Europe is adorable. All these tiny little countries jammed together, trying hard to pretend to be different countries 🙂
I kid. I’m a kidder. Mostly.
I’m writing to you from Leipzig, Germany, where I have arrived to spend a week recording lectures for the Lecturio corporation. (Perhaps more details about that later in the week, contract details permitting!)
After travelling for 13 hours with no sleep, I arrived in Leipzig at 7:AM this morning, understanding that my hotel room would not be available until 1:pm at the earliest. So I had some time to kill, jetlagged and exhausted (my body thought it was 1:AM).
First impressions: everyone is better dressed and more physically fit than their analogues in North America. Teenagers on the plane, my taxi driver, the dude selling bratwurst –they’re all slickly dressed in comfortable, yet chic wear. And there are no annoying Amish hipster beards!
My taxi driver took me downtown by doing 150kph, which appears to be the regular speed of traffic here. And he had no sense of humour, which also appears to be the regular speed of traffic here.
On the outskirts of town, there is a plethora of American-style street graffiti, which is actually sort of attractive. And many large posters for the American TV show, The Walking Dead. Meh.
Having learned my lesson from recent trips to Israel and Turkey, this time out I packed my most expensive, effective winter parka. The temperature hovers about 7 degrees Celcius, which is a far cry from the -40 degrees for which my super high tech arctic-rated parka is meant (i.e., Ottawa winters). But Europe has wet cold, which gets into your bones. I could not be happier with this decision.
(Luckily my hotel room is equipped with a fireplace video to keep me warm:)
In fact, so far this trip has been surprisingly pleasant. I paid extra for the “Economy Plus” option on United’s flight from Chicago to Frankfurt (UA944), and it was ridiculously comfortable. I was actually kind of sad to leave the plane; I hadn’t finished watching all the TV options!
I had less than 45 minutes, upon landing in Frankfurt, to get through German immigration/customs and make it to my connecting flight to Leipzig. I barely made it, since I made it mostly because the German immigration system was so efficient (surprise!) and even pleasant.
So I had about 6 hours to kill on Saturday morning in Leipzig. The streets were completely devoid of any human beings, but the stores were beginning to open.
I started by having breakfast. I fear the rest of the week might be an unending feast of bread and meat:
Or perhaps Indian food, as it appears to be a religion here:
Then I plugged in my headphones and started to wander aimlessly, utterly exhausted and knowing nothing of Leipzig or the German language.
Here’s a taste of Leipzig:
I came across this ad for the upcoming new Star Wars movie, only NEIN weeks away:
And because my lower back is killing me, I contemplated getting my “thobbing wang” massaged:
Acquiescing to a call of nature, I dropped by the facilities of a local mall, and was amused to observe this example of vaunted German engineering skills. Yes, the leg is not holding up the bathroom stall door at all:
There’s an interesting stained glass window in this particular church, showing not just Jesus Christ on the cross, but also German soldiers from what appears to be WWII. Weird:
I was pleasantly surprised to find out that a boys’ choir from Birmingham would be performing in the church later in the day (I had planned to attend, but the jetlag got the better of me). They were rehearsing as I arrived, and several of the parents thought that I was the father of one of the boys. At first, I was a little shocked that I look like anyone’s parent. But, you know what? I would be proud to be the father of any of those boys. The music was magical, and I was a little wistful that I had not yet procreated. I took a moment to record some of their pre-performance performance:
At this point, bodies were emerging onto the street. In time, the city was awash with hordes of (mostly) middle aged tourists searching for any remnants of Bach or the city’s musical tradition. Always alert to such things, I noticed that I was pretty much the only visible ethnic minority present. I saw four Asian fellows going somewhere, and a Black man talking on his phone with a deep African accent. Even the Indian restaurants appear to be owned and staffed by vaguely swarthy individuals whom I’d be hard pressed to definitively characterize as South Asian.
But whatever. One of the really nice things (so far) about this city is that it’s not a well known tourist destination for North Americans. As a result, it does not seem to cater to American sensibilities (though there is a MacDonald’s here). I will be quite surprised if I end up bumping into a single American tourist during my NEIN day stay here.
After asking Twitter for advice on whether or not I should shill out the 15 euros to enter the Bach Museum (and getting no response, since all my Twitter followers were still asleep), I decided to go for it. Now, I’m an idiot generally, and more so when I’m underslept. It turns out the entrance fee was a mere 8 euros.
And totally worth it.
I’m not even a big fan of Bach, but I found his story sufficiently interesting. The centrepiece of the museum was Bach’s organ. Not that one, you pervs! This one:
The museum features many opportunities to sample Bach’s music. In my exhausted state, I cherished the chance to sit in a comfortable chair, slap on some superior headphones, and sink into some fine baroque compositions:
At the museum, I also learned that Bach’s father had died when he was precisely the same age that I am now. Yikes. Might be the street meat.
The museum also has Bach’s personal copy of Martin Luther’s bible:
Check out this view of the Thomas Kirche from inside the Bach Museum:
The city beautifully celebrates its heritage via sculpture:
(Are those preceding photos showing horizontal sculptures? Sometimes WordPress does that. Whatever. Deal with it.)
Did I mention that I don’t speak a word of German? To me, this says: “Bismarck is a genius! He invented backfish!”
One of the best things I did during my time-killing exercise was to plant myself in the town square, curled up in my Canadian parka, listening to Kraftwerk (yes, Kraftwerk; it was a coincidence, just happened to be on my playlist) and watch the people go by.
Like all European cities, the bicycle rules, even in these cold temperatures. There is no litter, nor extreme city noises. I struggled to imagine what this place would look like before unification, when it was a prize of the communist East. It’s a difficult mental exercise, given the extent to which the modern Leipzig has embraced the many baubles of the West, with shopping malls and fast food stores aplenty.
Speaking of which, I managed to breathe a sigh of relief when I finally located a local liquor store, and stocked up on my one-euro bottles of wine. That’ll get me through some tough moments!
Still needing to kill some time before being able to collapse onto a hotel bed, I wandered to Nicholas Kirche, which, it would later turn out, is right outside my hotel room window.
Taking a seat in the church pews, my intent was to rest for a bit (remember, my body though it was 6:AM, and I had not yet slept). But then my playlist kicked in Black Sabbath, and the irony of listening to Ozzy Osbourne in a 12th century church was too much to not milk. I stayed there for a very long time.
It seems my Birmingham connection lingers!
Well, I finally managed to check into my hotel, and promptly fell asleep. I woke up to endless videos, concerts and documentaries on TV about Rammstein. I’m a fan, so that’s fine with me.
Now wide awake and unable to sleep, I decided to take a midnight walk through Leipzig’s chilly medieval streets.
The middle aged crowd had mostly gone to bed, so the youth had come out for their “night life,” which consist mostly of crowding onto beautiful outdoor patios (despite the bracing cold) and consuming liquor and food:
Even the Buddha gets into the action:
Well, it’s 2:AM now. I’m going to try to force my body to conform to the local time, as I begin a grueling schedule of 9-5 lecturing on Monday. Good thing I’ve got cheap wine to help me!