There are some cities that have something special, intangible but it is apparent the moment you enter them. They are a live and have a pulse. Now I am not sure if I will ever be a city dweller, but these cities make me ponder the thought. They draw me in an make me want to visit them again and again. For me this is also a rare occurrence that a city is so gravitating, but my trip over the weekend to Leipzig proved to be one of those occasions.
Via an invitation from Bike Department Ost, my auto found itself pointed to the old eastern part of Germany. I am old enough to remember things like the end of the cold war, and the wall coming down, but it is so far removed from even my memory, that was until along the Autobahn I passed a sign marking the old East-West border. It wasn't until I arrived in Leipzig that the difference between East and West started to be revealed.
First off, Leipzig is a beautiful city, not like Rome or Vienna, but in a very historic and noble way. Monuments to its storied past dominate the landscape, icons of good and hard times past. After landing at BDO, hunger drove me out into the street to find some my midday meal. The first thing I noticed about the people on the street, they all seemed content, almost happy. They were buzzing around on bikes, or sitting on benches talking and their was even a festive uprising around some bohemian style music pouring good vibes out onto the street. Something you would expect in Amsterdam with its many street performances and fests.
My liason from BDO, Gerolf was more than hospitable helping me to secure accommodations and arranging a group ride from the shop. There were a few familiar acquaintences Nikita and David along with some fresh faces. on the menu was a tasty plate of Urban singletrack, country roads, some seriously deteoriated back streets and fun riding parks. Besides an abundance of broken glass that riddled almost everywhere we rode (and accounted for two flats cutting down tires and ending my ride slightly prematurely), the were many more cool symbols of Leipzig's history. We rode one of the two hills in Leizig which Nikita explained was a trash mound from the WW2!
Nikita and Gerolf had many stories and background information that they shared readily with us along the ride, very interesting sidenotes to a very fun riding experience. Another one of these antidotes that stood out was the Hafen, a Nazi project that was started but never finished. Basically a large canal shadowed by very large concrete skeletons of three industrial buildings, mere shadows of a forgotten past. There were several burned out remenents of the darkened past, covered in the colorful graphitti of todays challenging urban culture.
After the ride we all had a quick drink together mingeling and making plans for the evening. David and I headed over to Rueckenwind, another very cool shop in Leipzig. If I were ever to own a shop, it would be something like the Rueckenwind, I fell in love with this shop. Ronny, the owner, is a kindred soul, open and passionate about cycling. His shop reflects his warm personality and invites customers in to a sweet bike shop. His focus is urban transport, fixies (although he loathes them) commuters and other unrban transport dominate the showroom in a minimalistic fashion. Not too many bikes to be overwhelming, but enough to wet the pallet and give the customer a taste of what is possible.
David had invited me there for a purpose, Maik whom I had met at SiS was getting new ride, a Ti Deluxe. So we did what I love to do, talk about bikes and get Maik set up. Being a similar stature as I, Maik took a quick spin on my Ti Deluxe and we were to base his dream ride off this bike. We talked some more, tried out my homemade schnapps, did a fitting and had a blast. I did not want to leave. This is what selling bikes should be about, forming a good relationship to your customer, formulating their bike on their desires in an informal, relaxed atmosphere. There was not a better setting than the Rueckenwind to facilitate this process...
Afterwards we hooked up with Gerolf and others at a cool little local hangout for some burgers and beer, good times.
The next day was the demo day on an old Eastern-block velodrome. Pretty cool stuff. David said it best when I mentioned him I thought it was cool to think of all of the historic races and events that must have taken place on the old banked oval as we watched some mtb and bmx dirt jumpers drop down the track and huck tricks. His response was "it is like the geist (meaning ghosts, but also soul) is still speaking to us."
It certainly was.
The demo day was a great for us, our bikes were constantly gone, and in high demand. The best parts was seeing their faces when they returned with ear-to-ear smiles. When the bikes were not out, people would study their details, fascinating over the craftsmanship and perfection. Once again conversations revolved around human-powered two-wheeled machines, and the lifestyle around it. Unfortunately for me I had to pack up fairly quickly at the end of the day to drive to our new home in Hopfen am See to meet my brother-in-law to start setting things up.
We will surely take part again next year, and stick around a little more to soak an incredible city in, and experience more the past and present culture.
(some pics will follow...)