Leipzig is something of a ‘hidden gem’ in Germany. And yes, I use that term very loosely as Leipzig really isn’t hidden (far from) but it most certainly is a gem. It’s such an important city in Germany for reasons (one of which is really HUGE) that a lot of people the world over really love and appreciate but don’t necessarily know Leipzig was the driving force behind.
See, Leipzig is one of those German cities that people don’t always think of straight away (that honour tends to go to Berlin, Munich or even Hamburg) but is actually an absolute treat and a delight to visit and I genuinely can’t recommend it enough (don’t worry, rather than going on about it – I’ll actually show you exactly what I mean in the photos below).
One of the reasons why Leipzig is so important is because of the Berlin Wall and communism. See, in 1989 – almost 30 years exactly to the date that I am writing this post (literally 1 week from now), Leipzig played a key role in the fall in communism in Central and Eastern Europe, the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany.
Surprising, isn’t it? Even after we’d decided to visit Leipzig, I had no idea of this fact or how the impact that the city had, reverberated around Europe and the rest of the world.
*By the way, we’re giving away a free trip to Leipzig for two nights for two people – the embedded Instagram post at the bottom of the post has all the details on how to win this.
Leipzig was historically one of Germany’s wealthiest cities and a hub for arts and culture (as you get with most wealthy cities) but following World War II, and the subsequent separation of Germany into East and West Germany, rapidly declined in both wealth and importance.
Leipzig’s history (see more details below) is in large part why the city is absolutely beautiful to visit.
After World War II, so many German cities knocked down a lot of their old historic buildings (most of which has been destroyed in the war) and chose to replace then with shiny new buildings instead of restoring them to the way they looked before.
Financially, this made sense – it was far cheaper to build a new building using new materials than trying to restore centuries-old architecture.
The new buildings would have looked beautiful at the time too (they were built in the current design and would have been all the rage back in the day) but suffice to say, they’ve not really dated that well and clearly don’t look anywhere near as beautiful as the old architecture… and that’s before you even start to consider the history you’d find in the old places.
Leipzig, with it’s newfound lack of wealth, couldn’t afford to build new buildings like the other wealthier German cities could and so left most of the old architecture as it was.
This turned to be a blessing in disguise once the wall fell, Communism collapsed in East Germany and the city started to become wealthier. Leipzig learned from the mistake in other German cities and chose to restore the older buildings rather than knock them down, which is why Leipzig is now arguably one of Germany’s prettiest cities.
Exploring Leipzig I was just so surprised by how beautiful so much of the city was, especially as it’s a city in Germany (a fairly popular country to visit in Europe) and yet didn’t seem as well know or quite as popular to visit (a fact which is rapidly changing year on year – just read a few articles with statistics on how more and more people are looking to visit Leipzig).
Oh, another thing that kinda surprised me here was the food scene, the entire time we were here, I don’t think we ate in one single German restaurant.
This wasn’t something we even actively decided to do, we just went about exploring the cities and popping into the restaurants recommended by locals or which had the best reviews and ended up uncovering Leipzig’s international food scene inadvertently.
There’s just such a diversity of foods from around the world (like we find in cities like London and New York), which turned out to be something of a surprise when we stopped retrospectively to think of where we’d eaten the entire time we’d been exploring the city.
But I digress… let me get back to that background on the city to set some context as to Leipzig’s importance.
A Bit Of History
So, when Germany was split into East and West – the East was occupied and administered by the Soviet forces (Russia et al) and was called the German Democratic Republic while the West was occupied by the Allied Forces (the USA, the UK and France) and was called the Federal Republic of Germany.
The East was communist and quite frankly, struggled economically, the West on the other hand thrived and the Allied Forces, which actually managed different parts of what became West Germany, bandied together to create the Federal Republic of Germany.
Long story short, Germany became separated into two very distinct areas, and not just in terms of leadership but in terms of actual physical separation (perhaps most symbolised by the Berlin Wall, separating the city into East and West) with people trying to escape from the East to the West killed by guards, landmines or imprisoned.
Families were separated by an actual wall and some never got the opportunity to see each other until the fall of the wall and the reunification of East and West Germany, which all started in Leipzig.
See, Leipzig is one of the key reasons and the main city that led to the fall of the wall and this is down to the tenacity, inclusive spirit and eagerness for social justice that you still find when you visit the city these days.
How Leipzig Helped Reunite Germany
Like I mentioned earlier, 2019 is the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and Leipzig played a key part in that, which ultimately was an iconic symbol of bringing Germany back together.
