December 19th, 2010
Three words can describe my feelings: Leipzig is beautiful! I truly loved the city. It was so unlike all the other European cities we’ve been to; first of all, it was clean; and secondly, everything was refreshed, if not rebuilt, at least kept up. And beneath the veil of winter, Leipzig was even more beautiful. The entire scene was like a fairytale.
We were up late the night before, because of the Showdance competition. For specifics of the competition, go to blog2.emotionsdancesport.com ; so we ended up sleeping in until about noon. By 1:00 or so we were headed out of the hotel. We had to walk to the Glass Hall, or Messegelände, as it was called in German, through foot-high snow that, though it
hadn’t snowed since we’d arrived in Leipzig, was still powder fresh. At Messegelände, there was a tram that we could hop on that took us straight into the city centre. We were told by one of the couples from USA that there were two Starbucks cafes in Leipzig city centre, and since neither of us had eaten anything, I was determined to find it. Well, we only walked a block into the city centre before I saw the first Starbucks. For pictures and more information, go to starbuckproject.wordpress.com ; we ran inside and grabbed a coffee and a couple of pastries. It was especially nice because my toes were freezing. We pulled out our map and planned our route.
The city centre was much smaller than we expected. We skipped down the street with the aim of finding the Christmas Market, but the market found us instead. Or rather, the sound of music found us. We could hear bells, drums and bagpipes, so we resolutely followed the lively sound of music to a little square packed with people on all sides. It was so difficult to find a way through! But the music was very loud here, so we knew we had found the source of the music. Simeon could see better than me; I, of course, had to squirm my way to the front so I could get a good view. But what a view it was! There were four
men in the centre of the crowd; two had bagpipes, two had huge drums strapped to their chests. They were all wearing Medieval style garb, and one had the pointy Medieval shoes called poulaines or crackows. (Thanks to all those years of studying everything about the 15th century, I knew what they are called and even how they are made.) The music was great. They had a couple of girls in normal clothes on the side, selling CDs of their music. Since we had some cash on us (we made sure we had cash for Leipzig shopping), we decided to buy a CD. She asked us which one we wanted, since there were two; we couldn’t decide, so we bought them both!
As we walked on, we suddenly found ourselves in the midst of the Christmas market, and without even trying! The whole market smelled so good! There were portable stands set up with freshly made food, and these meat-filled pasties that reminded Simeon of a Bulgarian food called Принцеси (Princessi) were tempting Simeon at every step. Then we saw people carrying around freshly made waffles filled with some sort of cream; and everywhere we looked people were eating wieners and drinking mead or gluhwein. In another small square, there was a trio of men dressed in Russian garb. One was playing what looked like a massive guitar that was propped on the ground, and the other three were singing and dancing to it. We were so cold, so we stopped by a stand to order some gluhwein, since we were told that to get the real German Christmas experience, we need to drink gluhwein. Obviously I had never ordered it. We were walking around all day
wondering how the people serving the gluhwein expected to get their cups back, since the customers buy the gluhwein in ceramic cups and take them to tables that are set up in an almost haphazard arrangement anywhere in the square. When I went to go order the gluhwein, I figured it out: the gluhwein itself cost us €2.50, but the cup cost us €3, which equals €5.50 total. When you return the cup to the stand, you get your €3 back! With that figured out, we paid for our gluhwein and found an empty table to drink it at. While I paid for the gluhwein, Simeon availed himself on one of those Принцеси. You should have seen Simeon’s face when we bit into that pasty! He was in absolute Heaven. The gluhwein, meanwhile, was very warming. Basically, gluhwein is heated, mulled wine. Mulled, in case you don’t know, means spiced. I really enjoyed it, but Simeon was a bit unsure. He really doesn’t like alcohol in general that much; hard alcohol is not tasty to him at all, and he only drinks red wine because he knows it’s good for him; in the end, if he’s going to enjoy some alcohol, it’s going to be beer, and not very much of it at that. The gluhwein was really not to his like, but I enjoyed it!
When we took a look at the ceramic cup, it had the name of the Christmas market with “Leipzig” and “2010” etched into the clay. We decided, since it had the city name and the year etched into it, to keep the cup. We had paid for it, after all!
As we were wandering, we came across a stand crowded with glass pieces. They were
beautiful! Some of them were wind chimes made of glass balls with aluminum wings fluttering inside. We had to get something here, because it was just so beautiful. So we bought a glass peacock with a real peacock feather as its tail; the peacock was nestled on a hook that allows us to fasten it to our Christmas tree, which we thought was perfect. Now we have two memories of our trip to Leipzig. On the side of the stand, attached to it, was a little booth just wide enough for a man’s body and a six-inch shelf all around. A young man, maybe twenty years old (my guess), was sitting in the booth all bundled up, and there were sticks of colored glass and tiny flames burning on the tabletop in front of him. As we watched, he heated and melted the glass in the flame, then grabbed it with a stick and, before our eyes, created a glass airplane.
Soon we needed to go to the bathroom, so we opened up our map and searched for a public toilet. We found one on the map right next to a big church. What we discovered was that the church had a public bathroom in the old cellar, and they asked for a couple of euro donation. Of course we left them a donation, and when I came out of the bathroom, back up the stairs, and outside to the church’s courtyard, I noticed a big statue. Lo and behold! We had accidentally found the very church where Johann Sebastian Bach composed most of his music! The area was rather deserted and we wanted to get back to the busy areas, so we saw a gate into yet another market. This one had a bunch of little scenes set up, much like Nativity scenes here, except that these scenes were from famous fairy tales. There was a scene from “The Princess and the Pea” (which Simeon has never heard of!!!!),
and other from “Hansel and Gretel”. At the end of this market was a tiny train with little kids on it; I wanted Simeon to go on it, but he suddenly got nervous. I took a picture of the little train, anyway.
We found our ways to the shopping district and went into a shoe shop. Simeon had been bothering me about my shoes for a long time. He was convinced that I had broken my boots because I walk on the insides of my feet. We looked around and luckily the shop as having a sale, so I found a really nice pair of black suede boots with a 2 ½ inch heel, very comfortable for every day stuff, for about €25. I’d say it’s a good deal! But the shop had an added bonus: it was warm! And our feet were cold! We were in the shop just long enough to get feeling back into our toes.
By the time we left the shop it was getting dark outside, which meant it was also getting considerably colder, and my feet were sore from walking all day, so we started to make our ways back home. We retraced our steps, stopping by to get those waffles filled with cream. I also bought another gluhwein; Simeon was surprised I wanted another one, but my way of thinking was that it might be years before I drink gluhwein again, so I might as well enjoy a second one! That’s when we found the second Starbucks in the city centre, which you can also read about on starbuckproject.wordpress.com
All in all, it was a great day. Leipzig is a beautiful city, the people are so nice, and the food is amazing. My experience in Germany was altogether a positive one.