Leipzig to Zeitz

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Elsterradweg south of Pegau; I’ve never seen so much wild garlic in one place

The Elster cycle path takes you south out of Leipzig, past former open-cast coal mines (Braunkohl – lignite coal) which are slowly being flooded to create new landscapes. Birds, wild flowers and saplings are colonising the ground and it’s interesting to see how this is being done, but it’s still a charmless place

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until you stop to wonder what it was like before. I recall from my previous visit to Leipzig looking south from one of the upper floors of a hotel block and marvelling at how far I could see. I doubt that I would have seen very far at all 30 years ago. It wasn’t just the mining that polluted the air but also the burning of the mined coal. Again, I am struck by the long-term strategic planning of the German authorities and their willingness to think and spend big to make improvements.

After that, the route turned into a bucolic idyll through river meadows and rows of willows. I finally saw some deer

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– but they were in an enclosure (Wildgehege) – and a woodpecker in an unusual spot.

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Dereliction and dilapidation are more noticeable in this part of the world. Town-defining industries did not always survive reunification, and their closure often led to drastic depopulation. So whereas many buildings have been handsomely restored, others have been left to rot.

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Pegau

Zeitz is a prime example. The only other time I have been here I stayed in a deserted central hotel which – for all its newly painted exterior – would have suited the Munsters. Zeitz once produced prams, pianos and chemicals, and the fine buildings from the early 20th century attest to its prosperity. Nowadays – as my nose confirms – only a sugar factory remains. I took far too many photographs, but there is something picturesque about a certain degree of decay.

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Former Kinderwagen factory, dated 1908. The ground floor façade is very elegant.

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Empty library and other buildings on the main road through Zeitz

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Detail from the library’s oriel window

And some Jugendstil houses in Otto-Schlag-Straße:

Parkstraße was wonderful: a whole row of related Jugendstil houses which had largely been restored:

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I was carried away by the window patterns on both the restored and unrestored houses:

Perhaps – to be fair to those promoting Zeitz tourism – I should include some more crowd-pleasing photos:

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Schloss Moritz

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Former cinema, now a theatre

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Restored Jugendstil building

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And finally . . . how to make the most of a grot spot.

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