Leipzig Logs: city in a cycle
Recently I got an opportunity to travel abroad to present in a conference “Web Intelligence 2017” at Leipzig University, Germany. The conference dates (August 23rd – 26th) being in summer in Germany, would attract large number of tourists across the globe and so unless booked early, availing cheaper flight or accommodations would have been difficult. Suppressing excitement for the time-being, hence I made an itinerary relying on tourism sites and travel blogs and accordingly started necessary preparations.
Traveling abroad comes with a list of stuffs-to-do you don’t consider while traveling within country such as, visa, health and/or travel insurance and foreign exchange. I applied for visa in VFS Global and within a week-time I availed it. I booked for my Health-cum-travel insurance from Policybazaar.com, flights from Makemytrip.com and foreign currencies were arranged by a local agent. I booked my accommodation at Central Globetrotter Hostel, Leipzig at a rate of 16 euros per night through Booking.com. The hostel was damn cheap and was providing almost every necessary stuffs you may need abroad (from free WiFi to a full-furnished kitchen). I thought of taking an international sim card also from Matrix but eventually got dissuaded thinking WiFi would be enough for intimating friends and family.
First-timer to an airport, I had to be a-little-early than usual to reach Kolkata airport. The formalities, though, were not too outlandish or time-consuming. Very soon after all the security checks, I retired to a bench near the departure gate and kept watching the flights getting ready for take-off until boarding started for my flight Jet Airways 9W-616.
By scheduled time, I boarded the flight and I reached Mumbai (my first stop) within 3 hours. At Mumbai, I finished my immigration and thereafter, dinner with Hakka Egg Chow at Cafe Indiana. I never had a Chinese dish worse than that in my whole life. Afterwards, I roamed over the shops in the beautiful Mumbai airport for long, until announcements had been made for boarding.
Finally, I boarded in the flight Lufthansa LH-765 to Munich (second stop). Due to odd timings, I couldn’t have slept or enjoy movies and hence, focused on the delicious foods being served. After breakfast, I landed at Munich by early morning, informed family members using the free WiFi and went on to catch the final flight of the day: Lufthansa LH-2164. Finally, I reached Leipzig by 8 am. While claiming baggage at the airport, I met Lipika di, Hardik and Ishan. They also came to present their paper and tutorials at the same conference. I came outside the tiny airport, booked a cab for 40 euros and reached the hostel within around half-an-hour.
The hostel was nice and cozy; particularly I found the reception very warm and stuffs very well-behaved. Although my check-in time was at 1.30 pm, they provided me the room key as it was vacant without any extra charges for those 3-4 hours. Apart from that, they gave me the WiFi password and a city map.
Happy, I moved on to my room, numbered 11, on second floor. The wooden floor and stair-cases with modern facilities created a wonderful ambiance. I liked every bits of the hostel, starting from the corridor, bunk beds and mattress.
Moreover, it was located very near to a major Railway station (Hauptbahnhof), one of the prime-places-to-visit like Leipzig zoo and primarily Leipzig University, where I had to attend the conference.
My plan for the first two days were little more ambitious as from third day, my conference would start. I had a long list of places to visit on the first day. Hence, without further delay, I came out of the hostel and went to a cycle-rent shop. The shop named “Zweirad” was located near the railway station Hauptbahnhof (It is the world’s largest railway station by floor area and also a shopping destination).
The cycle shop was huge and full of variety (be at a cycle or its accessories). The cycles were at great condition and daily supervision. The shop-keeper provided me a cycle for 50 euros in cash in forms of security deposit and the day-rental (24 hours) of 8 euros. The shop-keeper set the seat and handle level as per required and I took the cycle for the day’s ride after a test-ride.
At the beginning, I was having issues with the cycle as (i) it had gear so, no back-pedaling, (ii) I had to keep right on the roads unlike India and (iii) I was not getting a bit of the signs written in German posted here and there. But, I rode in the city.
I had a list of places tagged in my Google Maps app and so, I started moving towards one after another. Though I made trips on a cycle, traveling through bus or trams wouldn’t be much faster in a city like Leipzig and definitely would cost more. My first stop was at: Citizens Committee Leipzig e.V. with the Continental Reformed Church.
