Leipzig – Gewandhaus, Die Olsenbande and the Dinner at the Porsche Factory
Leipzig, the City of Musical Giants
Our trip to this part of Europe has been long time coming. Undersigned has visited Leipzig 8-9 times, 2 of them where the Covid virus chose to pretty much close down the city. It’s without a doubt one of Europe’s most wonderful of its many hidden treasures and deserves a whole lot more attention.
Today the city is a bit off the beaten track, but if we go back to the 19th Century the city was the center of classical music, in 1813 it saw the biggest battle of all times, involving half a million soldiers and was also the epicenter of the fall of the Eastern European regime in 1989. Rich in history, rich in sophistication of today, which we shall experience in full and this article will unfold. But first thing first. We need to get there, to be ready for our week commencing 13th April 2024 at around 4 pm.
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Leipzig: An Hour with a Plane, two Hours with a bus
If you arrive from London, you can simply choose to fly Ryanair, who has direct flights to Leipzig airport a short distance from Leipzig city center.
Alternatively, a little more cumbersome, you could go Prague airport and take a train from there to Dresden, then Leipzig.
Or you could use our offer of been picked up at Berlin Brandenburg Airport – by the way the by far most scandalous construction project in the history of Germany.
Exceeded budgets and deadlines have been seen before, but here it reached Teutonic proportions. Today the airport can send and receive planes. The train connections, however, is pretty sloppy. One can’t think of everything.
So, Leipzig and Sachsen overall can’t be reached easily. For our trip we have therefore arranged two bus pick-ups at the airport. One Saturday 13th April at 1 pm and another, for those who wants an extra day, Friday 12th April at 5.30 pm.
If you chose the latter, you can easily add the extra day via the ordering process. I will be standing at the airport both days waiving a Danish flag.
For both evenings we will find restaurants for the warming up of the trip. Friday night we will go to Auerbach’s Keller, where Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a regular and the main character of his novel, Faust, meets fate for the first time.
Saturday evening, we will go to a decommissioned train station, now a commissioned restaurant.
Tracking the Notenspur
The photo shows the Grassi-museum with the largest collection in the world of period-instruments, like lut, viola d’amore og clavichord, which from the early 19th century couldn’t be used in the modern symphony orchestra and consequently withered since then.
During our week you have the option to venture back to the sounds past, tunes belonging to our great-great grandparents.
However, what you should notice the more in the photo is the silver-colored design embedded in the pavement. It’s the logo for the only musical track in the world, Die Notenspur. You’ll find it regularly on the approximately 3-mile-long route, with around 20 posts dealing with music historical facts. We will cover about 2 miles Sunday morning. Not only is it a good introduction to the city of today, but a glimpse into this city’s very rich past. I will happily add anecdotes during the walk.
Johann Sebastian Bach - the Godfather of Music
We will have time for a short break at the hotel before we around 3 pm will head towards the most sacred place in the town, the Johann Sebastian Bach Museum, adjacent to the St. Thomas church, where he worked the last 25 years of his life. (if you are a morning person, you should consider going to the church, where there each Sunday is a mass followed by a motet, exactly as during the days of Bach, who lived between 1685 – 1750).
The house was in those days inhabited by the Bose family and is next to the building, where the Bach family lived. They were close friends, the former god parents to one of Bach’s children.
We will have a guided tour in the museum – in English – before we head to the Summer Saal, where we in corporation with the Schumann Haus Museum in Leipzig has arranged our first private concert. The program has not yet been decided, but naturally with emphasis on Bach’s works.
Double Nostalgia with Die Olsenbande
After we have shown Bach the honor he truly deserves, we will have an hour or two before we move on to a completely different event, a show with Die Olsenbande. Assuming you are not a Dane, neither a former inhabitant of the now dissolved country, Deutsche Demokratische Republik (German Democratic Republic), you might not get it.
Olsenbanden, a gang of haphazard criminals, was a Danish film series from the 1970s that were extremely popular in Denmark and, how unlikely it may sound, in DDR. The series were fully accepted by the extremely strict censors of the country. We have reserved first parterre at the cabaret, where you will experience the German reincarnations of Egon, Benny, Kjeld and Yvonne. Actually, you will almost certainly not get it. We will try to explain as best we can about the show which is in German and English.
