Lovely, lively, lyrical Leipzig (Part 1)
Updated: May 10
Leipzig is chock full of wonderful surprises for the uninitiated - even before my new friend Klaus (Leipzig Part 2) introduced me to the statue of Faust whose foot you rub for good luck, I was feeling very lucky.
I arrived late afternoon on Saturday, 6 May to find the city buzzing. Despite it being cold and overcast, the streets and restaurants were packed, kids (little and not so little) everywhere, music and a general sense of fun and merriment. I soon discovered why… 6 Mai was Museumsnacht 2023. For one night each year (though this was the first year since COVID), all the museums in and around Leipzig (as well as the nearby city of Halle) throw open their doors from 6:00pm to midnight, and for just €10 you can visit as many as museums as you can squeeze into a 6-hour window. The city even puts on special buses to get you to and from the museums not so close to the city centre.
For a small city, Leipzig punches well above its weight when it comes to museums. I had 84 museums to choose from, and with only one hour to decipher the brochure (in German) to work out which museums I would visit, I got cracking.
Before I arrived I did have one museum on my ‘must see’ list - the Museum für Druckkunst, the Museum for Printed Arts, as they have a permanent bookbinding exhibit! The museum itself is housed in a heritage building and has more than 100 working machines and printing presses spread over four floors, telling the story of some 550 years of artistic printing techniques such as letterpress, gravure and flat printing. It’s more than a museum in daylight hours too, and still offers workshops in bookbinding, wood engraving and sheet music printing. Loved it!
My first museum back in the centre of Leipzig was the Bach Museum. Here is where I was initiated into Leipzig’s rich and important musical history. Bach lived and worked in Leipzig, composing many works here as Cantor of St. Thomas’ Church from 1723-1750, including his famous St. Matthew Passion. But Johann Sebastian was not the only famous composer (or the only Bach) to live and work in Leipzig - Richard Wagner, Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, Mahler, Grieg, Telemann and many more found their muses (and their incomes) in Leipzig. Music is so much a part of Leipzig it is literally embedded in its streets in the form of the Leipziger Notenspur (Leipzig Music Trail). A must see for any music lover.
Then it was on to the Altes Rathaus, or Old Town Hall. This Renaissance building (with a Baroque tower) dominates the Market Place and provides visitors with a rich historical tour of Leipzig’s distant (800+ years) history as well as its more recent history - from the Revolution of 1848, to post-war life in the Leipzig, and the Peaceful Revolution of 1989 (which started the ball rolling towards German reunification). The museum was packed with exhibits (so I spent quite a bit of time there), as well as with locals soaking up their history (and a few drinks which were flowing). In the attic space, the Altes Rathaus offers visitors a special (rather scary) experiential exhibit, where you get a sense of what it was like to live through an air raid during WWII - dark, loud and shaky. Another 10/10.
My last museum of the night was the Alte Börse (old Stock Exchange) - now a concert hall - all lit up in shocking pink.
Four museums in six hours is pretty good (even if 4/84 would earn me a Fail grade).
I’ll pop some photos in the gallery soon.