Treppen aus den Sonnenuntergang über der Stadt zu genießen.

monument of the battle of nations Leipzig, Völkerschlachtdenkmal Leipzig

Völkerschlachtdenkmal Leipzig

Völkerschlachtdenkmal Leipzig, Monument of the battle of nations, Leipzig, Germany

Seien Sie auf einem unserer city walks in Leipzig mit dabei und entdecken Sie Leipzig mit unseren lokalen Stadtführern.

Top 5 free things to do in Leipzig

There are plenty of free things to do in Leipzig, especially during the summer, and in this article, I will introduce some of my favorites. So what to do in Leipzig?

streetart in Plagitz, Leipzig

streetart leipzig

Always recommended is a stroll over Karl-Heine-Straße in the borough of Plagwitz. After some window shopping around the little shops on the avenue, take a closer look at the cafes such as Dipascale which is my favorite when it comes to coffee. If on a budget, you will also find a Späti there that allows for a drink on the cheap that you can enjoy sitting in front of the old factory at Westwerk. A great opportunity to inhale the spirit there, check out some of the StreeArt and artwork around Westwerk.

StreetArt Leipzig

KARL-Heine-Kanal, Leipzig, Plagwitz

Karl-Heine-Kanal

After that, a small staircase down at Kaiserbad allows you to get straight to Karl-Heine-Kanal that invites for a great stroll along the canal. You may also spot some wildlife there. I remember one evening where I was sitting on the river bank and a heron as well as a couple of nutrias, ducks and eventually also a badger turned up just meters away from each other. If you have a stand up paddle board, the canal will also be your point of call for a relaxing round on the water.

Clara-Zetkin-Park Leipzig

Clara-Zetkin-Park Leipzig

Another great option for chilling outside is Clara-Zetkin-Park, just a short stroll away from the city center. The park is huge and under its current name came into being as 4 separate parks were united. During the times of the GDR, the area was once the ground of the Leipziger Stadtparkrennen, a motorcycle race that draw up to 200 000 visitors between 1950 and 1958. Now all is super calm there and you can chill by one of the lakes, by the Elsterflutbecken canal or just on the grass.
Heading just a little bit further, you will come across Sachsenbrücke. This bridge is a popular hangout for locals and visitors alike where you can find live music occasionally, but always a number of people and very good vibes.

Sachsenbrücke Leipzig

Sachsenbrücke Leipzig

Towards the evening you should make your way towards Völki, the monument of the battle of nations where Napoleon was defeated in in 1813 and at that point the biggest battle that had ever happened in Europe. Ultimately the defeat lead to Napoleon’s exile on Elba and also brought his reign to an end.
The monument is huge and has a staircase that you can climb up to just a little below the top. From up there, you will have a wonderful view towards the city and can enjoy the sunset at the very scenic spot.

monument of the battle of nations Leipzig, Völkerschlachtdenkmal

Völkerschlachtdenkmal

Leipzig also has a number of lakes to offer that the locals are using as their retreat of choice during hot days, most of them just a bike ride away from the city.
The most popular one is Cospudener See in the south. You can chill at the northern shore their or find yourself a quieter spot anywhere else around the lake. By bike, the lake can easily be circled and also invites you to a tour towards Markkleeberger See and Störmthaler See. All of those are the result of former coal and mining areas that were eventually flooded and the plan is to interlink them as well for extended boating adventures.
Another great option is Kulkwitzer See in the west. In my opinion the one with the clearest water. I think you will be stunned to discover that you can see still the ground when 30 meters into the lake. To get there, I recommend to navigate your bike along Goldrutenweg and Lausner Weg to avoid the crowded main streets. Another great spot just on your way is Eisdiele am See where you can enjoy truly homemade ice cream served by one of my favourite ice tenders in Leipzig.

Kulkwitzer See Badesee Leipzig Leipzig Free Tours

Kulkwitzer See 

For more insights on Leipzig, come and join us on a tour -> www.LEIPZIGFREETOURS.com

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Or join our Dresden Free Walking Tour

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StreetArt Leipzig

StreetArt Leipzig

 

I took a walk around Westwerk last weekend and was amazed by the density of street art just in the vicinity of this building in the neighborhood of Plagwitz in Leipzig.

Merely by walking around the building, you can find all sorts of different works from different artists.

The most obvious would be graffiti, but also artists working with stencils, stencils on paper, wood blocks, tapes and vinyl. Some of which carry political statements, others are just pieces of art as such.

I evens saw some lego pieces placed between the gaps of bricks, or larger figures that reminded me of the quite well known spaces invaders works of a French artist. In addition to that you can find quite a number of simple tag like pieces all around Leipzig. One of them, that reminds me in the structure of a version of the twin peaks symbol was even the reason for a local to write a book about her pursuit of trying to track down the artists …. which eventually failed but made her write this book nevertheless.