During the show we will be served a four-course dinner, which is part of the price of the trip. Afterwards, we can ask the actors about their relationship to this little piece of Danish cultural inheritance. The actors’ resemblance to the Danish actors half a century ago, is unreal.
It’s perhaps not fine art, but it’s great fun! At least if you are a Dane or a former citizen of DDR.
The Carrera Dinner at the Porsche Factory
Monday and Wednesday, a bus will take us from Leipzig to Meissen and Dresden, respectively. More about that in a moment.
I will, however, go straight to our program for the Tuesday, because here we will have an event that fully and comprehensively lives up to our slogan.
Close to the city center you’ll find the factory of Porsche. A world of its own. Almost literally, as we have to bring our passports in order to enter the premises.
They have a restaurant that deals with corporate events for companies of a certain pondus.
And for the customers, who pick up their brand-new Porsche directly from the factory, who are treated to lunch at the restaurant as well. A thoughtful gesture.
And for us of course.
We are honored that Porsche will open their doors for us. Before we head for the restaurant, we will have a tour around the factory where we can see all the steps taken to bring about one of mankind’s finest products.
In between the mentioned tour and the dinner there is one more thing we need to do…
Living in the Fast Lane
During the visit at Porsche, I was in considerable doubt. Next day, I was in no doubt whatsoever.
Of course, we have to try their racer-track. Of course we have to. During our visit we will have 30 minutes of acceleration and g-force. Their event department will have 10 top-tuned racer cars at their disposal for us. And with them follows 10 top tuned professional drivers. Who will take us around every corner pushing the machines to their limits.
Naturally, it’s your choice if you want it a moderate speed of 100 miles/hour or you want the driver to press the speeder to the maximum.
The usual price for the pleasure is € 450, but as I have purchased to all of us, the price tag is a whole lot less unrestrained.
The question that one might pose, is this just boy toys? I do think it appeals to both genders. But if you have no wish whatsoever to sit in one of the best produced cars in the world and next to a super sexy professional driver, I’m sure we can figure something out anyway.
The video below will give you an indication of what awaits us at Porsche, Leipzig.
Our guided tour, the tour on the track with no speed limit, a glass of champagne at the entrance to their museum and dinner is included in the price, whereas the absolutely reasonably priced wines during the dinner is between you and the restaurant.
The Night Hans Christian Andersen Visited Leipzig
While the Corona-crises wreaked havoc with the world and the virus put brakes on all activities involving travelling and concerts, I spend some time studying the many composers Europe gave us during the 19th Century.
I shared my newfound knowledge by making 40 small biographies which are all on our website, but only available in Danish. Apologies.
Among them you will find the composer couple Clara Wieck Schumann and Robert Schumann. They lived during their first married years in Leipzig. There’s a beautiful love story. During my research I found out that Clara had met the most famous Dane, Hans Christian Andersen inn Copenhagen in 1842 while she was touring as, by the way, one of the most celebrated pianists of the day.
In of the letters to her husband she wrote extensively about this most famous poet. Robert got intrigued, read some of Andersen’s works, got excited and wrote music to a few of his poems.
22nd July 1844 Andersen visited them in their home in Leipzig, where he could for the first time listen to Robert’s composition. When you know this, it will be a sin of biblical proportions not to respond to this kind of information.
I am in gratitude to the director of Schumann’s Haus, Gregor Nowak, and his colleague, Lara Galow, for being so forthcoming to my suggestion.
Wednesday evening 17th April 2024, in exactly the same room as the couple Schumann and our famous writer was seated, 180 years ago, and where Clara played for her small audience, we will be treated to exactly the same tunes. That part lasts only 11 minutes. It will be followed by a program of Clara (who was a composer in her own right) and Robert’s works.
By the way, afterwards the two gentlemen got themselves pretty slushed, where they got the inspired idea of writing an opera together. Sadly, the project didn’t go beyond the hangovers.
Clara’s letter to Robert, which she wrote while in Copenhagen April 1842.
