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.

those places that inspire us

This week, I finished up with a project that was 3 years in the making. Now that my brain has started to temporarily rebuild itself (part of the process is drinking wine, listening to Hall & Oates loudly on the car radio, and watching reruns of Seinfeld), I’ve been thinking of some of the places I would go to work on this aforementioned project. Also, a few days ago subtlekate wrote a post about writing haunts, “[t]hose magical cafe’s and hotels that have hosted the best can inspire us to keep going.”

One of my faves is The Hungarian Pastry Shop. Okay, so this place can be packed and the coffee is sub par, but if you go in the morning or during other “off” hours and just stick to the made in-house pastries and lattes, you’re set. Also, the outdoor seating is perfect for people watching. I am always especially productive here when I’m dealing with jet-lag. Up before everyone else, I hit up the laundromat right when it opens and then take my notebook and make my way to the Hungarian, where you’re joined with the two or three others with sleep woes.

Last year, Untapped New York ran the article, “The Hungarian Pastry Shop, a literary outpost.” Michelle Young writes,

When author and professor David Grahame Shane (of Recombinant Urbanism) asked me to meet at the Hungarian Pastry Shop on 111th and Amsterdam, I knew it was going to be a great place. You see, Shane’s speciality is on heterotopias–those places within cities that trigger creativity and spur urban evolution. In fact, he says they function as cities in miniature and that’s kind of what the Hungarian Pastry Shop is like…The shop puts the book jackets of its patrons on the walls…It’s also where a scene in Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives was filmed.

Some photos that writer took: