Is Leipzig a new Berlin? As the bustling German capital becomes official, calms down and gets a bit bobbly, Leipzig, the authentic metropolis of the East, with its alternative scene, artists and "subcultures", is now being thrust into the limelight. It is a constant source of new and laudatory articles in the media across Europe ... Artists, students, old punks, new gothicists, progressive ex-GDR veterans, neo-explorers from the West and creators of all kinds are all part of the dense network of artists who are gradually reclaiming neighbourhoods that have been neglected since the fall of the GDR. In passing, they give this city in full economic rise a rare and atypical cultural richness. But the comparison with Berlin ends here. The Messestadt Leipzig, the "fair city" which has based its wealth on trade, is an astonishing, unclassifiable city. This dynamic Saxon city of 520,000 inhabitants has been undergoing hallucinating changes since 1989. It is one of the cities in Europe that has changed its face the most in 25 years. Her child, who left her in 1990 and only returns today, will have to pinch herself to recognize her... A showcase for German economic success in the East (while its sisters struggle with the problems of impoverishment and depopulation), Germany's fastest growing city, its identity has for two centuries been based on superlatives, making it oscillate between brio and megalomania.
The best of what the visitor can find in Leipzig? A stunning area of "Gründerzeit", Belle-Epoque architecture, offering dozens of kilometres of streets with elegant, elaborate facades, punctuated by stately buildings. Plagwitz, a perfectly preserved and rehabilitated 19th century industrial district, classified by UNESCO, crossed by canals giving it the air of an industrial Venice. Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse, a gigantic, lively artery with a succession of bars, clubs and restaurants, is the focal point of the city's festive life. Former factories converted into a cultural centre (Werk II) or a giant art district (Baumwollspinnerei). Two major Gothic churches, one where Johann Sebastian Bach composed the bulk of his work, the other where the communist regime began its fall. One of the largest Renaissance town halls in Germany or a museum of the Stasi set up by former dissidents... Communism, Art Nouveau, industry, contemporary art, shop windows, parties, concerts, underground, so many keywords that indicate different faces of this multi-faceted city! As the Saxons say, Leipzig putzt sich raus ("Leipzig gets dressed up").
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Many thanks to Céline, Salomé and Yoannès for everything. Thanks to Steffen, Hendrik, Ulf & Anja, Mattosch & Antje, Tobias, Thomas & Marcel, Christian, Ernst and all those who made me discover Leipzig from another angle.