Another quite striking work for me was a spider sprayed on a large transparent foil stretched between two scaffolding bars.

A walk around Westwerk is certainly worth it, especially as you can combine it even with a visit to the local flea market and one of the many bars and restaurants close by.

StreetArt Leipzig

StreetArt Leipzig

StreetArt Leipzig

StreetArt Leipzig 1

StreetArt Leipzig

StreetArt Leipzig

StreetArt Leipzig

 

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Frau Krause Leipzig

TOP 5 Leipzig Bars and Cafes for post lockdown

Frau Krause Leipzig

Frau Krause Leipzig

 

After a long time of social isolation and staying home, everybody is now looking forward for the first phase of bars and restaurants to reopen on Saturday. Here are my top 5 hidden gems of Leipzig for you to check out.

 

 

 

 

 

FRAU KRAUSE

For everybody wanting to experience some true east German atmosphere, Frau Krause in Connewitz is the place to go. The term “Gastro Pub” might sound like home to some Brits while it describes what it is – a pub style bar with a few very classic (east German) dishes and nibbles. Locals enjoy their “Hausebier” here, fresh from draft. In the winter guests gather inside of what looks like a corner bar some good 30 years ago, with all its patina. In the summer, the beer garden across the road is pulling people in from around the neighborhood.

Frau Krause Leipzig

Frau Krause Leipzig

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simildenstraße 8, 04277 Leipzig
https://www.facebook.com/Frau-Krause-117934588264223/

HEITER BIS WOLKIG

Heiter bis wolkig is the name of the cafe and bar that is part of the old Plagwitz train station grounds called “Bürgerbahnhof Plagwitz”. As the name also refers to the initiative that led to the development of the area suggest, the cafe is designed as a place for people to come together away from busy streets with neighbors and visitors a like. Plenty of DIY furniture and lots of space makes one unwind and enjoy coffee, cake and drinks, all of which is fair trade and regional. If you wish to bring your kids, they will be delighted as a large playground also provided by the initiative is located just next to the cafe.

Röckener Str. 44
https://buergerbahnhof-plagwitz.de/cafe

RUDI BAR

Just in the middle of Karl-Heine-Straße, Rudi lures in its guests with just an unpretentious sign by a big window. Nothing can go wrong when your drink is prepared right in front of your eyes on the bar counter of this modern and stylish place. It all started here with just a Whiskey Sour in 2014 but the list has since grown. You can find your favorite “Sour” here of course as well as a number of all time classics.

Rudi Bar Leipzig

Rudi Bar Leipzig

Karl-Heine-Straße 59, Leipzig
https://www.rudi-bar.de/

LIQWE

Right at the northern start of endless Zchochersche Straße, Liqwe bar is a local favorite founded by three students. Drink a pint of wheat beer for three euros and immerse yourself in the arty decor of this cozy place.
Delicious cocktails for a fiver are also at your fingertips as well as housemade shots like the Mexicaner, which is basically a variation on the flavors of a Bloody Mary. This place is tiny, but I can’t help but love it.

Liqwe bar Leipzig

Liqwe bar Leipzig

Zchochersche Straße 31, Leipzig
https://www.facebook.com/liqwe.bar/

STONED

For the ones closer to the center, this little bar lies just a stone throw away east from all the hussle and buzzle in Leipzig’s inner city. The bar calls itself “The home of Punk n Roll” and does so rightly. Members of bands such as TV Smith ans The Sex Pistols have played small gigs here. Frequent live concerts are accompanied by a focus on hoppy drinks. Hey, Ho, …

Kolonnadenstraße 15
https://www.facebook.com/stonedleipzig/

Vereins Bier Brauerei Leipzig - Free Walking Tour Leipzig - Leipzig Free Tours

It all started with …. Beer at Braustraße, next to Feinkost in Leipzig

Braustraße (brew street) hints until today to what was the initial use of the area at today’s “Feinkost” in Leipzig.

A brewery was erected there in 1852 by Carl August Friedrich Lange as “Langesche Bierbrauerei” and converted to “Vereins-Bier-Brauerei” in 1857. In the middle of the 19th century, what is now Südvorstadt, was still out of town of Leipzig in 1830 with its merely 40 000 inhabitants. Following the rise of the trade fair in Leipzig, factories were moved south to keep the inner city smoke free.
In addition to the brewery, there was also a dancing hall and beer garden, conveniently located along the horse drawn tram line linking the boroughs of Connewitz and Gohlis. The unfortunate end of the brewery was caused by the start of WWI and its subsequent acquisition and ultimately halt of production after the war.

Vereins Bier Brauerei Leipzig

Vereins Bier Brauerei Leipzig

Vereins Bier Brauerei Leipzig

Vereins Bier Brauerei Leipzig