Andersen has a poetic, childish spirit, is still fairly young, very ugly and at the same time terribly vain and egoistical. Nevertheless, I rather liked him and I found that my acquaintance with him interesting and worth the effort. Under all circumstances, his virtues far outweigh his weaknesses.
Erich Honecker's Three-Course Menu
There is a wealth of possibilities in Leipzig to combine dinner, history and culture. Auerbach’s Keller has been mentioned.
Wednesday evening (and after the concert at Schumann’s house) we will visit yet another restaurant, this time at the periphery of the city, who has been faithful to the communist kitchen. The menu consists of recipe´s from the decades prior to the decadent west took over.
After our snobbish dinner at Porsche Tuesday night, we just need something a whole lot more solid and with the smell of class struggle.
We have the whole “living room” shown on the photo to ourselves. Please note, to our dinner there will be no rationing.
The Völkerschlacht-denkmal Monument
First time I ventured out of Leipzig to its near surroundings I left via one road and came back via another where this pictured monster of an excessive Germanic monument suddenly manifested itself in the horizon. And I not the slightest idea of what it could possibly be.
My curiosity means I now know. It’s 90 meter tall and must be near-indestructible. It’s in memory of the largest military battle ever performed which happened in the days 16th – 19th October 1813. Here, Napoleon’s army stood in front of the combined forces of Russia, Sweden, Preussen and Austro-Hungary. Here he suffered his first defeat. Four against one, it’s also a bit unfair.
Half a million men were involved and when the dust had settled 90,000 of them had lost their lives and was buried on the hills around where the monument stands.
A fairly morbid fact: After nature had done what nature does, the Leipzig residents dug up the skulls and sold them as souvenirs in the shops catering for the tourists. A trade that has by now ceased.
The Porcelain Dinner at Meissen
A good acquaintance of mine once told me that the city of Meissen is among the most idyllic cities in Germany, possibly the most idyllic. I usually take such statements with a grain of salt.
Now I have been there and must admit that Meissen is one of the most idyllic cities in Germany, possibly the most idyllic.
This is our destination for Wednesday 17th October. Here, you will all have plenty of time to wander around and be enchanted by the German romanticism picked up straight from the 19th Century
Most of you are probably aware that Meissen is known for its porcelain factory, which in year 1708 was the first company to copy and then produce China’s porcelain. A clear European copy infringement.
Perhaps there are some who place porcelain in the same category as, for example, embroideries, a somewhat old-fashioned phenomenon. That will not be fair. Porcelain is comparable to, say, music history.
From these you can link to everything else in Europe’s history and cultural history.
Porcelain was fantastically expensive, so it was used by the nobles as a show-off for other nobles. Wonderful stories await us at their museum.
And when the factory and museum close, we have the place to ourselves. On the top floor, we enter their event room (pictured here) and are served a 3-course menu on porcelain plates from 3 different centuries. We are covered by an insurance.
Dresden in Ruins
It might be a German phenomenon only. In several German cities there is the term Panometer, a wordplay combination of the words, panorama and gasometer.
Old gas holders and their huge spaces have been transformed into 360-degree museums. One of them is in Dresden. Right now, they have an exhibition about Dresden in the days of the Baroque, with a lifelike and believable picture of the city as it looked like in the years around 1700. During Bach’s days.
Next year they will have an exhibition where we – again in 360 degrees – will be able to see huge photomontages of the almost totally obliterated Dresden in 1945.
The destruction was comparable to Nagasaki and Hiroshima. I haven’t seen the exhibition for obvious reasons, but I think it will be a rather harrowing experience.
After the visit, we head directly to the city center of Dresden risen from the ashes like a phoenix. But still with scars from the terrible events that took place during the days 13th – 15th February 1945.
You will have a few hours to yourselves to wander around, find a hidden inn, a cafe, a whatever you fancy, before we will continue our journey. We will then head towards the Yenidze building.
Avantgardeshow at the Yenidze Building
Believe it or not but there are actually people who think that the large building, Yenidze in Dresden, which you can see in the photo, is a mosque.
