German lessons

Letter from German teacher Gundi

Gundi Tophinke

Hallo, meine Lieben,

after a wild odyssey, fighting wind and weather, dangerous animals (ticks), the malevolent Lyme disease and Corona,  I finally decided it was time for a holiday and took up an invitation to Leipzig. A very good choice. Leipzig is a city with a relaxing ambience.  When you arrive at the main station, you just cross one main road and find yourself  in the pedestrian-friendly centre where most cars are banned.  An international crowd strolls through the narrow streets lined with restaurant tables and ice-cream parlours. You hear a lot of Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Arabic, Turkish and Spanish spoken. Leipzig University is popular with students from all over the world. The South-Americans are the noisiest of the lot. The Germans are hardly audible but  stand out for consuming the hugest cups of gelato and whipped cream you have ever seen. 

What makes Leipzig so pleasant to live in is the fact that there is only one high-rise building near the station. Otherwise, the streets are lined with 4-storey buildings featuring baroque, neo-classical or art nouveau facades. The regularity and artistry of the stone masonry calms the senses. Leipzig owes its beauty to the decision (and cunning!) of its former king, Augustus the Strong (1670 – 1733). Besides riding, fencing, drinking and women he also loved architecture and wanted to build a harmonious city centre with buildings no more than 4 storeys high. But even then, developers were notorious for their intrigues and finding of loop-holes. So Augustus, after setting the 4-storey rule, did not threaten with punishment should it be violated. Instead, he promised the developers: if you obey the rules, you will NEVER have to pay taxes any more. It worked magic.

Fortunately, the architectural style of the communist era left little imprint on the city centre. Our tourist guide told us of one wall on which used to be written, in huge letters: “Der Sozialismus siegt!” ( Socialism is victorious! ) The people of Leipzig slightly changed the pronunciation to “Der Sozialismus siecht!” (Socialism is diseased). No-one could be arrested for the ideological insult, as in many North-German dialects the g is slurred to ch.

I had been invited by a millennial, a generation which I totally fail to understand and simultaneously admire greatly. They must be the cleanest-living generation since the First Fall in the Garden of Eden. My young friend  neither drinks  nor smokes. All his hobbies are health-related: he goes jogging, bouldering and in-line skating. His work ethic is awesome. He gets up at 6 am, leaves the house at 7 am, works until 6 pm, comes home and relaxes with a computer game, cooks dinner, then resumes work to prepare for the next day because his dead-lines are so unrealistic they cannot be met in the given time. He works on a project to reduce aeroplane-emissions. When I asked him how he could do that without ever having flown a plane he said: I did an engineering degree after my IT-degree. So he completed two study courses, learnt German and English – all to sit in front of a computer 10 hours a day. I really don’t know whether to laugh or cry. 

I left Leipzig for my usual hide-away by  a Bavarian lake. Finally, I have recovered my strength and gathered enough energy to resume working again. I will send you a report of my stay in the Franconian Lake District in due course.

For now, from Nürnberg,

with love,

Gundi

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