Blog zum Semesterende

Do you know when an interior seems to suggest a certain lifestyle? Well here it’s in full effect and by here I mean this interim address post-student halls in Leipzig. I’ve found myself drinking herbal tea, reading niche German books and sketching in my notepad. This reminds me of Rousseau, indirectly accessed through Goethe’s Werther, who said that drawing (alongside dancing) was one of the first stages on the road from savage to civilised man. There seems an air of getting back to nature about this place, surrounded as I am by copious greenery and crucially, deprived of wi-fi. Perhaps it’s the oxygenation fuelling this creative outburst.

Yes, I’ve finished my exams and seem to have passed them all; some better than others. Germany seems to follow in the humanist tradition by continuing to value rhetoric as key component of education. What I mean is that four of six exams have been orally assessed, be it one-to-one or in the form of a class presentation. Most, the one’s that were focussed around a presentation with follow-up questions went reasonably well; the one that didn’t was in the form of a “conversation” with no specified subtopic within the seminar. I enjoyed the three because there was agency regarding what one could research; they were carried out more on the basis of “present your findings” rather than “I am the expert and I will interrogate”. Anyway, I’m glad to have done not too badly because I respect the academics here and didn’t want to let them down.

The day after I finished my final exam my “friend who shares the same name as me and whose surname rhymes with Lord Voldemort* but without the peerage and the ‘of death’” arrived off the Flixbus from Dresden for a couple of days. From the ZOB we headed up the street to an ice cream café, where we ordered a couple of iced coffees. He’d been visiting a friend in the Saxon capital.

It was quite the trek to pick up an air mattress from a friend of the friend. In fact, we walked a lot over those three days. Perhaps it would have been better to scoot around on bikes; we might have seen more then.

On the way to the student halls we met someone from my history seminar. Quite coincidentally he was reading Amy Liptrott’s The Outrun (a powerful memoir from the perspective of a once RSPB Ranger on Papa Westray, one of Orkney’s smaller islands, that swaps between Orcadian and London life). I’m happy that I was able to demonstrate that I knew at least one person in the whole city during the visit.

We headed back into town and I was generously treated to meal by my guest before we ventured out to Connewitz to see the punk band Metz. It must be said that their set consisted more of noise than music; Thee Oh Sees, who I’d seen the previous week got the balance right, whereas what we witnessed was like the most aggressive Nirvana B-Sides fed through serrated, blown-out speakers to the point where the “songs” constituent parts become indistinguishable. During one track, the evidence of my eyes was telling me drumming was taking place, however my ears did not agree. We retreated to a safe distance and the residual tinnitus had gone by the next morning.

Packing up lasted into the afternoon. We then returned the borrowed crockery and donated surplus uni books to Oxfam.

With that behind us we strode down to the Thomaskirche and Bach Museum, which had a special exhibition on that featured an authentic, working clavichord from the era which members of the public could actually play themselves. The instrument was very delicate and the sound rather timid, but the fun of it was more the beautiful design, the exposed mechanism of the plucked strings and the chance to play the composer’s music through the original medium it would have been performed on. Much better, it must be said, than the sampler keyboard at Hamburg’s Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, which wasn’t even working when I took my family there in December – 18 century technology seems much more reliable.

Leipzig was showing her most attractive side that day. We were being constantly followed by woodwind trios, a string and tuba quartet and people playing lutes and lyres.

Sunshine streamed onto the courtyard cobbles outside the Thomaskirche. Ice cream was briefly contemplated, decided upon and polished off respectfully in the square.

We entered the body of the kirk where Bach worked as choirmaster for over 20 years up until his death. There was a Catholic communion going on, so we had to sit patiently on the pew before an epic organ recital concluded the ceremony.

Then it was up to the front to contemplate Bach’s grave.

The bronze slab on the floor was surrounded by fresh flowers, and by tourists, several of whom were taking selfies.

We no longer live in the age of the graveside eulogy, the contemplative lament on mortality, the man and his works; yet everyone has a phone with a front camera, so I guess that’s progress.

After Bach we visit the piano shop am Markt and sample everything before sheepishly admitting we aren’t there to buy. We try some vegan currywurst and sit down to drink a beer at the foot of a fountain opposite Goedlerring. The successful day ends in a sushi restaurant on Karl-Liebknecht Strasse (the Karli).

I had to move out of my flat early on Friday morning due to the janitor’s working hours. This being sorted out we enjoyed a light breakfast outside a bakery on a street corner in Lindenau. I checked into an Airbnb and we ascended the many, many steps of the Völkerschlachtdenkmal (Memorial to the Battle of Nations); as my friend observed, completing a symmetrical narrative arc from my visit during the first week upon arrival in Leipzig to this repeat performance in the last.

About alasdairflett

German & English Literature graduate. From Orkney. Interested in alternative and indie music, language, writing and politics.
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