I’m going to try my best to make this entry short, since I’m sure everyone reading this has spent a great deal of time reading my entry all about my Amsterdam adventures. However, I wanted to write a few short things about what Sebastien and I got up to during the Easter weekend!
On Friday, we drove to Magdeburg, which is a small city about an hour and a half away from Berlin. We booked a hotel there for the night, and had a fair amount of the day to walk around town. Magdeburg is the city in which Otto von Guericke conducted an experiment in which he put together two large hemispheres, pumped all the air out, and was unable to separate the spheres again even with a team of horses. As a result, there were a lot of decorative hemispheres throughout the city – they reminded me of the Berlin bears, or the cows that can be seen around Calgary. The hemispheres I took a picture of aren’t extremely pretty, but they’re an example of what was around town.
The city of Magdeburg is about 1200 years old, and used to be considered the hip city of Germany (to put it in today’s terms). We made sure to visit the Cathedral of Magdeburg, which took over 300 years to build, and the construction of which began in 1209. This church is home to the grave of Emperor Otto 1 the Great, who was once the ruler of all of Europe. We were not allowed to take pictures inside the Cathedral, but it was pretty amazing to get to see such an influential piece of European history.
My favourite part of our trip to Magdeburg was seeing the Green Citadel. Contrary to what you may think, this building is actually pink. It was the last building designed by the Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser before his death in 2000. This building serves multiple purposes: it has tourist shops, a hotel, apartments available, and even a dentist’s office. There are two open areas within the structure, and you can walk through and admire the pink walls and the fountains, along with the artsy shops. The reason it is called the Green Citadel is that the roof has grass and trees all over it. You can technically walk up one slanted side of the roof, from the ground, but it was blocked off to us. The whole place was vibrant with life and colour, and I loved it.
Hopefully you get a bit of a sense of what it looks like, based on the photos. However, you can probably also see that the weather wasn’t great for the whole day. At the end of our touring around town, we found a great little Italian restaurant and had a relaxing dinner.
The next morning, we headed to Leipzig, which was about an hour away from Magdeburg. Our first stop was the “Monument to the Battle of the Nations”. When Sebastien had told me we would be visiting a monument, I pictured a small statue on an open field. As we approached it from the other end of the city, it loomed in the distance – it wasn’t until we were fairly close to it that I realized how huge it was in ratio to its surroundings. You could see people walking around near the top, and they were miniscule! In the picture below, you can tell how far back the monument is when you see the tiny people walking on the steps.
In 1813, a significant battle took place on this spot in Leipzig. Napoleon had been taking over land in different countries and claiming it for France, but he was defeated in this particular battle. This monument was built 100 years after the battle, to commemorate Napoleon’s defeat in Leipzig.
On one side of the monument, tons of people were waiting in line to get tickets – Sebastien and I hopped on over to the museum side and got tickets within seconds, along with a trip through the museum to learn a bit more about the battle. There were a lot of elaborate displays and descriptions, with historical documents and articles of clothing, and scenes depicted with models.
Once we were done at the museum, we began the long climb up the monument. There was a short set of stairs outside, up until the dark square you can see in the photo above – that was the door through which we entered the monument. In the photo below, we’re just outside of that door and looking up at the height we still have to travel!
Once inside the monument, there were a number of levels that you could visit. There were large stone statues everywhere, and you could look up from the ground floor all the way to the top. Where we entered was the ground floor, and from then on we were facing a very narrow circular staircase to get the rest of the way up. To get to the middle floor (one above the ground) you had to enter from the outside, so we visited that once we were done climbing from the top and then back down.
The smell and look of the stones reminded me a bit of being inside the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. It’s hard to portray through only using these pictures, but every aspect of this monument was larger than life.
These photos are from the next level up, once we had emerged from the narrow, winding staircase. We paused for a moment to catch our breath, then continued a short way more up the steps, to about where you see the hole in the roof.
Once we were at this spot, there were no longer two staircases (one for people going up, and one for people going down) but we instead had to wait at one staircase for the people to come down before we could continue upwards. There were red and green lights letting us know when we could go. Once we got to the top, we were on the roof of the monument, and free to enjoy the view. Needless to say, it was gorgeous.
Once we had enjoyed this view, we descended some of the stairs to another platform that looked out over Leipzig.
From there, we went back all the way down – and then rose the separate set of stairs so we could be on the level of some of the statues we had seen from above (and below, too).
After this, we climbed back all the way down to the ground outside, and then entered yet another door to see some of the support structure for the monument.
After this, we headed back to the car and continued on to Leipzig’s city center. Visiting this monument was definitely a highlight of the trip for me; I had no idea that I would get to explore such a historically-rich structure that day!
Leipzig is sometimes referred to as “Little Berlin”, and the size of it reminds me a lot of Victoria in BC. There is a sizable downtown area, and it has all of the perks of a big city, but you can easily walk through that downtown in the span of an afternoon. One reason it is called “Little Berlin” could be that one particular parliament building looks a lot like the parliament building in Berlin.
We found a medieval fair going on in a square, and I was able to track down some langos! I learned about langos at a Christmas market – it’s a flat, fried dough covered with garlic, sour cream, and cheese. It’s a lot tastier than it sounds, and I’ve been craving it ever since Christmas, and had figured I would never find it again!
The whole area was extremely crowded when we were walking around, since it was a gorgeous day outside, as well as a holiday weekend. A few of the other highlights we checked out were the St Nicholas Church, quite a few Bach monuments, and the enormous train station. We were hoping to visit the University of Leipzig campus, but unfortunately it was closed because of Easter weekend.
By about 5pm or so, we decided to head back to Berlin. The entire trip had been quite short, but it was definitely worth it to see both of these places!
When we got back to Berlin, we went to an Easter bonfire that was going on. I don’t know if that’s as big of a tradition in Canada or not (maybe I just didn’t know about it?) but over here there are often bonfires put on to celebrate Easter. In the small town where Sebastien’s grandparents live, they collect a huge pile of firewood throughout the year, and then burn it on this weekend. The one we went to was put on by the fire department, and was closely monitored, and promptly put out at 10pm.
On Easter Sunday, we went to Sebastien’s parents’ house for Easter Brunch. The Easter Bunny must know I’m in Germany, because he gave me as many chocolate eggs as he gave everyone else! We had a great day and enjoyed the sunshine. I hope that you all had a terrific Easter as well!
That’s about all I have interesting to say, for now. Thank you so much for reading!