Thursday, September 06, 2012

2012 - The Final ChapTour part 3 - Ghosts of War

8/7 - Leipzig

Having waited out/slept through rush hour, today's task is simple: grab some breakfast and euros at the station, then back out and on the tram to the Völkerschlacht memorial; with that done, hike route 2 across through the southern burbs to Conne Island, and then go back into the center, by foot or S-bahn, finish the central tourpoints, and hit a supermarket to get some supplies in for Party.San.  Easy enough -- as long as I remember to eat at normal intervals.

I thought that as an assimilated white dude, I had zero vulnerability to racial slurs.  Nope, still got a bleeding-out-the-ears WTF?! feeling from a slogan on a pizza joint to "wop up your life!"  THE HELL MAN.

Also: the heat's broken, making everything, even racist advertising, more pleasant.  This is somewhat balanced by the huge police presence in the northeastern corner of the Ring.  From the station down to Augustusplatz, the streets were absolutely swarming with cops.  Maybe extra security for the opera, but in Leipzig the day after Wisconsin, you suspect worse, and keep your head on a swivel.

067. Völkerschlachtdenkmal over some trees, waiting to cross the street.

068. Memorial through a rank of trees, on the path up.

069. Memorial from a low angle after clearing the trees.

070. Fortress-like buildings at the entrance to the reflecting pool.

071. Memorial, pool, and trees.  Calendar shot.

072. Close detail on the front of the memorial.  Built in the early 1900s for the centennial of the battle, it's currently under renovation for the bicentennial next year.

073. Look up, most of the way up.  This place is really fucking big; posters in the city center like to have it to scale with the relatively puny Eiffel tower.

074. Memorial hall inside.

075. Detail of one of the granite soldiers on guard.  The modernistic idealization of medieval knights is as Edwardian as it gets.

076. Gods sleeping in the upper ring.  Ref Holger Danske.

077. Doormaker's mark on an original door to the stairs up.

078. ...and where those stairs go.  It felt like an excessive climb, but in a spiral stair, you only have about 20 total feet of floating reference frame.  I ended up like 30m higher than planned, and almost a football field away from the floor I started on.  There was the option to go another 85m up to some outdoor observation platform, but that could go get fucked.  I went down.

079. Into the cupola first.  Counter-orbiting banks of riders.

080. From the entrance to the upper tier.

081. Stained-glass window inside.

082. No zoom; the statues are just this big IRL.

083. Up close; a view of the blocks composing the statue in 082.

084. Mutter Courage? (Ref is here for the uncultured.)

085. A look down into the main well.

086. Details of the side pillars.  You'd never know this place was built to commemorate a battle from the industrial age.

087. On the way out; halfway down.

088. Almost all the way down.

089. Frieze detail on the last descending stairs.

090. An almost Babylonian finial, headed over to the museum.

- inside the Völkerschlachtdenkmal museum -

091. British field rocket launcher; apparently the Indians didn't bother showing them the Katyusha version.

092. Napoleonic Code translated into German.

093. Samples from home; Leipzig was bit into products from British North America, and the French were constantly putting out fires on the anti-smuggling front.

094. Why France took over the world and Germany didn't.  All the French text from this time is clear and easily intelligible, and all the German is in fucking blackletter, which is actively impossible to read.

095. Volunteers' gear; hunting rifle and Iron Cross.

096. Cossack whip and self-cameo; the reflections just sucked like that.

097. Casualties at the Battle of the Nations; one of these things is not like the others, albeit due to not being a legit power for more than a century at the time of the battle.

098. Commemorative brötchen baked after the battle and preserved.  This is the third in the series "why the fuck is there bread in the museum"; see parts 1 and 2.

099. Napoleon as Robinson Crusoe.

100. False dawn in Leipzig.  The Congress of Vienna would end the hope of a free, united, democratic Germany, but the desires and aspirations of the people would remain.  Germany gets a bad rap due to a lot of autocracy since unification (1871-1918, 1933-1945, 1945-1990 in the east), but this is still Goethe and Mendelssohn country.

101. Outside looking up.

102. From a distance; memorial and clouds.

It's getting on noon, and my legs are almost recovered from the pounding they took on the stairs.  On to Conne Island, and a kebab or summat on the way.


And now, back in the center; a break to write up some pics before I get to the Thomaskirche.

