Sachsen (Saxony)

This famed province is really the heart of eastern Germany, although Berliners would probably argue otherwise. The main center is the city of DRESDEN, which is currently undergoing massive restoration. As anyone who has read Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five knows, the city was absolutely flattened in a devastating fire bomb raid in 1945. And it hasn't recovered since, although the plan is to have everything rebuilt by 2006, which most tour books claim is the 800 year anniversary. Meanwhile, you'll have to put up with all the "phoenix from the ashes" commentary. (Actually, that's the likely timeframe of Dynamo's return to the Bundesliga. 800 years that is. Now that would be a real phoenix from the ashes.) The main reason to come is of course to avoid the tourists and head over to Rudolf-Harbig-Stadion and see Dynamo Dresden, one of the famed former GDR clubs. Also competing is the original club, Dresdner SC. Just southwest of the city is the so-called Sächsische Schweiz, (Saxon Switzerland). This is a nice tourist destination, although you can probably avoid getting dragged here by your wife if you claim that you want to take her to the real Switzerland instead. (OK, I know you're lying, but if you don't, you'll end up spending a weekend trotting around the countryside with not a soccer ball in site. If you can't avoid it, go during midweek since there are no scheduled league matches. You'll survive as long as you seek respite in a beergarden.)

East of Dresden is pretty much a soccer wasteland. The town of BAUTZEN is about 50 km east, but it is worth a visit if you haven't got enough of the Sorbian scene from Cottbus. The only real soccer club in the area seems to be FSV Hoyerswerda, which is about 35 km north of Bautzen.

About 50km west of Dresden, on the E63, is the city of CHEMNITZ, which if you have an older map will be called Karl-Marx-Stadt. An important tourist attraction is the massive bronze bust of Karl Marx at the corner of Straße der Nationen and Brückenstraße (formerly Karl-Marx-Allee). As a lasting symbol of the inevitablity of socialism is McDonald's across the street. Most tourguides hate Chemnitz, and suggest you escape as quickly as possible. This is a bit unfair. Actually, a wily entrepeneur might recognize Chemnitz as a potential goldmine by perhaps creating an anti-Disney, sort of like a Pink Floyd "The Wall" video and advertising it as some sort of "Commieland" theme park. (Hey, it's no more ludicrous than locating Euro-Disney in France...although one of the most amusing things is listening to French intellectuals argue about Mickey Mouse.) In any case, before watching Friedrich Engels march down "Proletarian-Straße, DDR", don't forget the reason you really stopped here: to check out the local club Chemnitzer FC.

Continuing south on the E62 for about 40km, we arrive at the city of ZWICKAU, which was made famous by the Trabi, the GDR version of the VW. I would guess that this is a greater contributor to Waldsterben (dying forests) than all the smokestacks in eastern Germany combined. There is a car museum that is probably worth checking out, and verify that the design never changed. (Must have been a bummer to be a design engineer. "Hey boss, here's my new design for next year's Trabi." "Err, no thanks, we'll keep the old one.") These days, the city is trying to live down the Trabant and concentrate on the legacy of Richard Schumann. Fat chance. Besides, Schumann went insane. Best thing to do is check out the local team FSV Zwickau, which used to be run by the auto company that built the Trabi. (No wonder they never won anything.)

Heading down the Autobahn E62 about 45 km from Zwickau, we come to the town of PLAUEN, which is the center of the Vogtland, a popular tourist region known for handcrafted musical instruments and some spas. Might be an ideal place to relax between soccer matches. The local club, VFC Plauen, has had a long history.

The city of LEIPZIG is Sachsen's largest city, and rival to Dresden. That should make for some decent soccer derbies. Aside from it's large university, it's known as the Messe Stadt. (Seems like a crappy thing to say until you realize that "messe" is not the German spelling of "messy".) The local soccer scene is well developed, with the leading club the tradtional VfB Leipzig, and it's rival Sachsen Leipzig is not far behind.

And many thanks to Stefan Belger for some additional words on Leipzig:

"...It's the short shrift my home town Leipzig has got, even more unbearable given the huge coverage for that other place the name of which I will not mention. To remedy this, please allow me to add my own little version of a recent portrait of Leipzig, which as we know "is a little Paris and educates its people" (see, Goethe never even mentioned any so called Saxon capital!!!) Feel free to do with that what you may...

Should you ask yourself how I bumped into your web site in the first place - believe it or not: A colleague at work told me about his service time at the "Fulda Gap", of which I, being an Ossie, had never heard before...

And here it goes, my Leipzig travel-eulogy:

Leipzig, Saxony's largest city and the natural archenemy of the capital Dresden, used to be famous for it's Messe (international trade fair - not as messy as one may think) and was dubbed the secret capital of the GDR. Having played a key part in bringing down the wall in the fall of 1989, over the following years Leipzigers started to wonder why they had bothered in the first place. Somehow, the opening spirited away their former clout in world trade, publishing and engineering to places like Hannover, Frankfurt and Korea, resp. Used to keeping up appearances, they busied themselves to transform Europe's grandest railway station into a sleek shopping mall with the occasional bullet train visiting, and invested in a herd of gaudily livered streetcars with names like Daniel Gottlob Moritz Schreber, custom-built of course - nothing less would do. Somebody had to foot the bills eventually, and so they recently lured potential powerhouses Porsche and BMW to their environs. How much the city paid for that is a closely guarded secret, anyway it must have been more than co-applicants like Schwerin (Mecklenburg) or Kolin (Czech Republic) were able to shelve out, places where the luxury mechanics might have saved a couple of communities from immediate starvation. Soccer-wise there are VfB Leipzig and Sachsen Leipzig, which both had their periods in the past but are currently struggling to keep up of-and-on appearances in the Bundesliga. (Editor note: Actually Oberliga. Perhaps he remembers the old days when the Oberliga was the top flight. VfB did have a rather poor single appearance in the Bundesliga) If Leipzig is holding on to anything besides life style, it's the musical tradition of J. S. Bach fame whose superb boys' choir is still alive and singing at St Thomas's. If you really want to be with it try to be there in late May when the choirboys are playing their counterparts of Dresden's Kreuzchor (soccer, that is). Afterwards heal thyself with the seven or so local brews. (Good advice! -editor)

(c) Abseits Guide to Germany :