Leipzig – it’s a trendy new place to visit in Germany and it has been making a lot of noise in footballing circles these past couple of years.
Neil Fredrik Jensen paid a vist to the east German city and saw the new kids on the Bundesliga block – Red Bull Leipzig.
Leipzig – Germany boom town
The integration of the old East Germany was a social and economic challenge for Germany. Leipzig, for example, was seen as a crumbling city in Saxony. In fact, just before the wall fell, a TV documentary, concerned about the state of the place, asked, “Is there hope for Leipzig?”.
There clearly was, because Leipzig made a comeback from the grim post-communist period when jobs rapidly disappeared from the city. It is now Germany’s latest boom town and is the “creative capital” – a title that invariably attracts some scepticism when any city is seen as the fashion, media and communication hub. There’s a lot of talk about how great the city now is, how “liveable” it has become, which has led to cynics giving it the label, “Hypezig”. The city’s birthrate has gone up significantly since the 1990s.
Visit Leipzig, though, and you will see it is certainly a vibrant place, with all the classic German characteristics of being well-run with an infrastructure that actually works. But don’t call it “the new Berlin”, the locals don’t like that too much, they like to think they can stand on their own two feet. Inevitably, it will always be associated with Berlin, given its proximity and hint of edginess, but Leipzig is a city of 600,000 and has a lot of catching-up still to do.
It’s a good value-for-money place. Everything seems cheaper than other German cities like Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich – at the moment.
See Red Bull Leipzig vs Augsburg, February 9, 2018: 2 nights in a 3* Leipzig hotel (incl. breakfast) in double room and match ticket (excl. flights): from £222 pp.
Rise of Red Bull Leipzig
The rise of RB Leipzig, with its controversial motives and corporate backing from the soft drinks giant, has been welcomed by the young and old alike in Leipzig. RB Leipzig are attracting crowds of over 40,000 to the arena, a 40% rise on 2015-16 when the club was in Bundesliga 2. The second placed finish in the Bundesliga in 2017 has only heightened demand for tickets.
Some RB fans freely admit that the attraction of top-class football, in a terrific stadium, is an irresistible proposition. Steffen, for example, was a Bayern Munich fan and switched to a club from his home town.
“I stood at the Allianz with a friend and we said, ‘wouldn’t it be great to see a Leipzig team play here?’, so when RB was formed, it gave us that possibility. We love it, but I am not sure I could watch the club if it fell down the leagues. Bundesliga is what it is all about for me and others.”
Red Bull Arena
The Red Bull Arena is a stadium that deserves mention for its appearance. Originally built in 1956 as the Zentralstadion, it was designed by Werner March, the architect behind Berlin’s Olympic Stadium. It was built from the debris from World War Two bombing of the city and initially had a capacity of 100,000.
It later fell into disrepair before being renovated for the 2006 World Cup. A new stadium was effectively constructed inside the bowl of the original and was connected by bridges. It makes for a spectacular view when you reach the top of bowl before descending into the stadium itself.
Approaching the ground from the main road, crossing the Fest-weise, a snow-covered field, only served to whet the appetite for a glimpse of the ground. There was something of a carnival atmosphere as people congregated outside, drinking beer and eating sausages. Then you walk up steps, many steps, to reach the pinnacle.
As I left the stadium after the game, I saw fans of all age revelling in another victory for their team. It cannot be denied that RB Leipzig play good football. The stadium has a healthy atmosphere and the curious of Leipzig are clearly enjoying the moment.
The RB Leipzig experience, with its corporate attachment and “just add water” element, very much captures the zeitgeist. It is easy to criticise the ethos if you’re steeped in the traditions of the German game, but there is something genuinely exciting about matchday at the Red Bull Arena.
This is an edited version of a feature that first appeared in Football Weekends magazine, the fan’s guide for great trips in Europe and the UK. Visit www.footballweekends.co.uk for more details.
Book a Bundesliga package with Nickes.Com