This weekend I went with my good friend Heather on a trip to Leipzig, Sachsen’s second-largest city, about an hour from Dresden. After a late start, we got into the city around one in the afternoon, and began being tourists. We wandered around the Nikolai Church, saw Auerbach’s Cellar (made famous in Goethe’s play Faust), and went to the market place (where it was market day and I wanted to buy up all the fresh fruit and veggies I saw). The highlights, however, involved two of my past-times: music and food. The first was that Leipzig is where J.S. Bach worked in the Thomaskirche for 25-odd years. The Thomanerchor, the still-active boy’s choir, is world famous and as we walked into the church we discovered that they were rehearsing. So we got to listen to their rehearsal for a good twenty minutes. It was beautiful to hear such an amazing choir sing Bach’s music and stand right next to his grave.
The second highlight is perhaps more appropriate for this blog. Leipzig has a large coffee scene and is home to one of Europe’s oldest coffee houses, “Zum Arabischen Coffe Baum” (transl: “To the Arabic Coffee Tree”). Ever since working in a coffeehouse and writing a term paper on Viennese coffeehouses at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries I have been fascinated and in love with the café scene. Heather, also being a fan of literature and coffee, was one hundred percent behind me and so we made our way to the café. When we arrived, the first thing we found was a case full of the various cakes and tarts they were offering that day. We chose which ones we wanted before even having found the café room (there were several different venues in the building, including a couple restaurants). We finally found the café, on the second floor of the building, and it was packed. There was an Arabic café room, a Viennese room, and a French room. We sat down at a table in the French room that had just cleared, and as we did so a group of two retired couples joined us, as there was no other table free. So we were six people around a teeny table.
The Kaffee und Kuchen arrived and filled up our small table completely. Needless to say, both were delicious. My pear cake was topped with caramel and had a layer of chocolate cake in the middle and was the perfect moisture and fluffiness a pear cake, or any cake, should have. The coffee was, to sum it up in one word, simplydivine. (I know, I cheated!)
At first Heather and I had our conversation and the two couples had theirs, but the more time we spent together at the table, the more we began being intrigued by each other. By the time we all left the café, Heather and I had been treated to our fabulous coffee and cakes by one of the couples, and were given an address and invitation to stay with the other couple in their home in Jena, a couple of hours from Leipzig. We were flying higher than a kite as we stepped back out into the drizzly afternoon and headed back toward the Thomaskirche in the gathering dusk for an organ concert. And as if that experience wasn’t enough, as we rounded the church towards the entrance, we heard, then saw, a violist playing a movement from one of Bach’s cello sonatas. It turned out to be one of our Fulbright friends who supplements his stipend, and makes many interesting friends, by playing on the weekends by the church. His music was beautiful and it was wonderful to see how the various Fulbrighters have started to find their own niches in Germany.
One of the men at the café had said not to forget our experience at the café, not only because he was very impressed to meet such “intelligent and open-minded American women,” but because it’s moments and experiences like this that can change your life. I fully agree with him and know that this afternoon is an afternoon I will treasure always.
Zum Coffe Baum is located on Kleine Fleischergasse 4, 04109 Leipzig. Tel. : (0341) 96 100 60/61 http://www.coffe-baum.de/