It’s official folks: we’re in the endgame. With just a few days left in Germany, my peers and I are feeling a variety of emotions regarding our studies, the trip, and thoughts of home. There’s much to reflect on from our adventures here in Leipzig, but I wanted this post to focus on one more interesting feature from our program before a final reflection. Without further ado, it’s time to investigate our cultural excursions to the German cities of Erfurt and Dresden.
One of the many benefits of studying abroad is the opportunities to explore areas outside of the immediate host location. When I studied abroad in Ireland, this took the form of several group hikes in natural parks and other areas outside of Derry; in Leipzig, we’re fortunate that our program coordinators planned two day-trips for further cultural immersion and learning outside of Leipzig. Though we spent less than a day in each city, these two trips were defining parts of the program and deserve discussion of their own merit!
Erfurt is located approximately two hours west of Leipzig by bus and is the capital of Thuringia, the neighboring state to Saxony. It is one of Germany’s best preserved medieval cities, for only 9% of the original buildings were destroyed in allied bombings during World War II. As such, one can find a vibrant collection of old structures, castles, and churches in exploring the city center and surrounding areas. We embarked on a guided group tour, or Stadtführung, before getting several hours of free time to explore. Some of the most notable sights seen in Erfurt include the Dom St. Marien and the Krämerbrücke. The Dom towers above downtown Erfurt and is internationally known for its large medieval church bell (biggest in the world!) The Krämerbrücke, meaning “merchant’s bridge,“ also attracts worldwide fame, as it is one of the oldest European bridges that supports over 30 wooden houses.
Dresden was a short 45 minute ride on the German railway from Leipzig and is the capital of Saxony. We had relatively less time to explore the city than Erfurt but nevertheless made good use of our time. After a quick guided tour and delicious lunch, our group visited a variety of historical sites and locations around the city such as the Deutsche Hygiene-Museum, Frauenkirche, Zwinger Palace, and the city’s large Neumarkt. I was particularly moved by the story of Dresden’s Frauenkirche and its unique significance to the city. Originally a Catholic church, the building was converted to serve the needs of a Lutheran congregation in the 18th century. This updated Frauenkirche was unfortunately destroyed, along with many other famous buildings, during the firebombing of Dresden in World War II. Its ruins were left untouched for almost 50 years after the war and efforts to rebuild the structure only began in 1994 after the reunification of Germany. The modern Frauenkirche seen today was completed in 2005 and still contains pieces of the old firebombed building as seen below.
Learning about the realities of living in other German cities like Dresden and Erfurt were interesting in isolation, but the true benefit of exploring these cities lies in our gradual appreciation of German culture as a whole. While we’ve spent plenty of time experiencing the culture of Leipzig, travelling to other parts of the country helps build a well-rounded appreciation of German life and history. Despite all that’s been done, there is still so much left to do! We’re studying abroad in Leipzig, but the true meaning of studying in Eastern Germany, let alone Germany as a whole, has yet to be realized. And that’s the beautiful thing about studying abroad: it challenges us to expand our views and learn even more about our host location, country, and region of the world.