103. "Your brother's blood cries out from the earth to Me" -- pillar from Genesis at the exit of the Völkerschlachtdenkmal.

104. Chapel further back in the cemetery area.

105. Lolwut @ Regenbogen.  Bar, restaurant, bowling, and airliner.

106. Nerdmuß.  We as a people can't resist an open-sided jet engine.

107. Tail code on the plane; after Interflug went out of business, the assets had to go somewhere.

108. LNG tanking station.  If we can't get electrics ultimately powered by renewables or fusion, this is a decent step up from petrol.

109. DIY flyers on a wall behind a Netto in Connewitz.  My kind of town.

Turns out I did get a Unicorn Hard-on flyer in there.  Best, or worst, band name ever?

110. The "national motto" of Connewitz.

111. Cool old building, boarded up.

112. Stream by Conne Island.

113. "COME ON, LEIPZIG! COME ON!!" -- exterior of Conne Island, which was the Eiskeller in 1990 when Mayhem stopped by.  Go listen to this immortal take of "Freezing Moon" -- we'll wait for you.

114. Lefty supporters' clubs.  The militancy you get on KarLi from Connewitz nearly back to the Ring is something you don't get much in the US any more; you'll have hardcore squats, but this is block after block of not just squats but businesses and legit apartments.  A must-hike for DIY fans.

115. Nice look across KarLi by the Technishes Hochschule.

116. Beard-based hipsterism has spread even this far east.  FIGHT NAZIS & COPS & BEARDOS.

117. Church tower over some buildings.

118. Neues Rathaus across the Ring.

119. Neues Rathaus, clock detail.

120. Southwest corner of the Neues Rathaus.

I'm a little disappointed because 1 2/2 days in Leipzig really isn't enough.  On the other hand, I feel delivered, because had I come here ten years ago, I'd've finagle some bogus grant to do a useless Diplomarbeit and stay here forever, broke as hell but cool as shit.  That twilight-zone way of starving and stealing is so hopelessly alien to me now, and as legit as it would've been to take that turning at the time, it's not something I can go back to.  I made my peace with Kommerz and Biedermeierismus, and as a result I owe nobody nothing and can go be a metal bum two weeks a year solely off current accounts.  As long as capitalism lasts, C.R.E.A.M.

121. Minnesinger memorial by the Thomaskirche.

122. Bach statue by the entrance.

123. "Bach organ" inside.

124. Bach and Luther windows.

125. Pauline altar triptych.

126. Bach's grave, from a weird angle because I didn't want to throw the elbows required to clear out the crowds of old people in front of it.

127. Bracework on the roof.

128. Bach originals under glass.

129. Original instruments from the period.

130. Mostly original bass; the bridge and strings are new, but the rest holds the years up well.

131. Front of the Commerzbank on the way out.

132. Back of the Thomaskirche, heading away.

- Zeitgeschichtliches Forum -

133. From the Monday demos, on the stairs in.

134. Words emerge out of char[] strings.

video1: Chimes of history.  It's likely entirely unintentional, but the handrails in this stairwell ring very nicely when struck.

135. Refugees from the further east.

136. New postwar postcode map.

137. Already?

138. ...or maybe not.  NPD as SED front to weaken the CDU.

139. Gulags in the DDR -- including Sachsenhausen, where the Russians just took down the swastikas and bolted up the hammer and sickle.

140. Reparations from Carl Zeiss.

141. I used machines like this into the '90s too...because my junior high still had shop.

142. Nerd alert: a copy of the famous Smyth report, whose deletions from the (initially-unclassified) US edition allowed Sakharov to finish the Soviet bomb.

143. Bust of Ernst Thälmann -- see this comic from Jojo for more background on his cult.

144. We tried, but the SED was all like IT'S A TRAP.....and so Dresden stayed in ruins for 40 years.

145. Financial reform in Western papers.

146. Official exchange tables for 1948.  For a later arbitrage scheme, see Flix.

147. The SED understood what the EU and ECB still don't: monetary union must mean political union.

148. Staples from the airlift (Luftbrücke).

149. Commemoration panel from the airlift.

150. Look at who signed this; this is what the US Establishment used to look like.

151. "Our Thanks To Stalin" -- things you don't see so much any more.

