Week Two in Leipzig

Our group at Welt der Reptilien der Zoo. I promise archaeologists don’t dig up dinosaurs, but we still like taking photos with them.

This week we left work to go to Welt der Reptilien der Zoo, which we passed everyday on the way to work. The zoo was rather empty on a Wednesday afternoon. We being a group of 14 dirt-covered Americans dominated the place.

The inside was somewhere between a zoo and circus, with a hint of dinosaurs. The enclosures were spread out everywhere with some having very short walls between you and the animals. Since all the animals were rescues, there was a random mixture of alligators, snakes, tortoises, turtles, spiders, two monkeys and more. I never thought I’d see that many alligators hanging out in the middle of nowhere, eastern Germany. There were also emus and wallabies in an outdoor enclosure. One emu followed me as I walked back and forth along the fence. It was interesting to see how they have built onto the zoo as they rescued more animals, the enclosures sprawled in radom directions from the original buildings. In some areas wood was piled high for maintenance and slabs of stone were around areas holding burrowing animals who had obviously tried to dig their way out in the past.

Due to the heat wave, most of the animals were lounging about or staying in the shaded areas. We watched as one tortoise tried to flip itself back over after having rolled onto their shell. Another tortoise came close and I believed it would try and help it’s roommate, but alas it stood by, much like us, to observe their struggling friend (they succeeded in righting themself after minutes).

One man was walking around spinning plates and encouraging us to participate. We later found out he was the magician for the zoo and we decided to stay for his show. Surprisingly, that was one of the best magic show I’ve ever seen. Almost all of us participated during his classic magic tricks, presented in broken English. Even if we were at times briefly confused he was definitely a showman and kept us all engaged.

The magic show was completely unexpected and great!

Later in the week, we took a day trip to Dresden. This city was heavily bombed during World War 2 (WW2). About 90% of the city was destroyed and had to be rebuilt. It was difficult for me to determine which buildings were rebuilt, restored, or survived the bombing. We walked around until around 4pm and took the vans back to Leipzig. I’d love to go back to Dresden to explore the many museums they have on their day pass.

Me in during our day trip to Dresden
The Fürstenzug is the longest porcelain mural in the world. This street performer is my favorite on this trip so far; he remains frozen unless you pay.

On Saturday, I decided to go to the Völkerschlachtdenkmal (Monument to the Battle of the Nations). This monument was built between 1898-1913 for those lost in the Battle of Leipzig, Napoleon’s first definitive defeat and the largest battle in Europe before World War 1. The monument was heavily damaged during WW2 and under communist rule. The restoration project was completed in 2013.

Me in front of the Völkerschlachtdenkmal

The second I spotted the monument I was taken aback by it’s overwhelming size and architecture. I would see photos around town and on google searches of “what to do in Leipzig,” but seeing it in person was a completely different experience.

Once inside, we tried to start at the top and work our way down. Tip: take the lift when you can, the only thing you will miss is unnecessary climbing of endless spiral staircases with no windows. We did not make it straight to the top without a few stops.

Several of these statues surrounded the center of the crypt floor.

First we ended up in the Crypt. The center was roped off in preparation for a Bach-jazz type concert later in the evening. I plan to return here one day to see a concert in the monument.

This is the view from the top platform overlooking a watertower

We decided to take the stairs to the Hall of Fame, but didn’t realize you could only access it from the outer stairs. Instead, we ended up in the Singer’s Gallery, several floors higher than anticipated. From there, we took the lift to the next floor, but to get to the top viewing platform you need to take the stairs. The stairs were rather narrow, but there are spots to stop in some of the longer stretches. The views from both the lower and top viewing platforms are worth the sweating. We could see all of Leipzig and spotted a church nearby to explore.

Hall of fame statuses representing bravery, faith, sacrifice, and fertility.

We found the church after a slight detour. The church was Südfriedhof, the largest cemetery in Leipzig and the crematorium for the city. The building was already locked up for the night, but we walked the grounds and cemetery.

Südfriedhof is the largest cemetery in Leipzig and the largest park-like cemetery in Germany.

I won’t post any photos of the graves, but I did find them rather beautiful. Most of the graves are well taken care of like individual gardens. There are many water spouts around the grounds for families to water the plants and take care of their loved ones’ resting places. I loved seeing the care and attention these graves are given, even individuals buried decades ago still have relatives visiting their graves to water plants and pick weeds.

I’m typically not a fan of beer, so here I am drinking a sour and eating meat on a stick.

After taking a quick break, we went to Bierfest. There were many beers to choose from, but limited food (I was really hoping for a giant pretzel). I am not a beer person, but decided there would be other things to drink. I did not expect to find a beer that I really liked, but I did! The lindemans’ cherry and peach flavors were great; mostly because they do not taste like beer.

Cinders are so refreshing in this heat wave.

While in Leipzig, I’ve been trying to catch some of the women’s World Cup games. I’ve never been into sports, but soccer is more interesting for me to watch. We’ve gone twice now to Champions, an American bar attached to the Marriott. It’s usually pretty empty during the games except for maybe two other tables. The women’s teams here are not well supported (even though Germany’s team was 2nd in the world!) so it’s typically another American group and some others staying at the Marriott.

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