|German National Library|
The first morning in Leipzig I woke up to a fresh blanket of snow:
|Iconic double Ms at the eastern entrance|
Herr Stiehl and I had a lot of opportunities to talk, since I was the only one at breakfast. Most tenants at the hostel are factory workers and feed themselves from the primitive guest kitchen upstairs. I wanted to start the day with a hefty breakfast that I could stretch into a second meal, so I paid extra for a spread like the one in the photo. It included tea, orange juice, two rolls, meat, cheese, jam, jogurt, muesli, several fresh fruits, and sometimes a soft-boiled egg. I slipped a sandwich and piece of fruit into my bag for later. For my other meals I used the large discount grocery store in Building 11 next door.
Among other anniversaries being celebrated, last year was the 300th birthday of Frederick the Great of Prussia, and this year Richard Wagner would have been 200. Even though he is most associated with Bayreuth in nearby Bayern (Bavaria), Wagner is a native Sachsen (Saxon). He was born on 22 May 1813 in Leipzig and lived here for two years, until his stepfather moved the family to Dresden. Leipzig is making a big deal about it, having concerts and exhibitions and the like. I didn't catch any of those, but one Saturday night I did go to the famous Gewandhaus to hear what I assume was the final performance of the semester of the student orchestra. They were pretty good--and played "the can-can" as an encore, complete with students in local skirts and knee-high socks doing a silly dance.
Finally, 2013 is 200 years since the Battle of Nations, the decisive battle between Napoleon Bonaparte and the combined armies of Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Sweden, fought on the flat land just south of Leipzig. (Saxony fought with the French. Oops.) It was the largest battle in Europe before World War I and marked the decisive end of Napoleon's European campaign. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of that momentous event, in 1913 Emperor Wilhelm III dedicated the Völkerschlachtdenkmal. (The next time French soldiers would cross the Rhine River int Germany was toward the end of WWI.) This monstrosity of a monument turns 100 later this year, and there are celebrations planned for October.