Thursday, September 24, 2009
Eisleben and Leibzig
When we left Koethen we rode into many road construction sites which completely blocked the road. There were no arrows as to how to circumnavigate the construction. We were surrounded by fields, the road was blocked and which way to go? The locals know of course, and we took a guess, only to end up blocked by the same construction further along. Our GPS was of little help, it did not have details fine enough. We talked to the workers and they let us through, even shoveled some dirt away so we could ride our bikes around the debris. It was a bit dangerous riding next to a 6 foot deep ditch on wet dirt. One slip and we would have been in the hole. Well, this was one construction site, but we ran into many others so we took just a dead reckoning and headed South West.
We rode through towns right out of the 15th Century. It was like finding Brigadoon with narrow cobblestone streets and pear trees on the side of the road, full of ripe pears, ready for picking. We only took 2 pears. We rode one cobblestone street that was registered as a museum road.
We even crossed the Elbe River on a small ferry on that road. And now, of course, it starts to rain. Just before we get into Eisleben it pours buckets. I lose Carol going through those narrow streets, dangerously slippery with wet cobblestones, and all the roads are one way streets. How to do you go back to search? Well I risked a dozen tickets and found Carol parked right next to a church. We took refuge in the church from this downpour and I talked to the ladies selling books and brochures. Where are we? We are in Eisleben, the birthplace and the place Martin Luther (1483-1546) died and he had his funeral services in this very church. Now how is this for a coincidence? We did not stay long, just dried out a bit and continued on our way to Leibzig. Something felt not right in Eisleben, I could not stay.
Leibzig is the cradle of the symphony orchestra to me. The Gewandhaus Orchestra is a world class orchestra and one of the busiest in the world. They play over 200 performances a year. Traditionally, the Gewandhaus plays in their own building as a symphony orchestra, then for every opera in Leibzig, as an opera orchestra and every Sunday at the Thomas Church. A busy schedule for sure and it has something to do with JS Bach. JSB was the Cantor for the Thomas Church for 27 years (1723-1750) and trained musicians, many of whom became members of the Gewandhaus.
The Thomas church started training boys as far back as 1254. Even today there is a choir at the church and yes, there is a Cantor. Every Friday they sing motets
and/or cantatas, many of them written by JS Bach.But JSB is not the only famous Cantor. Mendelssohn Bartholdi was a Cantor of the Thomas Church too.
Leibzig is music, music is Leibzig.
city was too long in the DDR, the former East Germany and is still trying to clean up its old buildings and sites. The old city center is a very comfortable place to spend a few days and we did stay 2 days.We found a room in an AO Hostel on the recommendation of two police officers. They even led us by car to the Hostel and stopped traffic for us.
Leibzig is music to my ears. I want to come back and stay and listen to some real JS Bach and real Mendelssohn one day. For now I just bought a CD, all that I could carry and, yes, the memories of a remarkable city.