Edit Blog Post
Published: July 22nd 2018
Leipzig's main square where there is a weekly fruit and vegetable market.
Despite the fact that it has already been almost six months since I last wrote, I do have to admit that I'm back writing this blog a bit sooner than I had originally anticipated. I was so tired of travelling and my two year trip around the world had left me almost broke, so I thought that I wouldn't even countenance making a trip for at least another six months. Old habits die hard I guess and a true traveller never stops exploring.
And so I found myself on a FlixBus to Leipzig, Germany. How did I end up here? A bit of a catch up is in order.
Having finally made it home to New Zealand after the end of my trip of a lifetime
, I really needed a couple of months to recuperate, gather my thoughts and spend some much-needed time with friends and family. For the first time in eleven years, I actually spent Christmas back at home with everyone!
I knew however that I wouldn't be staying in New Zealand long-term; most of my friends were now married and raising families and even though I wanted to set down some roots for a while, the restless
Inside the Monument To The Battle Of The Nations.
explorer in me still wanted to do it somewhere new and exciting. Somewhere that didn't feel as isolated as New Zealand. Somewhere where I could really immerse myself in a different culture. Somewhere where I didn't need a car to get around. Somewhere where I wouldn't need to get up in the middle of the night to watch football. Europe was beckoning me back.
Which is why I decided to move to Berlin
at the end of January. It is a city I have visited a few times before and is one of my favourites in Europe, a city that I have always thought would be a cool place to live.
Still re-establishing and regenerating itself after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the city has become an epicentre of everything new and trendy and its grungy, graffiti-strewn, underground culture gives it an edge that exists in no other city in the world. So effortlessly hip, it really is the coolest city in the world right now. It just felt and feels like the place to be.
Things weren't exactly easy when I arrived, however.
For a start, I don't speak the language. Although visitors to
Beautiful little street in the neighbourhood of Sudvorstadt, where Freddie's family lived. Could be Paris!
Berlin might quite rightly say that they had no problems getting around the city because all the locals spoke perfect English, it is a different matter when you are living here. Berlin sees a huge number of tourists and there are a large number of expats in the city so yes, if you're here on holiday, you can get by perfectly fine without German. When you live here however and have to get official things done (such as getting your resident permit), visit the doctor and speak to the cashiers at Lidl, you really do feel a bit sheepish for not knowing the language, considering that you're supposed to be living here.
Not knowing German really doesn't help you find a job either. Part of Berlin's reputation as a hub of creativity is down to its exciting start-up scene; for a capital city, costs here are relatively cheap which make it an ideal place to start a business. This has therefore attracted a large number of expats, making Berlin a very international city with plenty of English-speaking jobs - just not for my particular line of work, where positions that didn't require fluent German were thin on the ground. This
One of several ornate, covered arcades to be found in the the city centre. The Mädlerpassage is perhaps the most famous of them, where a scene from a Faust play takes place in the Auerbach Keller, a restaurant in the arcade.
made job-hunting rather like Waiting For Godot as week-to-week, there were very few positions coming up that I could actually apply for.
As mentioned earlier, I was also cash-strapped and to complete my relative misery, winter had one last sub-zero sting in its tail that went on for weeks.
By the end of March I was on my way back to New Zealand for my best friend Davies's wedding - he who was there at the very start
and who has appeared in these pages more than anyone else. It was a special wedding that had loads of guests who have also appeared in this blog over the years and the timing of my two-weeks back at home was perfect after a tough start in Berlin. It allowed me to get some clarity, get some support from family and friends and to get in some warm weather! By the time I got back to Berlin, I was re-energised and refocused to face down the challenges I had in front of me.
My trip back home turned out to be a turning point; by the time I got back, I had a few job interviews lined up, one of which went to the second interview stage.
On my opinion, the prettiest square in Leipzig.
I had to admit that I was a nervous wreck while waiting to see if I'd get offered the job so it was just as well that I did! I have to admit that it felt like a real coup as it was the most senior position that I had applied for and it was also the best possible position I could've got in terms of furthering my professional career. The timing was perfect too, as I was now really running out of money and had absolutely nothing else lined up.
Anyway, I found myself with two weeks to kill before starting my new job when I got a message from my friend Freddie.
Freddie and I were flatmates for a couple of weeks when I was living in Barcelona
and our paths crossed again when I visited Bogota
. Originally from Leipzig, he was back in the city for a few days while on a break from university and invited me to come down. With some time to kill, I thought "why not?".
And thus I found myself on a FlixBus to Leipzig, which is just a 2.5 hour bus journey from Berlin. I had discovered FlixBus on my travels through Europe two years ago
and it came in
The interior of Leipzig's rather classy-looking main train station.
handy again here. About 75% less than the price of the train, the ride was comfortable and painless.
This isn't actually the first time I have been to Leipzig.
On my first ever trip to Europe (not documented on this blog) myself and four friends drove a van all over Germany during the 2006 World Cup. It was a glorious trip and one of our stops was in Leipzig. I don't remember much about the city to be honest as we only made a fleeting, one-night visit but I do remember it was insanely hot (around 35 degrees) and that we passed the revamped football stadium (now home to the much reviled Bundesliga club, RB Leipzig) which was hosting Spain vs Ukraine.
My FlixBus dropped me off at Leipzig's new bus terminal whose rejuvenation mirrors that of the city itself. An important economic and transport centre, Leipzig is Germany's fastest growing city. It is also ranked as Germany's most liveable and is widely called "the new Berlin"; its hip city centre and energetic nightlife also sees the city take on the moniker that is the title of this blog entry; "Hypezig". Would Leipzig live up to the hype?
