Markets and History and Concerts, Oh My!
Updated: Dec 19, 2022
Torgau and Leipzig
Saturday morning I caught a train to the city of Torgau on the Elbe River. The old part of the city is filled with renaissance style architecture. It has been the site of numerous historically significant events over the centuries. In the 16th century Johan Friedrich established a residence at the castle of Hartenfels (hard rock), and he had connections with Martin Luther and the other Reformers. Some of the things that happened are the building of the Schloßkapelle (castle chapel), the first protestant church (1544), designed to Luther’s concepts including a simple altar and rectangular shape. The first church choir was established here as well, and, this is also the place where Luther’s wife, Katharina passed away.
In more recent history, Torgau is the place where Soviet and American troops met and shook hands on the Elbe Bridge on April 25, 1945, an important event near the end of World War II in the European theater. Germany’s largest prisoner of war camp was also located here.
Upon returning to Leipzig it was time for another concert: the Christmas Oratorio by J.S. Bach. Although not as well known in the United States, there are performances throughout Germany during Advent. This particular performance was by the Bach Choir and Bach orchestra and took place at the Nikolaikirche, The Nikolaikirche played an important role in the “Peaceful Revolution” of 1989, as it became the site of weekly “Monday Demonstrations” which grew and spread to other cities around East Germany.
One banner hanging on the outside of the Nikolaikirche states that “’22 is not ’89 – we don’t live in a dictatorship” and serves as a resounding statement against the current trend on the rise of far right demonstrations against the government.
After the performance it was time to take a stroll around the central part of Leipzig and large Christmas market. The city was PACKED – you can certainly tell people are ready to celebrate the season after not having the markets the past two years due to the pandemic.
See some selected photos below.
Even though it felt like I had to get up before the chickens to make my train, I spent a wonderful Sunday in Dresden, the city famous for its “300 Meters of Baroque” architecture along the Elbe River. Dresden also claims to have the oldest Christmas market in Germany – this year being the 588th installment of this beloved tradition, called the “Strietzelmarkt”.
It was also frigid – but sunny – which meant the sunlight was spectacular against Dresden’s beautiful historical buildings, which was the one time residence of the Saxon royalty. The first concert of the day was in the beautiful Semper Oper, where the Dresden Staatskapelle performed at 11am. The opera house is stunning both inside and out and the performance was tremendous.
After the concert it was time to get serious about spending some time at the Strietzelmarkt. This was my first visit to the market, and it exceeded my expectations. Not only were there lots of stands with the well-known wooden carvings, pyramids, smokers, and nutcrackers that are handcrafted in this part of the country (no need to worry about cheap, mostly Chinese imitation products here!), but there were also stands showcasing delicious food and drink, many of which are local specialties (think Dresden stollen).
Part of what makes the market special is that every stand is uniquely decorated, many of them with animations. The atmosphere is difficult to describe, but I’d have to say it’s almost “cozy” despite all the people.
Following a tour of the stands and grabbing a meal, it was time for the second concert of the day – the Christmas concert by the world-famous boys choir, the Kreuzchor. The Kreuzchor has been in existence for over 800 years and the concert was excellent. Afterward it was time to stroll to the train station for the return trip to Leipzig.
Photos: Torgau and Leipzig
Row 1: Leipzig market; Castle chapel in Hartenfels in Torgau; memorial of Soviet and US troops meting in 1945
Row 2: Nikolaikirche before concert; Torgau; banner on Nikolaikirche
Row 1: Strietzelmarkt stand; Strietzelmark; Semper Oper
Row 2: Frauenkirche and Luther statue; Zwinger
Row 3: Dresden baroque skyline