The committee is the custodian of “Runde Ecke” Memorial Museum and the Stasi Bunker Museum. I visited the church and moved on.
After that, I planned to visit the New town hall, but somehow couldn’t find the way from map. At that point, I made some rounds of Hauptbahnhof and ended at the same location. Being frustrated with my navigation skills, I allowed myself to just follow wherever I felt like going and no more maps. After numerous turns, I came near the famous zoo.
The Leipzig Zoo is considered as one of the most advanced zoo which focuses on entertainment and exploration for the people as well as welfare of the animals. It comprises around 850 species across 6 separate theme-worlds. Though, I was not in a mood to visit museum or zoo for a long time rather wanted to locate places to visit them later when time would permit. Hence, I moved on to the city-center.
I started from the great St. Nicholas Church from where the peaceful Monday demonstrations were started and later, eradicated communism in the DDR regime. St. Nicholas Church is, by capacity, the biggest church in Saxony with about 1500 seats. Outside the church, there is one column just like they have inside the church. They said it was to recall how the revolutions started inside the church from Monday 5 pm prayers and came outside the church as a uniform revolution asking for reforms.
They also placed floor-lamps of several colors to commemorate people, from different backgrounds, who joined the demonstrations.
After the church, I focused on the wayside restaurant Gasthaus Cafe. After having coffee there, I started walking with the cycle.
Just nearby, I saw another cafe: Café Riquet & Co. Once it used to be an office building and later after some exotic decorations, they opened as a restaurant. According to the local people, one should have chocolate cake at that place. But, I tasted one of the popular local desserts named Leipziger Lerche from another shop: Kandler and unfortunately, I didn’t like it much. To my wildest surprise, the same pastry-like-food from the same make had been provided during my conference registration.
Afterwards, I came near a toy shop and found some really beautiful wooden figurines. They were some really nice souvenirs to take-away to home except they were way too costly.
After that small stroll, I felt like following the map once again and started cycling. Soon, I reached the Federal Administrative Court of Germany. It is one of the five supreme courts of Germany and got a huge building, nice sculptures all around and probably one of the high security zones in the city, as I saw huge numbers of policemen nearby.
Just opposite to the court, there was one church named Propsteikirche. The church building was relatively young (opened in 2015) and strikingly different from any other churches in terms of architecture. They probably took modernization too seriously and as a result, one would rather assume it to be an office building. To be frank, I did.
I moved from one church to another, just across the street. This one, named St. Luther Church (or, Lutherkirche), was getting renovated by then.
I just came out of the church and crossed the main road to reach Johanna Park. The park was huge and got some lakes, separate playing grounds for small kids & footballers, way-side stalls and statues of eminent locals.
Finally, I found the New town hall which I was searching for long time. The new town hall was built to accommodate the growing amount of trades in the city and as a result, the old town hall was going to be destroyed. Opposed by city mayor, eventually the old town hall now became one museum, known as Museum of local arts.
After crossing the street, I could see one tall tower and followed the trail. When I reached the tower, I understood that it was the tower of St. Peter’s Church. This church got the tallest tower (87 metres) in Leipzig and richly exterior-decorated in Gothic style. This church has a history of getting destroyed and reformed several times (almost 5 times in 500 years).
At that point of the day, I started feeling a little tired after the flight of 12 hours the-day-before and cycling of 3 hours. Before ending the day’s trip, I needed to visit the University at Augustusplatz Square. So, I started moving and reached the square in about 20 minutes. The square has several important building around it: the Leipzig University, MDR building (City Hochaus), Gewandhaus and the city opera.
Leipzig University is one of the oldest universities in Europe. It comprises one church within and nicely decorated with glass-works.
Gewandhaus looked dull to me according to the purpose it fulfills. I expected an orchestra famous across the continent to have a better place. But, according to the experts, its interior architecture is well-suited for acoustics, not for eyes though.
Leipzig Opera is one the buildings like St. Peter’s church which had gone several reformations through time. Actually, that square got completely wiped out during the World War 2.
I didn’t visit all the places I thought I would visit but was content. I was tired and so, returned to Hauptbahnhof to return the cycle and then to my hostel for some sleep. By late evening, I went to Hauptbahnhof once again for buying dinner. I was confused about what to eat and had some burgers. After dinner, I spent some time in the hostel’s reading room reading travel magazines and playing table-football.