152. Democracy: You're Doing It Wrong.

153. The eternal fate of FPTP systems: two largely identical centrist parties that satisfy no one but become self-sustaining institutions.  This poster is from the first elections in the BRD (Bavaria).

154. More BRD election posters.  It's clear that for "goddamned Wessis", one should instead read "goddamned Union".

155. PPSh and early NVA uniform.

156. The SED attempts to avoid forced collectivization via public shaming.  It's not very effective.

157. Village halls become the bases of "local soviets".

158. Pictures from the '53 uprising.

159. Demos and conflict sites of the 17. Juni uprising -- Saxony earliest and strongest as usual.

160. Bleed rates.  The peak around '53 is immediately understandable, but the Wall did little to stem the tide of emigration attempts.

161. The Wall at its birth: 1mm of paint high.

162. Sign from the westen side.

163. A peculiarly German problem: between '75 and '90 the first verses of both national anthems of the Germanies were banned at home as politically unpalatable.  Singing the first verse of the Deutschlandlied will still get you in trouble, but I'm not sure that it's technically anticonstitutional any more.

164. "Schön Abend" in the new Ostblöcke of Leipzig.

165. Sign: "No Stuff Today" above WTT lists.

166. Artist's impression; Russian forces in the Vogt massing to crush the Prague Spring.

167. Ossi pix from the Prague Spring -- prompted by one of the first recorded uses of "pics or it didn't happen".

168. Pro-Solidarity flyers.

169. Ossi samizdat art zines.

170. Plans for a Soviet Invasion as of 1970.

171. No data: environmental stats were classified "above top secret" for most of the populated areas of the DDR.

172. Indoctrination becomes self-parody.  Kids dream about becoming tank commanders, not pulling guard duty.

173. Stasi museum in miniature.

174. Original banners from the Monday demos.

175. Ballots...

176. ...and result.  Elections have consequences!

177. Still a burning question.  What Stasi files could be recovered -- and a fuckton were shredded -- are still not completely processed 20 years later.

That was the end of the permanent exhibit, so I went next door to the Auerbachskeller with the idea to grab a drink and write up the foregoing.  That idea died quick; not just the tablecloths, but the outrageous prices: I don't care how famous your regulars were 300 years ago, 15e for an appetizer can go fuck itself.  Completely not worth it -- I'm not enough of a Germanist to spend 25e for a plate and a couple beers in an oppressive atmosphere.  I doubt Goethe would hang out in the current version of this bar either; his rep today is one of the refined and elegant, but his actual writing is completely obsessive on the reality and vitality of life, and there was not a lot of either on offer here.  JWvG would still be drinking wine today, sure, but in a sidewalk cafe in Connewitz, pissing off both the red and brown factions among the locals.

178. A look at the closed side.  Enough of a memento.

179. Goethe monument outside.

180. Side of the Nikolaikirche.

181. Fountain in Nikolaiplatz.

182. Long view down Nikolaiplatz.

183. Back of the Nikolaikirche.

184. Through the keyhole.

It's pictures like this that really give the impression of Leipzig as a phased city; two or more discrete states of being laid over the same chunk of terrain, with the transitions between them being hard or transparent, one-way or flexible, but each having its own existence that does not affect and is not affected by the other state(s).  There's Goethestadt Leipzig and Schillerstadt Leipzig, where herds of old people listen to classical music in the Markt and pay 15e a plate for appetizers in the Auerbachskeller, and Schlachtfeld Leipzig, where Nazis and antifas fight over the spirit of youth culture.  Which is real?  Which is the illusion?  The answer to both, of course, can only be "yes".  Unlike Hong Kong, which always seems to be on the verge of dissolving under the weight of its internal contradictions, Leipzig's phases seem a lot more stable, coexisting not alongside but on top of one another, each seeing the other as nothing more than ghosts.  "Zwey Seelen wohnen, ach/In dieser Stadt".

185. More Umbau, closer to the hotel.

186. Back of the Oper over the trees.

With this, all of my planned tourpoints are crossed off; I need to get dinner and some supplies for tomorrow, but Leipzig is basically done.  Onward in the morning to P.SOA.

Germany: Nevermore in MTV rotation at 7PM.  And oldish, heavy Nevermore -- "Final Product".

187. Cloudy skies over the station.

188. Steel-blue clouds to the east.

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