MUSIC – The significance of Leipzig is so much more than the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Here in the mid-18th century, as Cantor of the Thomaskirche, Bach composed most of his music.
We enjoy listening to the students of the University playing the Bach organ (newly constructed to replicate the identical musical tones as that used by Bach himself in the 18th century). Tomorrow evening, we are going to hear the St Thomas Boys Choir, (whose history dates back to the year 1212), singing in the church.
LEARNING – More than forty thousand students attend University here in Leipzig. Many are studying the Humanities or attending the famous Medical School.
Leipzig is also the home of Goethe, a literary celebrity by the age of 25, who was ennobled by the Duke of Saxe-Weimar in 1782 after taking up residence here. Students from all around the world come to study German here in the Goethe Institute.
The over-filled outdoor cafés and bars, so noisy with laughing and conversation is testament to this. And it is the season of white asparagus. Wundabar!
TRADE – In the middle ages, Leipzig was the cross roads of Europe’s trade routes – from France in the west to Russia in the East, and Italy in the south to the Baltic Sea in the north. Leipzig remains a major centre of trade today with its Trade Fairs that commenced centuries ago.
It was here five hundred years ago that Martin Luther translated the Bible from Greek into German for the first time. And with the advent of the printing press around the same time, Luther was able to have the ‘Word’ distributed throughout the land, and also disseminate leaflets explaining his disagreements with the Church of Rome.
REUNIFICATION – Prior to the reunification of East and West Germany in 1990, Leipzig was a major industrial centre with eight hundred factories, coal mines, and no protection of the environment; in fact, choking pollution. All factories closed and there was ninety percent unemployment.
Porsche, BMW, DHL and other companies lead the return of industries after the Reunification, and today Leipzig is a thriving city with unemployment at just seven percent.
THE PEACE MOVEMENT – In 1982, even under the rule of the dictatorial German Democratic Government, a Lutheran Reverend at the Nikolaikirche here in the centre of old Leipzig, started weekly ‘Peace Prayer’ gatherings in the church.
This movement developed the momentum that eventually influenced the collapse of the Berlin Wall seven years later. In October 1989, the Military, in tanks, surrounded the church of people defying orders from the State Security to cease the Movement. Ten thousand other people gathered in the Square outside.
The famous conductor, Kurt Masur, loved by the people, broadcast a message into the square, “We want peace. We want calm”. Soldiers were listening to this local hero, and no order was given to shoot.
The Reverend then told the people inside to leave the church, carrying a candle at their breasts, and shouting out, ‘No violence”. The Military phoned Security HQ where there was no answer. They then phoned East Berlin, while the crowds swelled to seventy thousand people and marched to Headquarters of the State Security demanding change.
This was followed by a Peaceful Revolution in which half a million people from all over the GDR marched on the State Security Headquarters again, and occupied it.
One month later, the Berlin Wall came down!
OLD FRIENDS – Four of us, who have shared friendship since our days working with Amex, are here on this little adventure, and to share a reunion.