The role in bringing Germany together was, in fact, so big that Leipzig has been nicknamed the ‘Hero City’.
So, quick catch up, before 1989 (after World War II), Germany was segregated so much so that those in the ‘East’ and those in the ‘West’ who lived completely different and separate lives.
By 1989, for the citizens of West Germany, life was relatively stable, with wealth, opportunities and freedom. That being said, it was a totally different picture in East Germany, which seems so surprising when you visit nowadays. For instance, cities like Leipzig were left underdeveloped, with the scars of war and there was no freedom or democracy for all those kept inside.
This, in large part, is why Leipzig’s social justice came into play.
In September 1989, gatherings would take place in St. Nicholas Church every Monday, and as weeks passed, the whole city became involved in this peaceful protest to demand freedom and rights for all people in East Germany.
Apparently, the gatherings were so massive that they could no longer be ignored, especially as the people of Leipzig knew of the freedoms that West Germany relished.
Going back to my Uni days, I remember reading for a philosophy class which said that ‘knowledge is power’ and Leipzig was certainly awake to the knowledge of the injustices that were forced upon the East.
Within a matter of weeks, the numbers had swelled and on the 9th of October, 1989, the demonstrations which started with just a few hundreds of people swelled exponentially till around 70,000 people gathered in Augustusplatz (in the centre of Leipzig) to demand freedom.
The sheer scale of the protesters – in a non-voilent protest, nonetheless, surprised the local leaders and security forces and kick-started the fall of the German Democratic Republic.
Those numbers swelled to as much as 320,000 people just two weeks after (it was around 120,000 one week after) – the movement gained momentum and strength after that one key day on the 9th of October, 1989 and the people would not be ignored. Suffice to say, the East and West of Germany, along with the rest of the world, took note.
Exactly one month later, the fall of the Berlin Wall happened (9th November 1989), with Leipzig and the protestors (now known as the Monday Hero’s) playing a vital part in reunifying Germany.
Leipzig’s strength and determination inspired other protests (some of which had actually been happening around the same time) and a general awakening in Europe, and following the fall of the Berlin Wall, ultimately led to the weakening and eventual collapse of communism in Central and Eastern Europe.
So you see, Leipzig is about so much more than a pretty city. There’s so much history and grit to the city which makes it all the more important and interesting to visit. It’s without a doubt an absolute gem to visit and hopefully one that helps provide more insight into Germany as a whole.
Sidebar: If you’re interested in seeing what life was like in Leipzig before the reunification of Germany, you should pop into the Forum of Contemporary History or the Stasi Bunker Museum when you visit the city.
Win A Trip To Leipzig!
Now here’s the fun part!
Today, Leipzig is a pretty vibrant city and a great place to visit for a long weekend (which we did). It’s got so much charm with all it’s historical buildings and galleries, plus it’s cheaper than other spots like Munich or Hamburg, too.
This is why we wanted to share a competition we’re having with the city of Leipzig where you can win a holiday for two to explore the city and find out more about what we talked about in the city itself.
To enter, all you need to do is comment on our Instagram post (below) and tag who you’d like to take with you on your trip to Leipzig.
View this post on Instagram
ᵃᵈ GIVEAWAY! 30 years ago, the Berlin Wall fell – shortly after which, East and West Germany became re-united. You probably knew that. What you might not have known however was that the city of Leipzig was a key reason why this happened. On Monday, the 9th of October 1989, Leipzig’s residents organised a non-violent protest in the city centre, with numbers initially in the 100s, but quickly rising to over 70,000 – a key event seen the world over, which led to the fall of the Berlin Wall exactly a month after; and the collapse of communism in Europe. We’ve actually just published a full blog post on all of this (so pop over to www.HandLuggageOnly.co.uk to find out more about Leipzig’s part in the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe) but the key reason why we’re writing this post now is to giveaway a free trip for 2 to Leipzig! You and a friend/family would win flights for 2 (UK airports only) to Leipzig, accommodation for 2 nights (double room in the city centre) and a Leipzig card with a guidebook (giving you free transport to explore the city as well as many discounts across the city). To win, simply tag the friend or family member you’d like to take to Leipzig with you; in the comments below. Giveaway closes 9th October 2019 at 23:59 GMT. Good luck! #MondayHeroes #LeipzigTravel
When you visit, be sure to check out the views from the Panorama Tower and explore the Panometer, too. Oh, and if you’ve conjured up an appetite, pop over to Max Enk – a Michelin starred restaurant that has some of the most delicious meals in the city.
Giveaway closes 9th October 2019 at 23:59 GMT.
See full terms & conditions in this link here.