Those burgers were not enough, as I was feeling hungry by late night but tiredness got better of me.
The ambitious first-day-itinerary was not met and I had to make that up on Day 2. Hence, I woke up early, got ready and came downstairs for breakfast. Although, the hostel do not provide meals but sells snacks and furnishes wonderful breakfast at damn cheap rate (4 euros for whatever you can take). So, I took as much I could take starting from bread, bacon, cheese, honey, mixed fruit jam, corn-flakes with milk and coffee.
One hour in breakfast table and I was content; came out to the cycle shop and rented one cycle just like yesterday. I passed the Citizens Committee Leipzig e.V. and was moving south, far south. I didn’t know how much I could make but I had to visit the Cossi definitely, I thought.
First, I visited St. Thomas Church (famous as the place where Johann Sebastian Bach worked as a cantor).
After cycling for another fifteen minutes, I came near one beautiful building. I don;t have any idea about the history of the building but it surely runs a bank Deutsche Bank there.
Now I started cycling straight south down Karl-Liebknecht-Straße.
The place got many buildings colored bright and vibrant. In the whole Germany, quite often you would get glimpses of such colorful murals.
After the mixture of colors, it was time for mixture of cuisines. That road got abundant restaurants and from different food-genres. The prices also were cheap compared to what you would have at the city-center.
After cycling for about half-an-hour, I reached Sudvorstadt and Connewitz after that.
After cycling for another fast half-an-hour, I reached Wildpark, Leipzig.
It is a natural habitat for about 200 animals (25 species) stretched for 42 hectares. I cycled through the forest for another 30 minutes with fellow-tourists before leaving for Waldsee Lauer.
The road ahead was more like a national high-way. So, I was cycling in great speed. Soon enough, I reached Waldsee Lauer. A left-turn and crossing a wooden bridge, I reached the lake.
Waldsee Lauer is an artificial lake originally came from a pit. Later, with fast opencast mining, it became lake and now, one of the popular bathing and fishing options in the city. I had relaxed by the banks and watched over the people boating and fishing.
After the Waldsee Lauer, I moved on towards the Cospudener See (locally known as, Cossi). It is more than a lake and lesser than a sea, though it is favored as one of the beach options among the locals.
I saw people here bathing, basking in the sun; some even exercising and some relaxing with chilled beers in the long stretches of the sand beach. The lake has modern bathing facilities with sauna and comprises a few hotels also.
I took my lunch in one of the restaurants there. I saw them to arrange beach volleyball and boating facilities.
Soon after my lunch, I started for Zwenkauer see, another artificial lake in the south. I found many local people strolling there: some taking a hike, some on their skates and most of them cycling.
Cycling for fifteen more minutes, I reached the south of the Cossi where spotted some bisons and deers.
From here, the road got split: the left one goes further south of Cossi and the right one goes to Belantis. It is one amusement park with several joy-rides but it was hard to afford the entry fee of 70 euros.
After Belantis, I came above one bridge over a high-way and took rest there for-a-while. Later, I went on taking a short-cut towards Zwenkauer See.
The short-cut was a muddy path cutting tall paddy-fields in two and the area was surprisingly desolated. At this point, I came to one road-block ahead. I thought for a while before crossing the block but moved on.
After cycling for another twenty minutes, I came to a place where the road ended: there was nothing ahead; just one downhill and ahead of that, some dumps of stones.
Skeptical on the strength of the land-base, eventually I came down walking. There were numerous banners which seemed to me more-or-less like a “No Vehicle Zone” and I could see the Zwenkauer see at my right. Desolation of that level made me scared and I thought of coming back from where I came.
By this time, I saw one cyclist riding towards me. I couldn’t make him understand with English and I couldn’t make what in German he told. Although somehow, I managed to understand that the road ahead goes no-where and so, I got stuck with my decision of coming back the whole way to Belantis and then Cossi.
From the point, I took right towards Belantis previously, now I took the left moved towards the south banks of Cossi.
Near the southern banks, the locals have arranged several boating and accommodation facilities. Those hotels looked over-budget and boating options were also facilitated with modern amenities.
Due to strong winds, the ripple here seems somewhat like the one from sea.
