Monday, October 3, 2022

Unity is Something We Could All Use

Is it really a holiday if no one celebrates it?

That thought crossed my mind a few times today as we spent our final full day in a Leipzig that was celebrating a national holiday.  Today is Unity Day, the celebration of the day that the old West & East Germany came together once again to become just plain 'ol Germany on October 3rd, 1990.  But unless you consider all the closed shops and a strangely strong (and unexplained) police presence around here, it didn't seem like a holiday.  Of course, these aren't the greatest of days in Germany; after all, being just a couple of hundred kilometers away from a war started by a madman tends to mute a celebration.  Because of the war, inflation in the country is running around 10%, and in an attempt to save energy for the winter many cities, Leipzig included, are trying to cut back on how much power they use.

Hence a strange picture like this--

If you're wondering why I would take a picture of a dark church, here's why.  A couple of nights a week they turn off the lights they usually shine on public buildings, like the Nikolaikirche across the street from us.  It's all part of an attempt across the country to cut power consumption by 10% until the new, non-Russian sources of energy Germany is putting in place are brought online.  So I guess you can see why the celebration of Unity Day wasn't really a big deal.

Hopefully they're saving that for Sunday.  But more on that in a bit.

Since it was a holiday, we did what many people do to wrap up a three-day weekend--we went to the lake today.  On the south side of Leipzig there's a lake called Markkleeberg See, and seeing as how a tram line runs to it, we decided to take a holiday from our holiday and check it out--

Looks like a regular old lake, right?  Well, what would you say if I told you the lake is only 26 years old?  Aside from you saying "no way" and me replying with "way", it's actually true.  The lake was an open pit coal mine until the mid 1990s, started by the Nazis and fully exploited by the East Germans, something thoughtfully shown on one of the information panels on the path around it--

Once Reunification occurred (you know, the thing Germany is celebrating today) the mine was shut down, it was allowed to fill in with water, and viola--

A lake was made.

It's a popular place for city residents during the summer when it's warm & sunny, and even today, a day that was ANYTHING but warm & sunny, saw people playing at one of the small beaches surrounding it--

Loraine and I ended up hiking halfway around the lake, over 10 kilometers in total, and it was actually kind of nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, even though we were still (technically) in the city.  In that respect, it was kind of like visiting Presque Isle, yet another way (see yesterday's blog) in which the two places are alike.

Oh, they're alike in this way, too--

That guy is roller-skiing on the very intricate multi-use path system that runs all through the city.  If you want, you can bike or walk (or roller-ski) anywhere you want away from traffic thanks to the paths, which are unbelievably well marked--

Even if you're in the middle of a wooded area with no landmarks around you you always know where you're going.  So that's why we were able to hike (in all) almost 20 K today and always know where we were.

Oh--the trails and all the walking we did on them also helped us burn off a few more of those 23 million calories we consumed Friday when I accidentally bought a quarter of a Quarktorte instead of just a slice.  So that was a nice bonus.


The tram ride there and back introduced us to another neighborhood in Leipzig we hadn't yet explored, Connewitz.  Connewitz is the "edgy" section of the city (as opposed to Plagwitz, the "artsy" section we visited a few days ago), and you could see it from the graffiti on the buildings--

To the stickers plastered everywhere-

However, the neighborhood DID have one of the most interesting stores names we've seen so far-

That's right.  The sign on the store I saw while riding on the tram says "Mr. Thong".  I'm almost afraid to ask exactly what a "Mr Thong" store might be.  So I'll let you mull that over for a bit.

As I had mentioned earlier, this is our last full day in Leipzig.  We hop on a train back to Berlin tomorrow, get a few hours to wander around that city, and then have to figure out exactly how we're going to pack everything we've picked up into our luggage.  THAT should be fun.  But I kind of wish we could stay through Sunday, because Sunday is a huge day in Leipzig.

It's Lichtfest

Photo courtesy Strohhut Photography

Lichtfest (or Light Fest) is when thousands of candle-bearing Leipzigers march around the area in which we've been staying in a celebration of the massive demonstrations that took place in 1989 right across the street from where I'm typing this. At first a couple of hundred Leipzig residents, and then a thousand, and then 5,000, and then 20,000, and then 100,000, and eventually 400,000 in October of 1989 protested the corruption and lack of personal freedom of the old DDR.  In short order, the protests then spread all across the old East Germany, protests that culminated in the Berlin Wall falling a few days later.

You know--the event that led to German reunification and the holiday we're just wrapping up today.

That's it from Leipzig.  Next stop--the aforementioned Berlin.  So until then...


(ps--on a personal note, happy birthday to my sister Melanie!)

(pps--on another personal note, today marks the debut of "19 News" on Marquette's new CBS station, WZMQ.  I'm actually a part of the newscast as a weekly contributor, and while I can't be there on opening night the first segment of "Life in the 906" airs (pre-taped, but dealing with travel) during the 6 pm newscast.  So check it out if you can!)

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