Streets Of Leipzig
Leipzig's pretty, medieval city centre is home loads of nice little alleyways, such as this.
The bus terminal is right next to the main train station which is a sight in itself; the city's hauptbahnhof
is grand in both size and splendour and is the world's largest train station in terms of floor area. It was restored to its current glory in the mid-90s and has a shopping mall built into it. The station is right in the city centre so Freddie thought that he might as well give me a tour of it while we were there.
The narrow, cobblestone lanes and the beautiful Renaissance and Baroque architecture gives Leipzig's core a real medieval feel and it is like many an old European town; Riga
seems to immediately come to mind. The pedestrianised city centre is an absolute delight to stroll around and is ringed by a busy dual carriageway which would have been where the old city walls would have once stood. The university has survived from the times when the wall was still up and is also right in the city centre which must be really nice for the students; indeed there were loads of them milling around and enjoying their lunch outside the university cafeteria in the glorious sunshine
Beautiful art-nouveau coffee house in the city centre.
that was also present on my last visit to Leipzig.
Freddie's tour took me past and through a few of Leipzig's famous landmarks; Marktplatz, where the weekly fruit and vegetable market has been going for centuries; Nikolaikirche, with its pastel cream, pink and green interior, which played a prominent role in the collapse of East Germany by hosting weekly "peace prayers"; the contemporary history museum which was partly closed, had little English signage and was generally disappointing compared the Berlin's DDR Museum; and the Mädlerpassage, the most famous of the many historic shopping arcades that dot the city centre and which is home to the Auerbachs Keller, a subterranean restaurant that was where a famous scene from Faust, a play by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, is set - there is a statue of Goethe right opposite the entrance to the Mädlerpassage in the wonderfully picturesque square of Naschmarkt. Leipzig is also where the famous composer Bach spent a lot of his life - much like in Warsaw
with Chopin however, I'm not enough of a classical music fan to visit the Bach Museum.
Leipzig is also rather pleasant outside of the city centre, particularly in the neighbourhood of
Main drag south of the city centre where many of Leipzig's coolest bars reside.
Sudvorstadt, where Freddie's mum and stepdad live. Freddie's family were lovely and were kind enough to let me stay for a night where they even fed me with maultaschen
, which I haven't had for ages. We had dinner outside on the apartment balcony which combined with the balmy weather, was a lovely setting.
Also amongst Freddie's family was his 7-year old half-brother Ari (who I could practice my less-than-elementary German with) and his 15-year old sister Lily, a fine young lady who can already speak German, English and French.
I never fully realised the importance of languages until I started travelling and Lily's command of languages demonstrated to me how little emphasis there is on foreign languages on the school curriculum back in New Zealand. I feel embarrassed by the fact that I can only speak one language well while so many Europeans are multilingual. It is the curse of the English speaker in a way, as English is so widely spoken that there is less need for us learn other languages. Also, New Zealand is a long way from anywhere requiring a language other than English.
Leipzig is meant to have decent nightlife and I saw some of
I have seen similar monuments in South Africa and Bulgaria to this, Leipzig's Monument To The Battle Of The Nations. This monument commemorates a pivotal defeat of Napoleon that took place here.
it that evening on the main southern drag of Karl-Liebkneckt-Straße, where a lot of Leipzig's trendy, alternative-vibe bars and eateries reside. Freddie and I settled for Freddie's favourite shisha bar where we met up with one of his friends. It was a pretty chill night as we caught up on each other's stories and laughed about old times - yet another awesome reunion that I have had on my travels.
The next day, Freddie took me to one of the more surreal sights I have seen in Germany - the Monument To The Battle Of The Nations.
Completed in 1913, this 91m tall monument commemorates the Battle Of Leipzig which saw the allied forces of Russia, Prussia, Austria and Sweden defeat the French forces of Napoleon a hundred years earlier, on the very grounds the monument is built on. The interior of this brutal and colossal structure has gigantic statues arranged around a circular crypt at the bottom of the monument and looks like something from Lord Of The Rings. The views up the top were decent.
I was hesitant about paying to go inside but it was well worth it; I thought it was very similar to the
The tallest building in Leipzig.
Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria
and the Shipka Memorial in Bulgaria
Back in the city centre, we thought we would get some views right over the city by going to the top of Leipzig's tallest building, the City-Hochhaus. It was the last thing I did in Leipzig so you could say I went out on a high...
So does "Hypezig" live up to its name? Well, it isn't really a tourist's city if I am completely honest, certainly not for more than a couple of days. But I am guessing that as Germany's most liveable city, you probably have to actually live or spend some decent time here to fully appreciate its charm. As a short break before getting back to work for the first time in three-and-a-half years however, it was perfect. Wish me luck...
A big thanks has to go to Freddie for inviting me and putting me up - a big shout out to his family too for having me.
I honestly don't know when I'll be writing next, but it could be a while - I have absolutely no travel plans right now. I honestly don't have much interest in going anywhere -
Me & Freddie
Taken halfway up the Völkerschlachtdenkmal - The Monument To The Battle Of The Nations.
having spent so long on the road, I really just want to settle into my job, into a routine, into life in Berlin. I just want to stay put and really appreciate the perks and opportunities of a normal life that I haven't had in so long. That first pay-cheque can't come soon enough.
So until next time...
Tot: 2.249s; Tpl: 0.072s; cc: 12; qc: 33; dbt: 0.0406s; 1; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 3;
; mem: 1.5mb