Bach and shopping in Leipzig

The world shops in Leipzig, the city where Bach lived and worked as an adult. Professional buyers crowd the shining new Trade Fair Center; amateurs browse the downtown boutiques. Leipzig's shops line the passages under the houses, galleries with stamped copper ceilings, and courtyards with tiled art-deco walls.

Leipzig has been a trading city since 1125 when it was founded at the crossing of Europe's two principal trade routes, the north-south Imperial Road and the east-west Royal Road.

In the 1890s, when the town could hardly handle the volume of goods, it switched to sample fairs, where sellers would bring only examples of their wares for buyers to check out.

The city center soon filled with trading houses to exhibit the samples. They had entrances on one street and exits on another, allowing horse-drawn wagons to unload and leave without turning.

When trade outgrew the houses and moved out of the city, the passages were spruced up. The finest is the Mdlerpassage (in Grimmaische Strasse), an elegant promenade for centuries.

The architecture of the city is richly varied. Look around the market for styles from the Renaissance City Hall to Classical and Art Nouveau houses.

More gems lie in the curving streets around the market, such as Germany's oldest coffee house, Zum Arabischen Coffe Baum. You can even sit at the table where Robert Schumann and his friends met between 1833 and 1844.

But in Bach Year 2000 the focus will be on the Thomaskirche, where Bach worked for 27 years and where he is buried. Try to visit it on Friday and Saturday nights when the Thomaner Choir (once led by Bach) sings.

The St. Thomas School, where Bach lived, is gone. But there is a small museum in nearby Bose Haus that belonged to his friends. Drop in, but save your time for the Museum of Musical Instruments in the Grassi Museum.

End with the fascinating Nikolaikirche, Leipzig's oldest church. Built in 1165, the merchants kept renovating and remodeling it whenever they had money to show off.

It now has a Roman entrance, Gothic exterior, and an early Classical interior from 1797. The capitals of the columns form green palm leaves for a light, lively effect.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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