So there it was, the moment had come to leave the Netherlands and to go and live in Leipzig for half a year. A city in the East of Germany, not too far from Berlin. I had never been there before, but many call it “The New Berlin”, so I had some expectations. Leipzig is booming and new hotspots keep on popping up. As a result, some residents have sarcastically given the city the nickname Hypezig. It has been a few months since I swapped Utrecht for Leipzig and I feel I can truly call it my second home now. It is a city of people with strong ideals and a great place to live in if you like green initiatives and places.
This already became clear on my first day. Upon entering my home for the coming semester, my new roommate immediately showed me where to threw away the trash so every bit can be recycled. Of course, studying Sustainable Development, I was feeling content that my new roomies were as devoted to the cause as I am. Still, I found it kind of funny that it was actually one of the first things she said to me, after “welcome” and “this is your room” of course. Later that day I also learned that my other roommate had her own vegetable garden in the city and that urban gardening is actually quite a big thing here. The urban gardening ratio was already 16 m2 per citizen in 2012. This is relatively high compared to other European cities. A reason for this could be that Leipzig has many brown fields available for such activities. However, I feel it also says something about the citizens themselves.
Urban Gardening at Annalinde
In the months that I have been living here, I noticed that the Leipziger are very strong and open about their opinions and ideals. We are talking about the city where in 1989 mass demonstrations took place that later would be known as the Peaceful Revolution. A revolution of violence-free initiatives that started on the square near the St. Nicholas Church in Leipzig and quickly spread to other cities in East-Germany. It was this revolution that triggered socio-political change and eventually led to the demise of the SED dominance and the enablement of reunification of Germany.
Perhaps it is in this light that the people of Leipzig are still so politically engaged. There are many organised evenings where you can talk to like-minded (or not-so-like-minded) people about topics such as the EU, the refugee crisis or climate change. Theatre nights with movies such as “Der Schwarze Nazi” provoke thought with a mixture of inversion, satire and documentary. They are well-visited. A lot of pubs and clubs, and even the university, have banners hanging outside the doors or windows with a political message. These messages are often related to the demonstrations held each first Monday of the month of Legida (Leipzigs’ own spin-off of the anti-refugee party Pegida) and the opposite anti-Legida left group. I avoid the city centre during such a day. Luckily, the other thirty days of the month Leipzig is more calm and fun. And a very nice city to live in for a student interested in sustainability.
Leipzig is also known for its vegetarian and vegan infrastructure. Some argue that it could even be crowned the “Real Vegan Capital” of Germany. Vegan is an important part of the Leipziger culture, evident in the many vegan restaurants, Sunday brunches, university cafeteria, shops and festivities. Or, as the Leipziger people themselves say “Nirgendwo sonst in Deutschland ist es so leicht, einen knurrenden Veganermagen zu füllen.“ Although Berlin is internationally better known for its vegan share of restaurants, Leipzig indeed has a very large share. And the people are proud of it.
You happen to be in Leipzig and hungry? West of the city centre, in the neighbourhood called Plagwitz or south in Connewitz, vegetarians and vegans can enjoy a range of restaurants to choose from. In Plagwitz for example, you can find Vleischerei. In this popular fast food bistro, you can taste the famous Vöner. This is the vegan answer to the Döner and can only be found in Berlin or Leipzig. And yes, it is very tasty! If you do not fancy a Vöner, you can also choose the vegan currywurst, cheeseburger or gyros. Jumm! In Connewitz, I would recommend Zest. Not for a quick bite, this small restaurant will guide you through a mouth-watering culinary experience. I ate here during my first week in the city and could not recognise a single ingredient on the menu-card. However, rest assured, everything is vegan and everything is very, very delicious. Did I say delicious? Very!
Zest, 04277 Bornaische Straße 54
Vleischerei, 04229 Zschochersche Str. 23
A couple of weeks ago, I was at the Öko-fete (eco-party). The festival is part of the Leipziger Environmental Days, which means two weeks of seminars, workshops and other activities related to sustainability. The Öko-fete is the main attraction, and with 150 stands and 15.000 visitors the biggest eco festival of Mid-Germany. All kinds of different green initiatives, most of them from Leipzig, display their activities. Solar community and clean technology projects, urban agriculture and gardening, organic food, fair clothing and bags, repair cafés, the well-known NGO’s, the Leipzig green city planning… All were present and more. It was really nice to see so many inspiring activities in one place. I saw most of them for the first time and it made me really enthusiastic. And judging from the buzzling crowd, I was not the only one.
Exams are starting and I have only three weeks left in Leipzig. It feels like time flew by so fast. I am not sure if it is really “The New Berlin” yet, but the city is definitely on the rise. With increasing prices in Berlin, many move to Leipzig. And why shouldn’t they? Leipzig has a lot of green areas, parks and forests, which makes living here relaxing. There is enough room for own initiatives and projects and people are enthusiastic to do so. Seeing all the market stands at the Öko-fete, this became ever so clear.[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#00FFCC” class=”” size=””]Last but not least, the city is fun. I am already planning a trip back for next year. Who’s with me?[/perfectpullquote]