A long day of museums today. We blast through the museum of modern art, which has some really good 20th century German material (including a lot by Leiberman and the local boy Max Klinger, who we first discovered at the surrealist exhibition in Berlin. Leipzig even duplicates his surrealistic series of prints about a glove). There are some interesting contemporary pieces as well. After an enjoyable few hours we break for lunch (a pay-by-weight (not all you can eat, as the sign misleading says) buffet at the local department store, which is surprisingly good, wander the town some more (still not tired of this) and visit the Contemporary History museum, which tells the story of East Germany. It’s a free musuem, and really impressive, lots of interesting artefacts, rooms set up like an old East German apartment, lots of video and so on – great scenes of people crossing the Berlin Wall, greeted by cheering Westerners: I loved the guy offering (presumably exotic to the Easterners) fruit to drivers, and the woman who did a little dance as she crossed the border, and the guards futilely trying to impose order. Again, there’s not much in English but it’s free and still worth seeing.
As an awesome bonus there was an exhibition on science-fiction in Germany, which had books and video, including some cool clips from familiar Western shows, and unknown eastern counterparts. There’s a brilliant set of videos that does a shot-by-shot comparison of scenes from Kubrick’s 2001 next to scenes from an East German copy, released a few years later. (They’re surprisingly good technically, considering how advanced 2001 was).
At this point Rhonda is tired enough to want a break. I have just enough energy to stroll through the Bach museum, which has excellent text on his life (though not so much his works) and family. There’s plenty of audio of various Bach works, and a nice interactive demonstration of period instruments – audio of pieces played using those instruments, you can press on a picture of instrument and it will play louder, enabling you to hear clearly how it sounded. On the way back a band is doing bad things to Johnny Cash songs in the market.
I rejoined Rhonda and we went out for a meal at a quite wonderful little cafe/restaurant, all low lighting and dark wood panels, guys playing cards in the corner with their pints). I had delicious schnitzel topped with ham, cheese and onions (it came with a salad, therefore it was healthy). Rhonda had a nice pasta dish. The venue looked quite interesting, they had club nights most nights of the week, including electronica and hiphop (a night called Best Coast that actually stole the Best Coast logo (as in the indie pop band Best Coast) and advertised as ‘black music’ – which seems like strange wording to me but seems to be standard in Germany). The place didn’t seem like it would be a great venue for clubbing, but I guess they push the tables back and people get by.
We walked down a bit further to a venue I’d read about called Flower Power. You had to push back huge heavy curtains just to find the door, which was shut. Not promising. When we finally got it open we were in a dark space, with no other people around other than the barman and his friend. A big old venue and we were literally the only ones there – this is about 830pm (on a Tuesday, but still). Old style rock is playing, some early Queen guitar wank followed by Blondie, but mostly your basic rock). We order beers and discover, to my joy, that the place has pinball, good old Addams Family. Joy disappears when I realise that it’s the worst-maintained table I’ve played in a while – one bumper sticks and the machine takes an age to recognise when a ball is out of play – enough time that you don’t get a saved ball if you lose it early. This makes me sad – anyone want to sell me a decent pinball machine?
We leave after a couple of drinks just as the place starts to fill up. I want to check out NaTo, which is nothing to do with NATO but is short for National Front (“noting to do with the British party of the same name” they hasten to note on their website). It’s an underground arts collective that has been going since the 60s and puts on film, art and music from all over the place (except the US or UK). Today though nothing is on and the bar is full of hipsters. We decide we want a seat, but when we can’t find one at the sports bar either (showing Champions League action) we decide to head home.