Cities That Inspire Us For All Sorts of Reasons

This weekend marks the second year that I’ve been writing Acid Free Pulp. My first post was titled Prague and it was conceived after I returned back from a trip, which included a visit to the Czech Republic. Prague is one of my favorite cities for various reasons including its ability to inspire me. The hometown of one of my all time favorite writers, Franz Kafka, my mind constantly whirls with ideas when I’m in Prague. Even on a follow-up trip, as I sat on a wall overlooking the Vltava River, the skeleton of an idea came to me, which I was able to flesh out later in our apartment and on my flight back to the US. What came of this visit was a novella concerning a mysterious event in Prague (when I am done with my current project, I hope to return to it and expand on the characters and plot).

As I was contemplating the blog’s 2 year anniversary, I read a profile in New York magazine for their Winter Travel edition, which focused on “lesser-known cities for equally fine wine, just-as-ancient architecture, and even-more-secret warehouse parties.” They profiled Leipzig, a city about an hour away by train from Berlin. While Berlin is also a favorite destination and I’ve spent a good deal of time there, there is Leipzig, a former East German city that had once been grand before the World Wars.

Leipzig, Germany.

Leipzig, Germany.

Leipzig is a city I have mixed feelings about, but it has inspired me exponentially. I have written some of my best stories while living there or now, thinking back to it. It is a strange place where beauty and destruction have been forced together. There are elegant villas lining some streets, with a row of odd Soviet bloc apartments (plattenbauten) still standing and sticking out like sore thumbs. I’ve twice stayed in one of these apartment buildings where all personality is stripped and the shower can only be used when the sink is turned on. A third time in Leipzig, I stayed much longer and lived on a different side of the city with abandoned warehouses that had been turned into businesses or which were normally abandoned save for the midnight parties they hosted. Leipzig is a former city of greatness that is striving to retain that glory. I took the above photo in the neighborhood where I lived the third time. The buildings crumble on one street and empty spaces are being used by students for art and literary readings.

It is a city that inspires me in a different way than Prague. Where Prague is a city filled with rich colors and beautiful buildings, Leipzig crumbles around its own beauty. Part of it is full of life, where a large portion is still a ghost town since the dissolution of the USSR.

Leipzig, Germany.

Leipzig, Germany.

There are many cities that inspire me–Prague, New York, Bratislava, Edinburgh, to name a few–but something still holds me to Leipzig. I do not know if I will ever return; I feel as if my time there is done with. I have soaked up as much as I can and the friends I have there are starting to float away to other places, too. As I walked the streets, the thoughts of its great past always came over me.

Leipzig has been home to many great writers and musicians. Also, the second largest book fair in Germany takes place there–Leipziger Buchmesse. Many of the photos I have of the city are of crumbling buildings and graffiti but the city is quite beautiful in many places. Here are a few.
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11 comments

    1. It’s definitely worth a visit and not very expensive at all. I don’t have a ton of photos, actually, from all of my times there but there are some beautiful parts. A large park is in the middle of the city and Leipzig is also known for its many canals.

      Most of my photos are from the area I stayed in–so, abandoned buildings galore, which tell their own tales. But a quick google image search comes up with a ton of photos–> http://ow.ly/qB2jF

  1. Happy Blogoversary! I’m glad I discovered your blog this year. Thanks also for sharing your stories of Leipzig, a city I knew almost nothing about. I’m sure the carryovers from the USSR influence are not unique to this one city, either. I liked your description of the apartment buildings “where all personality is stripped.”

    -Jay

    1. Thanks! The Soviet building I stayed in twice also was decorated by the owner in the “Ostalgie” style. It’s this really bizarre aesthetic to decorate in the style of the DDR and quite unappealing.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ostalgie
      p.s. Leipzig was once a huge publishing city and many writers have called it home. They also have one of Germany’s only writing schools.

  2. How many places have you lived?! (You don’t have to answer that.)

    I’ve always found the places I find inspirational to be strange and never expected. For example, I always thought I would find Dublin inspiring. After spending some time there, I didn’t – at all – yet I found Tennessee to be.

    Happy two years.

    1. Actually, I haven’t lived that many places but I’ve had the good fortune of being honored with a few fellowship/grants that were international, which allowed for more travel. I know exactly what you mean. Lately, I find Leipzig far more inspiring than Berlin (a city I love so much more). Then there is Bratislava, a city where I spent very little time but I’m finding myself writing about it.

      Now, I’m working on a something that takes place in a fictionalized version of a southern town I lived in for about 5 years. It wasn’t my favorite place by any means but it’s drawing me back!

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