Archive for the 'Leipzig' Category

Reverse culture shock, or rockin’ the suburbs

I’m struggling quite a bit with the new life lately. To quote a blogging friend of mine, I have a Leipzig-shaped “hole in my heart”. I know I complained quite a bit about the language barrier, the climate, the homesickness and the lack of Tim Tams, but in truth there was much about life in Germany that has spoiled me. I’ve been doing lots of thinking and I’ve decided my maladjustment has less to do with moving from Germany to Australia and more with moving from city to suburbs. 

Leipzig is a city in the truest sense. Apart from the lovely streets lined with Gründerzeit buildings, the first thing I noticed was how compact it is. One can drive across the city in a matter of minutes, no suburbs clamoring around it, no feeling of endless sprawl. Living in a proper city was a whole new experience for me. I could walk to the city center, enjoy its markets, museums and wonderfully inexpensive cafes. Living in a small flat (like everyone else), we by necessity had less stuff. A car was unnecessary thanks to public transport that would make any Sydneysider sigh, but whether you’re eight weeks or eighty years old, the way to travel in Leipzig is by bike. Another aspect of city life I loved was parks. Not CBD parks, where joggers and businessmen mingle, or suburban parks where a few kids play on the Astroturf. I mean parks that are the garden of the city. On a warm day in summer, everyone is there. Communal spaces are necessary when everyone lives in a flat.

Coming back to suburban Australia has been just a little deflating. It seems a strange, unnatural life. Firstly, there’s the temptation to have stuff. Suburbia is perfectly designed to turn us all into little consumers. We don’t share things. Instead, we all buy our own. We are left to imagine what life is like on the other side of the fence and we try to keep up with the Jones’. We drive to get around. We commute to work.  We love the idea of farmers’ markets and local economies, but the capitalist system drives us towards the cheapest option: the shopping centers and supermarkets.

Suburbia can be a very lonely place for full time mum in a new town. While I do love the freedom of a patch of grass to play on and a Hills Hoist in the sun, the price can seem quite high, sometimes. Of course, the answer lies in finding ways around the isolating, consumer-oriented ways of the suburbs. Stay tuned.

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Slipping Away

Just days now until we leave Germany. My time is almost up. It’s a bit painful to dwell on here, so I won’t. Funnily enough, winter has arrived to bid us farewell. After months of unseasonable warmth that bore no comparison to the extremes of last year, the weekend brought a thick white blanket of snow and a sudden plunge in temperatures. I ventured out with my camera during the week, hoping to find a way to capture it all before it’s too late, terrified of forgetting what this time of our lives has been like. Sadly I only managed three photos before my crew reached their limit and the project had to be abandoned. Shame, though it was -10c.

But then, unexpectedly, I managed to get out on my own. True it was for a dentist appointment, to make every last use of our German health insurance as all of us (who have teeth) have done this week. Nonetheless I managed a few photos of this city I love so much, before the light faded, and my breastfeeding mama deadline was up.

I’ll miss you, beautiful Leipzig.

Herbst

These days may well be our last Autumn days in Germany. The glory is all but passed now, just a few spots of yellow left clinging, like fairy lights in a Christmas tree. We’re left with a thick carpet of crinkly leaves just perfect for swishing and tossing. And just enough sun for a late autumn eis. 

And the winner is

Before we declare the summer well and truly passed, the search for Leipzig’s best ice cream begs to be resolved. And friends, we have a hands-down winner. A couple of months back I discovered the organic, locally made ice cream available at Gourmetage in the Mädler Passage. The Mädler is Leipzig’s Rodeo Drive. Within lies the 450 year old Auerbach’s Keller, which features in Goethe’s Faust. No seventy cent cones here.

A meticulously groomed girl in a black and white uniform emerges from the champagne bar to serve us our ice creams. Her scoops are generous and impeccably round. She offers to let me sample some of the flavours. We both try the Basillikum. “Tastes like basil” she says, and we both burst out laughing. I must choose between Guava and Coconut, Mango and Ginger, Lime and Mint, Strawberry and Lavender, Pineapple and Parsley, to name but a few. In the end I can’t go passed plain old Schokolade. Only it isn’t plain, it’s out of this world. Now this is more like it.

Ice cream on Koch

There are some disconcerting paradoxes in a city like Leipzig, walled in for forty years under a communist dictatorship. Make a visit to the Stasi Museum, as I did last week, and you’ll come out blinking in the sunlight and wondering at the horrors committed and experienced here. Toddle south to Alfred-Kästner-Strasse and you’ll find the place where executions were carried out for the entire GDR from 196o onwards. Turn the corner and you’ll arrive at the Eiscafe on Koch Strasse.

You’ll find a little trove awash with nostalgia, frozen in time (so to speak). Wallpaper, signage, furniture and ice cream equipment all preserved as they were for forty years. I walked past this place for weeks in the snow, wondering how a forlorn little Eiscafe with no sign of life could possibly survive or turn a profit. Head over there on a warm July afternoon and be prepared to queue for your Eis. Flavours are certainly limited, but everything is made on the premises. My verdict: a little on the sweet side. But going by the stream of customers, it would seem I’m outnumbered. At 70c a pop (or cone), no one is missing out.

I scream for Eis

Way back in March as soon as it was warm enough to get one hand out of a glove, Leipzigers were eating eis like they may never see it again. Only weeks earlier it would have been possible to make ice cream by simply putting a bowl of custard on the balcony. Nevetheless, out it came and the craze seems set to stay. Most popular is the classic kugel in a cone, sold by street vendors all over the city for the bargain price of around 80 cents. Also popular are eiscafes, many of which boast their original GDR furniture and shop fittings. Something I find most peculiar is the eis karte (ice cream menu), available at nearly every cafe. One can chose from a variety of “dishes” ranging from the tacky to the truly camp. My favourite is spaghetti eis; ribbons of ice cream “pasta” topped with berry sauce “bolognese” and a dusting of nuts. I’m told it’s seriously good; the absurdity seems lost on most. As a matter of public interest, I’m currently on a search for the best ice cream in Leipzig. I must admit, while they make a nice change from your standard Streets Cornetto, I’m not overly thrilled with the results of my search thus far. As compared to my memory of such as Sydney’s Ice and Slice or Melbourne’s Trampoline the offerings here seem overly sweet and lacking in flavour. An exception to this (and topping my list so far) is the Leipzig-made Grundmann Eis on offer at the Cafe Maitre. As is the way, the flavour options are limited; no blood orange, caramel pear or turkish delight here. But the strawberry, chocolate and vanilla are sensational. No complaints.

No, none at all.

Gothic Leipzig

If you’re a Goth in Germany, chances are you’re in Leipzig this Pentecost long weekend for Wave-Gotik-Treffen. I don’t know who’s having more fun, the Goths or the army of amateur photographers lined up to take their pictures.


About Me

A girl with a camera, a toddler and a sewing machine. Making sense of Germany... and life in general.

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