This summer, Ohio University students and faculty celebrated the 20th Anniversary of a partnership with Leipzig University in Germany. As a part of the celebration, 16 students taking part in the travel writing program in Leipzig this summer completed this, and number of other stories.
The Crossroads of Europe, Leipzig, Germany: A documentary in post-production
2012 marks the 20th anniversary of an association between Ohio University Scripps School and University of Leipzig located in Leipzig, Germany. 1992 saw the reopening of the U.S. Consulate office in Leipzig and the challenging years of reunification. The twenty years since were active with exchange students and programs between the universities. The theme this year was "Traveling the Crossroads of Europe." I joined the group as a PhD student in journalism, and a documentary filmmaker. My goal while in Leipzig was to shoot a documentary on the history of travel to the area in the years after the wall came down. My most recent documentary projects have been historical projects that took many weeks and months doing archival research alone. I wanted to shoot a project fast and without a great deal of advance preparation. Along with my classmate Kerry Kubilius, we sought out to find a story and people to tell it with just a camera and a laptop.
The first important contact we made was Steffi Gretschel, Head of International PR & Tourism of the Leipzig Tourism and Marketing Group. She not only coveys the history and spirit of Leipzig (as seen in the attached video), but provided contact information for interview subjects we wanted to include along with press credentials to shoot the landmarks of the city.
Join me as we travel to 1989 to trace the path of travel from the period of the GDR, or German Democratic Republic controlled era to the present time when Leipzig is a popular destination for international travelers. Leipzig is at the crossroads of two trade routes which established it as a major hub for European culture. As a city it dates back over 1,000 years. It is known to be an artistic community, home to Johann Sebastian Bach, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Wagner. It now has many museums in their honor along with those that celebrate art and history. Today Leipzig is home to a thriving university culture mixed with parks and green spaces.
This rich cultural history has a pattern of being interrupted by war, crippling its potential for international awareness of its rich society. Two world wars and the stifling cold war left East Germany in a totalitarian society controlled by the renowned Stasi, East Germany's secret police governed by the SED or the Socialist Unity Party of Germany. The end result being a country that functioned as a subtly controlled state with restricted travel coming or going, with the only exception being for the purpose of the trade fairs. It was in Leipzig that the Peaceful Revolution centered around St. Nicholai Church became a profound event that was an indicator of what was to come when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. Join me as we begin our story with the Peaceful Revolution and explore the discovery of Leipzig's rich culture and beautiful architecture by international travelers through the following decades.