After some time, once again I was back on track. Cheers to the relief, I relaxed for-a-while there at a way-side bench.
The sky started getting cloudy all of a sudden. I got scared for rain as I had no place to hide myself, more importantly my camera.
So, I started cycling and soon reached Markkleeberg and then, Connewitz. From here, I took Arno-Nitzsche-Straße at my right to reach Südfriedhof. I saw one nice restaurant here, made out of an airplane.
Südfriedhof (or, locally known as the south cemetery) is, with an area of 82 hectares, the largest cemetery in Leipzig. I locked my cycle outside the cemetery as cycling was forbidden inside and started walking.
Later I found out many people cycling through the gate as they wished. I saw in a small city like Leipzig, people often break rules fortunately for a better life and other’s welfare.
While coming out of the cemetery, I noticed a peacock-like form on a tree. Thinking about the nature’s wonder, I moved to another man-made wonder commemorating a man-made waste: war.
The Monument to the Battle of the Nations is located just opposite to the Wilhelm-Külz-Park. That huge monument to the 1813 Battle of Leipzig (known as the Battle of the Nations) commemorates Napoleon’s defeat and victory of the German people, though Germany did not exist until 1870.
I bought a student ticket for entering inside the monument for 6 euros (General adult ticket costs 10 euros). The monument is constructed in 8 layers and with the entry pass, one can move level 1 – 6 using lifts, whereas the top two levels can be accessed only using staircases.
I knew all these after climbing 500 stairs to reach level 2. On top of the base, level 2 holds the strongest pillars and embodies the soldiers.
Seeing a queue for lift, I thought: how long the stairs may be to next level and I was mistaken. I had to rest twice in between as I took the steps to reach level 4, not 3. To reach level 3, one needs to come outside the monument and take the outside stairs. What waste of the entry ticket!
After taking rest, I waited now for the lifts for other levels. Level 6 and 8 provides a 360 degree view of the whole city.
After visiting the monument, I came outside. There is a museum showcasing testimonials from the 1813 battle: starting from war-dress, stuffs used by Napoleon and other eminent war-lords.
This long walk, though tiring, provided me some rest from cycling. So, rejuvenated me, again started cycling towards the Russian Church of Leipzig. This church was erected in 1913 to recall 100 years of selflessness of the Russians who fought against Napoleon for Germany’s liberation.
While returning, once again I visited Leipzig University to recall the road between the university and my hostel.
I had no more energy to go outside again for dinner and it was almost 8 pm. Hence, after returning the cycle I went to get some dinner. At Hauptbahnhof, I found an Indian shop. After getting welcomed by a Sardarji, I readily had my dinner meal with steamed rice, palak paneer, lamb curry and other Indian dishes at 7.50 euros.
The hot meal after the long cycle-journey for about 6 hours, made me succumb to sleep right after a refreshing shower.
I had my registration at 8 am. Hence, I woke up early, had breakfast and started for the university. By university gate, I met Ishan and Hardik. Together we went to the registration desk and shortly after to attend the tutorial sessions.
By coffee-break, Tiruda and Rupsha also joined with us. The tutorial sessions went on smooth and we were called for lunch soon enough. At the conference, we would be provided a lunch comprising a meal, a dessert and a drink. I liked the lunch after the long sessions, seemed only longer after the early rising.
After lunch, I visited a nearby canteen Moritzbastei and soon retired to my hostel. After a long sleep, I visited KFC at Hauptbahnhof and had my dinner and after that, had a sleep again.
The key-notes and the main paper sessions of the conference would be starting from 11 am. Hence, I got up late, got ready and went for breakfast at Wiener Feinbäckerei, Hauptbahnhof by 10 am. After delicious sandwiches at breakfast, I moved towards the conference.
I attended the inauguration ceremony and keynotes sessions. After the first session, the conference committee started distributing coupons for day’s trip. They arranged city walk, boat trip and bus trip on 3 coming days. I made a quick plan, collected coupons accordingly and a pleasant lunch with chicken fry, mushroom and pasta salad.
After lunch, Tiruda and his friends went to visit the zoo and I came to visit the in-campus museum Neues Augusteum.
The museum possesses mostly paintings and sculptures from the past or depicting people or happenings from the past.
