The expectations of the Westin were somehow far exceeded. The relaxing bed, the cozy environment, the melt your body away lounge chair, the exquisitely refreshing bathroom, to the 26th floor view overlooking Leipzig, no hotel was going to beat this experience, sorry Berlin. After waking up, I checked my camera and saw my long time-lapse from my room showed an amazing sunrise over Leipzig. The breakfast offered a smorgasbord of every breakfast food you think a fancy restaurant would offer, i.e. no waffles. The ambiance was one of luxury and I felt like wanting to savor every fleeting minute in the hotel. Today we were going to tour Leipzig, which already showed great promise for a wonderful stay. Like everyplace we visited in Germany, the city was unique in architecture as the buildings were much taller, much newer, but still had a German flair in the architectural design. Leipzig like Mannheim was heavily damaged from WWII, only later to be rebuilt. There is some controversy that all the money pouring into rebuilding the city and paid by the west, now is more advanced and better off than the buildings in the west. No public form of transportation was needed either today as after crossing the main downtown busy roads (with the lovingly awesome Ampelmännchen Mario and Luigi crossing guards), we were in the downtown area. The buildings towered over us as we headed to our first stop, the Leipzig Forum of Contemporary History. Walking through the streets along the way, you couldn’t help but soak in the numerous sideshow musicians of seemingly every genre, most likely playing their interpretation of Bach. It was Bachfest apparently in the town and they had erected in the marketplatz a large city stage for presumably a large show production of a Bach concert at night. Before going to the museum, we stopped by and entered an angelic looking church, which was in the midst of a service. I snuck some pictures with my GoPro as this church was jaw droppingly gorgeous with its pale pink, white, and sage green color scheme. The music also was the most beautiful music my ears have ever heard. The Leipzig museum finally offered something to help us hear the soft spoken guide, an ear piece. Hazzah! Especially after Point Alpha Memorial, I’ve been so intrigued by the Cold War (though I wish that more discussion and learning about WWI and WWII would have happened) and this museum was all about that area. Like every museum, everything was primarily in German, so luckily we had a guide. It was amazing to think that this could happen in a civilized country like Germany. Going along with Tankman, Gandhi, and Mandela, the TOP application question about Leipzig uprising I thought would add to my holy trinity of peaceful protesters, but unfortunately it was only sparsely mentioned. Seeing the immediate raising of the wall was surreal as how can anyone actually think what is happening is going to be a wall that will divide a country for over 25 years? It was an enlightening tour learning about the GDR. When we finished, I couldn’t believe my ears, we were given 3 hours of freedom before our next tour. I couldn’t believe it, freedom! I split from everyone and relished every quiet moment to myself. I’d like to say I did something super eventful, but getting gelato, and visiting random sites several times along my long walk isn’t super crazy. I went back to the St. Thomas Church we visited last night and I noticed a decent amount of people watching the rehearsal of students on the balcony above, but only this time I could see and hear them. I headed out shortly after stopping in, but realizing I had time to kill and sitting for a little bit was too enticing for me to miss. I went and watched and savored the performance, which tickled the senses as you could feel the religious aura they presented in the historic church. Heading back to a large church we visited earlier as a group, I entered again now that service had ended and took some pictures of the most beautiful church I’d seen in all of Germany. Wandering around town, I took Manny’s advice and stopped back in the Leipzig Forum of Contemporary History from earlier and took a self guided tour through both floors. Each room had enough English for me to understand the topic and the intimacy of a near empty museum further let me feel at peace and recharge my battery, before having to meet back up with the group. Outside the museum we reconvened and headed down the Leipzig cobblestone streets to the Museum in the Round, aka the Stasi museum. I was fatigued and it took a while for the tour to really capture my attention, but eventually it did big time. Essentially this is the only museum about a secret service as all the others are still a secret. Shortly prior to the Wall falling, the people protested and shut the building down, effectively freezing the records and work of the paranoid, controlling government. Shockingly, any East German can request for free to see if their was a Stasi file on them, which they are still collecting information and adding new files. Families turned on each other and paranoia ran rampant throughout East Germany. The spy materials used were also unique yet excessive. One can only imagine how much more intrusive the NSA is gathering information on us/me. They are probably reading this right now. Why hello. Anyways, after the meeting, we went to a fancy restaurant located below the streets. When my three meat meal came in a cast iron skillet, I was so hungry. I believe it was veal, steak, and pork, cooked to perfection. Surrounding it was what looked like a hot mess, but the quasi mashed potatoes meets spinach artichoke dip side dish was mouth watering. Afterwards, we headed back. Alas, this was the last night in Leipzig and more disappointing, the wonderful Westin. I made sure to savor the good night sleep to its fullest.
About Matthew Cottone
Experience the World! This is my creed I bring to my classroom and my life. I'm a World Studies teacher at Van Hoosen Middle School and I have a passion for learning and experiencing the world.