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April 20th 2015
Published: April 20th 2015
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I considered mentioning something about Hitler's birthday or about illicit drug use, since one could theoretically celebrate both of those today. But I'll just stick with being happy to be in a country where I feel safe and can understand most of what's going on.

I don't know what it is about Germany, but I've never felt out of sorts in this country. From the first time I set foot in it, I didn't feel overwhelmed or anxious at all. It's just natural, to me. It's typically clean, and people go about their business without bothering anybody else. I don't know if I'd particularly want to live here, but you could do a lot worse in terms of quality of living.

Today is my first time in Leipzig, and though I'll be leaving around noon tomorrow, I plan on getting in as much touristy stuff as I can before I go. I got here around 4:30PM, and once I got checked into my sweet hotel, I went out exploring. I didn't get to go inside any of the sights, since most of them close at either 5 or 6, and I wasn't able to get out until after 5:30. But in the morning I'll be going in a few of them before my train departs for Jena, when I get to see the fantastic Erica!

My train ride up here from Bratislava was uneventful, though it was long. I left just after 8AM, and my only connection was in Dresden, and that was less than 15 minutes. So, it was an 8-hour train ride, all told. I really hate that kind of day, but at least it means I don't have to do much stressing. I can ride a train and look out the window at some gorgeous countryside with the best of 'em. Probably the best sights were between Prague and Dresden, when we rode along the Elbe River for a long time. I'll get to make that return trip next Monday, and I'll make sure to sit on the Elbe side of the carriage this time. The actual time didn't seem to pass so slowly, since I've found a couple of things to help kill the time on the train when it's clear no one else speaks English, or any other language I can communicate in. The first is, as it has been since my first train ride in Spain, to read a chapter from Watership Down. I've read about 14 chapters (out of 50) at this point, and it's on the Kindle App on my iPad, but I swear it keeps getting longer. There's a little timer at the bottom of each page that estimates how long it'll take to finish the book, and my timer only increases! My page numbers get larger, which is good, but apparently I'll never finish this book. The 2nd thing I've found to do is listen to the "Billy Elliot" soundtrack, since I've finally been able to download the whole thing, thanks to decent wifi. And when I say "listen to the soundtrack," I mean the whole soundtrack. Read a chapter, listen to the whole soundtrack. Repeat. It passes the time quickly.

I met a guy from Toronto in the last 15 minutes of my train to Dresden. I was about to get off at the main Dresden station, so I collected my things and left my carriage; but I looked at my ticket when I got to the door, and I needed to wait for the next stop. So I went back. Turns out, he spoke English, so we talked about where we were from and where we were going. A few minutes later, a retired German guy got in the carriage with us and told us about the train exposition he'd just visited in Dresden. Then it was time for me to leave. Alas.

My hotel in Leipzig is the Mercure Hotel, which is apparently very swank. I mean, it's probably the nicest hotel in terms of luxury that I've stayed in on this trip. They've got a nice restaurant downstairs, but after seeing the prices, I opted for McDonald's at the train station. It's only the 2nd time I've had it in Europe, so get off my back. I will say that I'm impressed that you can order McDonald's on a kiosk in the restaurant, and it lets you get fries without salt, coke without ice, and you can order burgers without onions or pickles or ketchup or whatever else. That was nice. I'm not planning on going back, but it's good info to have.

Around town, I saw the Gewandhaus, where the orchestra plays, and right next to it an amazing building that's part of the University here. I wouldn't mind studying at a place like that. There was also Auerbach's Keller, which Goethe made famous in probably the most comical scene in Faust. As someone who did a lot of research on that topic, I simply had to make a pilgrimage while here. I saw the Nikolai Church, but there were some demonstrators out front with signs about the Armenian genocide. That was pretty tame, compared to the group that I saw next to the Old Town Hall - they had banners, megaphones, a vehicle, and tons of police protection. It seemed to be peaceful, and their goal was certainly non-violent: anti-fascist/nazi signs, opposing racism, and some calling for unity. I stayed back, what with all those police. I just wanted to get to the Thomas Church, where Bach did all of his Bach things 300 years ago, but the demonstration was marching that way, so I headed up to the train station to get my ticket for tomorrow.

I'm really glad to have people address me in a language that I comprehend, at least 75%!a(MISSING)nd up of what they are saying. That's much better than the maybe 25%!i(MISSING)n Eastern Europe (even less in Hungary), and mainly because I'm hearing similarities to Russian. And the fact that they all immediately addressed me in German, instead of English, has made for a better experience. I just feel helpless when I have to rely on a non-native speaker of English to help me out. But English really is the lingua franca of the world, so I'd better get used to it. I think other countries have it a bit better than us, in that regard: they only have to learn one foreign language, and they can learn it really well, to communicate with most people they'll ever encounter. As Americans, Canadians, Irish, or Brits, we study one language, and maybe we'll get to use it, maybe we won't. Or some of us study several languages, but unless we devote ourselves to a single language for as long as other countries do, we'll never be able to speak their language as well as they speak English. It's a question of survival, I guess - they need to know English to survive in this global community, and we frankly don't need to know their language to do the same. Advantages and disadvantages to that, I suppose.

On a totally different note, I'm very happy to be seeing a familiar face tomorrow! It will be nice to have companions to share this adventure with, even if only for a week. I've really found some fondness for the part of "Grandma's Song" in "Billy Elliot" (at least the last verse, where she talks about how she wished she had lived her life). I feel like I'm living my life like she wished she had lived hers, but at times that means that I have to be alone. And that's ok from time to time. Let's just say I'm looking forward to being not alone tomorrow.


3rd September 2015

University background
The university building has quite some historical background to be looking like it does today ;) The old 19th century building was standing aside the much older university church, then the war destroyed the university and the communists destroyed the church and after 2000 the GDR university building was again ... destroyed. After much discussion we got this modern mixture of a university building AND church ;) For the next short visit you can also try this 3 hours guide:

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