After the coffee-break, we gathered outside the conference hall for the City walk. Conference committee arranged one guide, named Lisa, for the walk. She shortly pointed out the plans before we started.
We came outside the university and disappeared in the passages of the city center. Our traveling spirits flew amidst wayside restaurants and beneath the umbrellas being enchanted by the humors of our guide.
The city of trade, Leipzig, for a long time provides the merchants across the globe a platform to showcase and sell products. The most popular passage-way for the merchants is the Mädler Passage. The riches of the past trade are still prevalent in the man-sized flower-vases or the copper-wrapped ceiling of the passage.
And one end of the passage, we found Auerbachs Keller, a popular restaurant from the past (second oldest in the city).
We came out of the passage and walked towards St. Thomas church through parks and stalls.
I visited the church before. So I roamed to-and-fro clicking the statue of Bach or the cycle parked outside.
Just behind the church, there is the building of Commerzbank, showing off its prowess with rich golds.
Then we came to the Bermuda triangle of Leipzig. This place got numerous and most famous bars of the city. Lisa warned us not to get lost here alike the past men who used to drink unless they had to sell their shoes or getting beaten by their wives.
I didn’t want to get lost there as my wife was not in Leipzig and hence, came to the Old town hall at market square.
I started off late on the last day at the conference. Getting fresh enough, I reached the university by 11 am to attend the keynotes. Afterwards, I attended few more paper sessions before a yummy lunch.
After a heavy lunch, I felt like walking and so, I came to The Zeitgeschichtliches Forum (Forum of Contemporary History), Leipzig. This free museum showcases historical testimonies for the period of 1945-1990.
By 4 pm, I came back to the university during coffee break as I had to attend the boat trip at 4.30 pm. The boat trip was to be started from Stadthafen. Organizing committee of the conference arranged a few cabs to transport us to Stadthafen. After reaching there, we had to wait until all necessary arrangements had been made.
Eventually, we started our boat trip to Karl-Heine-Kanal.This boat-way flows through several canals connecting the three rivers which cut the city across: White Elster, Pleisse and Parthe. The canals were not wide and was foul-smelling due to presence of the drainage carried to the other end of the canal. But, the smell faded away as we came from the canal towards the White Elster.
We passed through several bridges and parks, even one dam. Some of these bridges are so low that we needed to bent to the fullest at the boats.
At some point on the river, I located a few schools for training rowing. Young people of 9 or 10 are exercising pretty hard at those schools, whereas some bands were relaxing in Gandola or self-driven paddle boats.
Throughout the banks of Elster, there were series of factory buildings which have been inhabited by comparatively poor people of the city. However, it was evident that the city has some-or-other-way still repairing its hurts of WW2.
During reformation, instead of wasting stuffs, they have used or decorated it in their own way: be it using a boat as a restaurant or putting colorful murals across the bridges.
After returning to the hostel, I prepared for my presentation a bit. Later, I went for dinner and had an early sleep.
After returning to hostel, I packed my things, made my boarding pass online, booked a cab for tomorrow’s journey and soon after got drowned in deep sleep.
I packed my stuffs quick and got into the cab. The morning road was empty so, I reached the airport soon.
While waiting for boarding, I finished my breakfast and finally boarded my flight by 10.35 am. The skyline of Frankfurt spoke for its high-rises, industries and population unlike Leipzig. I reached Frankfurt in an hour.
My next flight took off by 2.00 pm but, I had to wait for the meal up to 4.30 pm. We were given the breakfast early in the morning just before landing.
I reached Mumbai by midnight late by 40 min due to bad weather. I had my dinner at Pizza Hut and waited until flight Air India AI-675 took off by 6 am. The Mumbai sky was full of clouds and the flight suffered heavy turbulence. By the time, it was close to Kolkata, the sky started getting clearer. The bushes, the houses and whatever-was-visible of Kolkata seemed dear.
It was some happy moments to feel at home until I came outside the terminal for taking cab. It was sunny summer days and I had to wait getting perspired until my OLA cab reached. On my way to home, I came across Lipika di’s Bengali blog on Leipzig trip: a similar trails of memories jotted down in some other perspectives. I ended my trip at a happy note and probably therefore, cherish the experiences of this solo-traveling in an European city for quite some years.