It is clearly a tobacco factory that has just been designed as a mosque. True, it is difficult to find a clear connection or association between the religious gathering point of the Muslims and cigarettes, but clearly, the German company didn’t delve too much about this when they built the factory, which was inaugurated in 1909.
To make it even more bizarre, the architect was Martin Hammitzsch, a name both you and I will instantly forget, if it wasn’t for the small detail that he was the brother-in-law to … Adolf Hitler! The latter stole all the attention from his siblings.
During the Corona crisis, when everything was closed and switched off, I went to Yenidze, tried one of the side doors and found it unlocked. And then in Germany. Sloppy.
I therefore had the building to myself. I reached its dome (which was admittedly locked) peered in and was struck by its beauty. Now I know it’s just a disused tobacco factory – but it was almost a spiritual moment.
Here I swore that when Parnassos.dk finally got going, I would arrange something here. Not everything I swear by comes to fruition, but Thursday 18th April 2024 at 9 pm. just after sunset, we will be seated here.
We’ve asked a theater group to perform their avant-garde show – just wait – in the otherworldly dome.
Gustav Mahler at the Gewandhaus
We have arrived at Friday 19th April.
The day is set aside for you to explore the city on your own. Perhaps you would like to visit the Runde Ecke situated at the ring road. It was the East German intelligence service, Stasi, headquarter in the city. The around 70,000 protesters who brought down the government in 1989, avoided walking past the building as it was highly likely that they will be shot at from here.
Or you could visit the Grassi Museum – or just enjoy the city with its half a million souls.
When evening arrives, we can, for those who wish, meet for a small pre-theatre treat. And after that…
At least one good thing came out of the former GDR: the Gewandhaus concert hall, which rises in majestic brutality at the main square of the city. It is known for its excellent acoustics.
The building is third tier bird Phoenix. The first building was used as a concert hall in 1811. The premiere of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony took place here. Felix Mendelsohn was the driving force behind the establishment of the concert hall, the composer who rediscovered J.S. Bach, who had been forgotten for almost a century.
The Gewandhaus orchestra is among the finest in the world and here they will play one of the most famous symphonies ever written, Gustav Mahler’s 5th symphony. It will be our cultural highlight of the trip after a long and eventful week.
And for those who fancy a final post-theatre drink, I know just the right place.
Dorint, our Hotel in Leipzig
The cost of our trips are usually around DKK 13,000 per person or aproximately 1,750 euro. One of our aims for the week in Leipzig was to make it more affordable. Unfortunately, we have not succeeded in this. I blame the above events. After all, which ones should we skip?
However, we have chosen to go from a 5* to a 4* experience as far as the hotel is concerned, otherwise the price would have been exorbitant. And our focus is primarily on the cultural experiences. Hotel Dorint is a nice, cozy and convenient hotel close to the city center and with Felix Mendelsohn as neighbor. And there is a bottle of wine waiting for us all at the hotel’s expense.
We hope you have been thoroughly tempted by the above program. We hope to see you and we promise another extraordinary journey that lives up to our slogan. Once in a lifetime… every time.
And our Purpose is?
We want to create exclusive experiences – without excluding anyone.
Granted, our tours are not among the cheapest, but they are still accessible to most of those who walk in the footsteps of Hans Christian Andersen, the Danish poet who once said, ‘to travel is to live’.
The ‘trick’ is to be larger than small groups. We’re talking about around 40 people. Being many has its own dynamic. And a larger budget allows us to offer truly unique adventures, that surely will be beyond most of us if we acted on our own.
Our purpose is to tear us away from our day to day lives, to ensure that when you are back home again, you will ask yourself, ‘did I really experience what I think I experienced’?
What Exactly do you get for your 13,000 dkk? (aprox € 1,750)
- Seven nights at the 4* hotel Dorint, breakfast included.
- Tickets and entrances to all concerts and museums.
- 4 dinners, including the galla dinner at the Porsche factory.
- Bustransports throughout, including transport from Berlin airport (two departures too chose among).
- Wines and snacks at our own events.
The amount covers the stay and events during our days in Sachsen, Germany. It does not include the flight as this give our guests much more flexibility.