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Memory of E Germany remains

Travelling through the breadth of Germany, from Cologne to Leipzig, is a long haul, even by Deutsch Bahn standards.

india Updated: Jun 19, 2006 02:00 IST

Travelling through the breadth of Germany, from Cologne to Leipzig, is a long haul, even by Deutsch Bahn standards. It takes five hours and trains have to be changed at Frankfurt and Eisenach. You travel past towns with quaint names like Hanau, Fulda and Gotha — and not so quaint like Weimar — before reaching this eastern city.

Imperceptibly, the cityscape seems a little different not long after Fulda. Stations look more run down and their approach way has abandoned buildings. Like in western Germany, the landscape is a mixture of pleasant untamed greenery and manicured rolling fields but bales of hay and huge orbs of salt perhaps point to greater agricultural activity.

There is a whole lot of construction happening and the roads are narrower. Houses are smaller and almost all of them have slanted roofs, either red of faded red. The curtain that divided this part of Europe has been lifted but in Saxony country, vestiges of the past remain.

The Leipzig Hauptbahnhof, however, is everything that you didn’t see so far. It is swanky and perhaps the biggest in the country, one where the gleaming peacock blue Mazda MX 8 on display doesn’t look out of place. Old but sturdy buildings and cobbled streets give this city character, while wide roads and the Marriott Hotel are proof of changing times.  

Located adjacent to the Max Planck Strasse, the Zentral Stadion, which hosts five games of this World Cup, is one of the oldest in Germany. Here Fritz Walter, playing for FC Kaiserslautern, scored against FC Karl-Marx Statdt of Chemnitz in a rare West-East club clash.

Bernd and Maria Tille, the middle-aged couple who own Hotel Papilio (named so because of Bernd’s fascination for butterflies and other insects), came home after unification having spent most of their lives in Stuttgart.

“Growing up here was tough. There weren’t many employment opportunities and money was hard to come by,” Bernd, a mechanical engineer whose pride of place is now over a decade old, said.

Having returned to their roots in 1993, the Tilles have seen the city change. And more is due in another German haven for fairs, Bernd promised. A major cargo moving company is shifting base to Leipzig, he said, which will generate employment for 10,000 people. “Sehr gut, nein?” he asks.

"Mein aenglish schlect," being the most common refrain, hand signals are an essential mode of conversation for foreigners here. But everything else in this historic city that was for sometime home to Johan Sebastian Bach and Richard Wagner, seem in symphony with the rest of Germany.