The parking catastrophe

If there’s one thing about Leipzig that annoys my dear husband Craig, it is the constant battle with parking. Leipzigers seem to park anywhere they please, without regard for others. I surmise that this is because parking tickets are so cheap, so the people risk the fees and angering other residence to park their cars in a place that is convenient only to them.

I’m taking about cars parked on sidewalks, cars parked in Craig’s assigned spot in the lot, but worst of all – the one that gets Craig’s blood boiling – cars parked in front of our entrance gate.

Recently, as Craig was coming back from hockey practice, a car was yet again parked in front of our entrance. Despite there being a sign stating no parking, this seems to happen about once or twice per week. It was late, and Craig was tired and angry.

ParkingProblem

There’s no possible way in!

Sign

How could it be more clear??? Translation: Keep clear, exit used day and night.

So Craig sat in his car, outside the entrance, and did what anyone would do in this situation and called the cops…the German-speaking cops.

Craig looked up the phone number for non-emergencies and gave them a call. The conversation went something like this:

Craig: “Hallo. Ich habe ein Problem. Jemand hat in meinem Parkplatz geparkt.” (Hello, I have a problem. Someone has parked in my space.)

Police officer: (Fast, incomprehensible German)

Craig, guessing at what to say next: “Ich wohne auf …” (I live …)

Police officer: “Weiderholen die Adresse bitte.” (Repeat the address please.)

Craig: “Ich wohne auf …” (I live …)

Police officer: “Bitte warten Sie ein Moment.” (Please wait a moment.)

Police officer #2: (Fast, incomprehensible German)

Craig: “Wie bitte?” (Come again, please?)

Police officer #2: (Fast, incomprehensible German)

Craig: “Es tut mir leid. Ich verstehe nicht. Meine Adresse ist …” (I’m sorry, I do not understand. My address is …)

Police officer #2: Lets out an exasperated sigh and then hangs up the phone!

In the end, since the call to police was unsuccessful, Craig had to wait 30 minutes outside the apartment until the inconsiderate ass finally returned to his car and moved it. Needless to say, when Craig got into the apartment, he was exhausted, frustrated, and harboring a new resentment for life in Germany.

The best of the Holy Land: Jerusalem

Jerusalem

My one regret about my trip to Israel: not spending more time in what may be the holiest of holy cities, Jerusalem. The city is a mix of the three major monotheistic religions with overwhelming old world charm. Whether you are religious or not, there is undeniably so much history and culture to absorb in the city, and I definitely plan to return for a second helping sometime in my life.

Unfortunately for us, the one day we had dedicated to exploring Jerusalem was cold, windy, and rainy (with bouts of hail as well), and we were severely under-dressed for the weather. Therefore my memories mostly consist of shivering, cursing, and trying to remember what my limbs feel like! It may be in the Middle East, but Israel does get cold! However, despite our unfortunate weather, Jerusalem still made a lasting impression on me.

 

Beautiful Markets

All around the city there are markets lined with colorful textiles and jewelry. Of course there are also plenty of kitschy tourist shops along the way, but I really enjoyed just walking these narrow pedestrian streets and feeling like I was in an old world market.

JerusalemMarkets

I wish I had more time to spend perusing these markets!

 

The Western Wall

This one is a bit more personal for me, as you know I converted to Judaism a year and a half ago. As the only remaining piece of the original Jewish temple, the Western Wall represents the holiest site in the Jewish religion. For me, visiting this location was a bit of a pilgrimage. Like the rest of the visitors, I made my way to the appropriate side of the wall (it is separated by gender) and patiently waited my turn to touch the wall and pray. As a skeptic, my expectations were low, but I swear, as soon as I touched that wall I was overcome with tears. Not painful tears, but overwhelmingly cathartic tears. It was a very powerful experience. I can’t say it will be the same for every person, or even every Jew, but for me it was completely revitalizing, like nothing I had ever experienced.

For non-believers or non-practicers, I encourage you to visit the wall, but urge you to do it respectfully. The wall is a very interesting place for people watching, especially if you are unfamiliar with Hasidic Jews, but take it easy with the pictures and remember that it isn’t a spectacle, it is a place of prayer. In fact, you shouldn’t take your camera up to the wall, and you absolutely should not take a selfie of you touching the wall. I’m not saying you shouldn’t take pictures at all (clearly I did), but respect the believers when you do so.

