Friday, June 23, 2017

Leipzig and Dresden

If you know the language of countries you visit, your visit is so much richer. I wish I knew more languages than two. A good example of added richness this visit were the pre-concert lectures, but chatting with chance acquaintances was equally informative. 

After seeing Salome, my head was in the clouds and I got on the wrong tram. It was a lucky mistake as it brought me in contact with a friendly student from Erfurt. We talked about opera, about music and about the difference between Dresden and Leipzig.

‘ Oh yes,’ he said. 'You' are right. There is a big difference between the two cities. Leipzig is very ‘Weltoffen’ (open to the world). Dresden, not so much.’

I had read in Dresden that the city had been at the end of the train line during the days of divided Germany and too far from the border to get western TV, so they had to rely on state television. (How times have changed.) My student friend said that the impact is still being felt. He said that there have been big demonstrations in Dresden against asylum seekers that shocked the rest of the country.

I told him about the woman in Dresden who said she couldn't imagine people wanting to live in a place they weren't born in. She had been astonished to hear I was traveling alone and I doubt I could ever have changed her mind set. My student friend said that in his opinion the changes since 1989 had simply been too much for people to cope with. The wall came down, the old order was replaced by a new order that was not always better, and then there was the refugee crisis. 

My Leipzig landlady on the other hand was an example of Leipzig openness. She said that there were a lot of mixed marriages nowadays, 'whites and blacks; Christians and Muslims, Germans and foreigners' and in her opinion the only thing that mattered was that the couples were nice to each other. 

A lecturer staying at my pension who runs exchange programs with the Leipzig University told me that students love Leipzig. She said it is not only cheaper but 'much cheaper' than studying in the big cities where the price of a room is very high. The waitress at the little Italian restaurant across the road confirmed this. She was from Albania and has spent a year in Hamburg before moving to Leipzig. 
"I've been here seven years now," she said proudly. "I love it here."
Südplatz, Leipzig:
the Italian restaurant
 is on the ground floor

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