The wonderful room (suite, actually) that the convention has provided is cooling off with the afternoon breeze. I came in after a day of roaming and opened the windows. Windows here are a marvel. Someone should import them to the United States. They have a handle that when turned 120 degrees opens the window only at the top. When turned 90 degrees, it opens the window at the side like most American windows. The first time I opened one from the top, in Nuremberg, I thought I had broken the window. I figured it out eventually—without asking anyone. (A major victory for me.)
Today I saw some more of Leipzig, more music items, and then the history of the city—first in the Old City Hall (which takes the history from founding [around 1000, although dating actually begins a hundred years later]) to 1909 when the hall was replaced by the “New” City Hall. Beautiful old Renaissance building, with some good exhibits. This town continues to fascinate.
But the hard exhibit to see was the only free one I’ve found so far in all of my travels. It covered the history of the East Germany. There were some tour groups inside (I swear, if I don’t kill a flock of tourists before I leave, it’ll be a miracle; thankfully, the museum part of my trip is ending before I can act on this fantasy) so I paced myself to wait for them.
I know less about this history than I thought I did, particularly from the point of view of a great city trapped behind the wall. This exhibit didn’t just cover the history of Leipzig in the GDR, but the entire thing—and it had the sign from Checkpoint Charlie which is just—well, the world went crazy in the 20th century, I swear.
One of the guards realized I was on my own, and talked to me about the building of the wall. He was so matter-of-fact. He pointed out details I hadn’t noticed with a passion I hadn’t expected. So of course I asked him if he and his family had lived here before the Wall fell.
“Yes,” he said, and for the first time the matter-of-fact went away. He pressed his hands together, bowed a little, and added in a completely different, very fervent voice, “It is over now, thank God.” And then he walked away.
So much emotion in those six words, so much experience I can’t begin to comprehend.
Opening ceremonies start at seven, and then I have a panel at eight. I have to grab some dinner before it all begins, so I don’t have much time to write this. I’ll post it when I return, whatever time that is. I have a hunch the next two posts will be about the convention, unless I manage to sneak out and see more ancient instruments. (Doubtful. My brain is full.)
Okay…thought I saw my first jogger/runner in the park across the way. Turns out that it was a kid chasing a guy on a bike. The kid was beginning to lose ground. Everywhere I look, stories I don’t entirely comprehend….
Yes, it’s usually the smaller town where Soviet war memorials and Marx/Lenin statues have been left alone, though there are some surviving statues in Berlin.
Remnants of East Germany can still be seen in many places, though Leipzig was in better shape than other cities even during Communist times and has been restored since then. But if you step away from the main streets into a side street, you can often still see crumbling buildings that have never been restored. And of course as with all big East German cities, Leipzig has so-called “Plattenbauten” (Communist era prefabricated mass housing) on its periphery. I think Grünau is the biggest “Plattenbau” area in Leipzig. There also used to be a big Communist era highrise building smack in the middle of the city, though that might have been torn down now (been a while since I’ve been there). There may also still be Marx and/or Lenin statues and Soviet war memorials somewhere in the city, though I don’t know where specifically.
Thanks, Jen. Much appreciated.
Cora, the locals I met tell me the last of the Marx/Lenin structures have come down. But there are many dilapidated buildings still. The city is rebuilding, however, and a lot of the locals tell me that it looks much better than it did even five years ago.
There must be something about you that draws people to you and prompts them to share. What a gift! The unexpected stories that are around you are the best kind to discover. 🙂 Happy Exploring!
Thought I’d comment on the windows. I encountered them on a trip to Germany, and love them, too. My daughter, who had been living in Austria for over a year, called them “kepping windows” but I don’t know if that’s what they are really called or not.
I totally agree that they should import them to the US.
By the way, I was directed to your site to listen to the potential “SFWA Anthem” and I want to thank you and Janis Ian for sharing that. What a delight.
Have fun in Leipzig.
Thanks, Kathleen. Hey, folks, there’s a business opportunity in those windows!!!!
I’m glad you liked the song, Kathleen. Isn’t it wonderful? You can e-mail Janis directly from her site. The link is in the comments on the song post. (I’m too tired tonight to look it up.)