WesternWall

The Western Wall before the dome of the Al-Aqsa Mosque

 

The Holy Sepulchre Church

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed visiting the Church of the Holy Speulchre. The church is located at the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and is shared between 5 Christian denominations (6 if you include the Ethiopian sect that is right outside the church). The church itself is dark and dingy, probably from thousands of years of candle soot, but I think that added to the mysticism of the place. Within the church you see precious relics such as the stone on which Jesus’ burial preparation took place and the hole which is thought to be the location of his cross. I recommend visiting with a guide so you understand the significance of all of the items in this decorative and revered church.

HolyChurch

Thousands of crosses carved into the walls of the Holy Sepulchre Church

 

What I would have done differently

I had a fantastic time in Jerusalem, but if, nay WHEN, I go again, here’s what I’ll do (and I suggest you do):

  1. Bring a raincoat. I would have been far less miserable if I had only prepared for wet conditions. I’m not sure how often it rains there, but I think this is good travel advice wherever you are visiting.
  2. Spend at least 2 days in the city of Jerusalem. There is simply too much to see in a day. You could and should spend an entire day just getting lost in the markets.
  3. Tour the Muslim quarter. Going back I would definitely want to have a closer look inside the Muslim quarter and Temple Mount area.
  4. Celebrate a Sabbath meal with a local. We looked into opportunities to do this through Shabbat of a Lifetime, but ultimately chose not to. That’s my second regret.

And so this concludes my series on the Holy Land of Israel. Be sure to check out my other guides on Tel Aviv, The Dead Sea, The Golan Heights, and The Negev Desert. I leave you now with just one photo that captures Jerusalem and Israel perfectly – the silhouette of a Jewish man standing in the narrow streets of Jerusalem.

 

JerusalemMan

My favorite picture from the entire trip.


Tell me what you think. Have you ever been to Jerusalem before? I love to hear your comments!

 

When Legida hits close to home

For over a year now, a far-right political group originating in nearby Dresden have been organizing protests against immigration, Islam, and other policies that, in their view, cause detriment to the German people. The group is called PEGIDA (Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes, or “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West”). Though they started as a small group, their numbers steadily increased, at one point boasting over 20,000 participants at their weekly protests.

The protests spread beyond Dresden to neighboring cities in eastern Germany, including here in Leipzig. Starting even before the immigration crisis became a popular topic of conversation, the Leipzig PEGIDA branch, LEGIDA, was shutting down the city center every Monday night for protests. More recently, the protests have slowed to only the first Monday of every month. Luckily, most of the demonstrations have been relatively calm, with only a few arrests. However, there have been issues in the past with rioting and stone throwing both with this group and the counter-protests against them.

We have mostly been able to avoid the demonstrations by staying away from the city center on demonstration days, since we live 10 minutes away by foot. However, this past week’s demonstrations hit a bit too close to home for comfort. As we were commuting home, we saw hundreds of police cars gathered around neighboring Westplatz in preparation for the demonstrations. After we sat down to dinner, Craig glanced out our back windows and noticed some commotion. In the enclosed courtyard behind our apartment, there were dozens of German policemen in SWAT outfits corralling Legida protesters.

Legida

Legida protesters surrounded by Leipzig police in SWAT gear

While I was happy to see that the Leipzig police were prepared for the demonstrations and kept the protesters under control, it’s a scary thought that these protesters were right outside our window, especially knowing the damage they are capable of. It’s also upsetting to see these bigots shutting down large parts of the city and commandeering city resources on a regular basis. Thankfully the group is now only gathering once a month, which I’m sure relieves a large burden from the citizens and the city, but personally I’ll be happier and feel much safer when the number of monthly protests reaches zero.


Have the Legida protests interrupted your life in Leipzig? Share in the comments. 

The best of the Holy Land: The Golan Heights

Golan

 

In the north of Israel lies a fertile plot of land home to many farms and wineries known as the Golan Heights. Although it is particularly contentious, as this land was seized from the Syrians during the Six Day War and never returned (as many of Israel’s other conquests were), it is worth a visit to hear from the locals what this land means and understand the strategic, yet controversial, reasons Israel still lays claim over it.

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