OK first post! I’ve chosen Leipzig as it had been a city I’d wanted to visit for a few weeks – ever since I’d heard in Frankfurt how it was like the Berlin of 10 years ago (as in before it was completely touristy and hipstery). But as I arrived early on Sunday, I immediately felt as though I’d come a lot further east than I had – not only because it was freezing (there was still snow and ice lying around), but also from the architecture. As you can see in the photos, it’s really orthodox and Gothic – clearly part of the old East Germany and retaining a lot of its influences. And it didn’t disappoint. I checked into the Five Elements Hostel (formerly Say Cheese Hostel), as previously I’d stayed in the one in Frankfurt, where it was really informal, laid-back and friendly. And I found the same here – as you pass through reception you can hear the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Rage Against the Machine or the Pulp Fiction soundtrack – and far louder than most other places!
The first morning I explored nearby the hostel, where the narrow streets led onto the traditional market square (Markt). I found the layout pretty odd – even compared to other European cities. Having a complex layout of old lanes and alleys, you sometimes need to go off the street and into other areas before you find the building you’re looking for. Anyway, that morning saw the first proper sunshine in a few weeks. After a bit more sightseeing, like the Nikolaikirche, St. Thomas Church and the memorial to Bach, I visited the Leipzig Historical Museum which was right on the Markt square (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig, Altes Rathaus). And again I was impressed. Not only does Leipzig have a load of history from major European wars (like Thirty Years’ War, Battle of the Nations & Seven Years’ War), World War II and the former DDR (East Germany), but also arts and music (such as Bach, Wagner & Goethe). So really, if you have the time you can easily spend a good 3-4 hours there. Only thing was though, as I visited not everything had descriptions in English, though most had basic outlines.
After a bit more sightseeing, I returned to the hostel. Like the one back in Frankfurt, they’re forever laying on events, which always makes it easier to meet and have a laugh with other guests (on the Monday they had a cocktail tasting and Tuesday a Crepes night).
Tools & Tips
Accommodation cost: 11€/night! Which got me:
- Bed in a 4-bed room, sharing with just three other people (Mexican, French and English, good chat!)
- Room with own bathroom
- Buffet breakfast each morning (and it’s on until 11am!)
- 24-hour tea & coffee, guest kitchen to cook your own things
Which is obviously great if you’re a stingy Scottish person like me (I promise I’m not that entirely – though internationals joked about it a lot during my time here). But seriously, all for about £10/night – almost exactly what I’m paying for rent in Wiesbaden, and probably less what I would back in Glasgow. As:
- I booked last minute. The room had “nur auf Anfrage” meaning only on request. So quick booking and waiting for them to get back to me did the trick, but of course this doesn’t always work.
- I got a 10% discount from a previous stay in their Frankfurt hostel, though it can be used all over Germany (see below).
- I booked 3 nights as I always like to (also gets free breakfast!). And as many other hostels, the longer your stay, the lower cost per night.
[Note: If travelling for an extended period, it’s always good to stay in a place at least three nights. Not only do I believe it helps get the proper ‘feel’ of a place (though I know it isn’t always possible), I’ve found when staying for two nights, you have the depressing “have to check out first thing tomorrow” after the first night, which is often after a long journey. As for one, you’ll feel as if you’ve barely touched your bed.]
- Flixbus – Germany has many coach links to destinations all over Europe, but I’ve used this so many times over the past year. All have air-conditioning & Wi-Fi while eco-friendly and comfortable enough to get a bit of sleep in. Just book online and board with a simple QR code. If you check their route map, you’ll see they have hundreds of stops in Germany. Like its public transport network, it’s really well organised and co-ordinated. Possibly to the extent there’s no need to hire a car.
- Backpacker Network – Independent Hostels of Germany – Of course based in Germany, but have seen in hostels discounts for many other destinations as far off as Slovakia, Serbia and Israel.
- Famous Hostels – Another major network of top hostels, covering all of Europe.
- Five Elements Hostel – In Frankfurt & Leipzig. As I said, I’ve now used both, really chilled, loads of events & easy to meet people from all over the world – often doing the exact same thing as you.
- Get outside straight after breakfast – it not only clears your head and gets fresh air, but lets you see what a city’s like first thing in the morning. Sometimes quite different. Also prevents hanging around and wondering what to do first.
- Seems I’m losing my charming Scottish accent – not only have I frequently been speaking German, any English has been mainly to internationals. Suppose I can at least be understood better now, when I first arrived in Germany this was a nightmare.