Welcome to Leipzig – intercultural summer meeting

Once a year, researchers from different Leipzig research institutions come together to get to know each other and a new part of Leipzig.

This year, we discovered a part of the industrial heritage of the city’s western districts. Leipzig has a rich industrial history, which you can still see today in the former industrial quarters of Plagwitz and Lindenau. One building still reflecting this past is the Kunstkraftwerk Leipzig. It is home to unique exhibitions about the city’s industrial past and impressive 360° projections. About 50 researchers, coordinators and network partners came together to visit the extraordinary exhibitions. The “Illusions” exhibition took us on a journey focusing on our own imagination and perception. In an interactive tour, the visitors were given the opportunity to question their own senses and marvel at the different installations.

Furthermore, the Kunstkraftwerk hosts two immersive art projections. An Italian artist collective designed them especially for the two factory buildings at the Kunstkraftwerk complex. The “Work in Progress” installation allows visitors to immerse themselves in the history of the industrial part of Leipzig, and in particular the Kunstkraftwerk as a former industrial site. The “Hundertwasser Experience” portrays the colourful, exciting, vivid world of the artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Accompanied by the music of Luca Longobardi, the pictures convey an impression of the diverse inner feelings of Hundertwasser and his five skins theory.

After having seen this part of the Leipzig art scene, the researchers went on to “Mørtelwerk”, a restaurant which was formerly a mortar plant, located directly next to the Karl Heine Canal. The guests enjoyed a summer barbecue overlooking the canal and took the opportunity to get to know researchers from different Leipzig research institutions and exchange stories about their stay and work in Leipzig as well as their home countries.

 

Christmas and St. Nikolas

Christmas and St Nicholas

December 6, 2016 was the date of the Christmas-get-together at the Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ. International scientists and their families had the chance to learn everything important to know about St Nicholas and to meet him in person. A mix of international food specialties was served, combined with music from the UFZ choir and some fun games.

On December 16, 2016 the residents of the Guest-House Werner-Heisenberg celebrated their Christmas party. The afternoon started with a cozy get together with typical Christmas Stollen, tea and coffee followed by singing of typical Christmas songs, sung in the individual language. Later a short visit from the North Pole the kids got their presents from Santa Claus in exchange for another Christmas Song. The highlight of the Christmas Party was a traditional German christmas dinner consisting of goose, red cabbage and dumplings.

Report by Daniel Amman

Summer Barbecue

Traditionally, all the residents of the IBZ guesthouse gather together once a year to enjoy a summer barbecue in the atrium and garden of the guesthouse. This year’s event took place in August. It is a welcome opportunity for everybody to get to know each other and to chat over a glass of raspberry lemonade. Even though many of the guest researchers live together in one building, their paths do not cross very summer-barbecue-2often in everyday life.

We also had guests from the university’s second guesthouse, which is on Ritterstraße, and invited people from the network “Welcome to Leipzig”. It was an opportunity for everyone to get together, enjoy some grilled meat and tasty vegetarian dishes and discuss living and researching in Leipzig. The guests made friends and established contacts while talking about their home countries and life in Leipzig.

Report by Martha Fromme

 

Guided tour and barbecue at the Mendelssohn House Leipzig

Last year, we took the guest researchers to the “Pongoland” monkey house at Leipzig Zoo, an area where the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology conducts research into apes. This year, the project officially started on 15 June with a guided tour and a barbecue at the Mendelssohn House Leipzig. International scientists and guest researchers from the different research institutions as well as representatives from the City of Leipzig were invited to explore this interesting venue and to get to know each other.

mendelssohnhaus3The Mendelssohn House is the place where the famous composer, music director, cultural politician and piano virtuoso Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy lived and died and where today a very diverse exhibition pays tribute to his works. It is a gem on Leipzig’s cultural landscape. The exhibition provides an insight into Mendelssohn’s life and works, illustrated by letters, sheet music and watercolours.

After a small reception, the visitors gathered in the music salon on the first floor. Prof. Dr. Ulrich Brieler from the Department for Knowledge Policy of the City of Leipzig and Dr. Annemone Fabricius, coordinator of the “Welcome to Leipzig” project, welcomed the guests and explained the project. Ms Christiane Schmidt from the Mendelssohn House gave a talk on the house itself and the exhibition it houses as well as Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s life.

The visitors found the house very interesting indeed and were free to explore the exhibition on their own. Many of them
were fascinated by the multi-faceted exhibition concept and said they would like to come back and attend one of the morning concerts in the music salon.

To finishmendelssohnhaus2 off the evening, the visitors got together in the idyllic garden of the Mendelssohn House to enjoy a barbecue. They shared their experiences and views about life in Leipzig, and many of the guest researchers shared anecdotes about life in their home countries.

It was a fruitful and informal way of bringing together people from Leipzig as well as from all over the world, allowing them to get to know both each other and an important part of Leipzig’s music scene.

Report by Martha Fromme

 

Boat ride Karl-Heine Canal

The Karl Heine Canal is one of the most beautiful canals in Leipzig, meandering through the old industrial district of Plagwitz. Karl Heine, a lawyer, entrepreneur and industrial pioneer, played a key role in the urban development of Leipzig’s western areas. Originally, he came up with the ambitious project of connecting the cities of Leipzig and Hamburg with a canal, which would have linked Leipzig with international waterways. Even though it is still not possible to boat all the way to Hamburg via the canal, it is a great way to discover Plagwitz by boat, which we did in May.

Together with 25 guest researchers and their families, we boarded the excursion boat “MS Weltfrieden” (meaning the MS “World Peace” – what a beautiful name!) for a tour of the Karl Heine Canal. The boat ride starteboat-ride-2d at the stilt house which once accommodated a corrugated sheet metal rolling mill and a zinc coating shop. We headed to Lindenau harbour, which is now connected with the rest of Leipzig’s waterways and lakes. Along the way we soaked up the lively atmosphere all around the canal. Plagwitz residents and visitors sit on the banks of the canal, enjoy the sunshine and dip their feet into the water. We then moved on to the “Weiße Elster” river in Schleußig, from where we admired the former coloured yarn mill building. It is one of the largest Wilhelminian-era industrial heritage sites in Germany. Having since been renovated, it now accommodates loft apartments, offices and professional practices. On our way to the Elster flood basin we passed a number of floating restaurants; one of these was an Italian restaurant that even offers gondola trips, so for a moment it was almost as if we were in Venice!

The beautiful landscape all around the canals and rivers, including the Palmengarten, Clara-Zetkin Park and the weir, rounded our boat ride off and inspired the guest researchers to discover more of the green spaces which surround the waterways.

 

Report by Martha Fromme

Chinese New Year

Did you know that 2016 is the year of the monkey? At least in China! The Chinese calendar is quite different from the one we are used to, and started on 8 February. Unlike the Gregorian calendar which most of you are probably familiar with, the Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar. It uses astronomical phenomena as points of reference.

chinese-new-year
Since we wanted to know how Chinese people celebrate the turn of the year and were curious to experience it first-hand, we celebrated the Chinese New Year at the IBZ guesthouse. Ms Shunnan Xu was on hand to introduce the other residents of the IBZ to the customs and traditions surrounding the most important Chinese holiday. Coming from China and researching at the Confucius Institute in Leipzig, she was the perfect person to tell us all about how people celebrate in China.
Here’s some of what we learned: According to tradition, windows and doors are opened to bring good luck into the families’ homes during the festivities. Chinese people eat sweets to symbolically sweeten their New Year. When celebrating Chinese New Year, you should avoid wearing black and white clothes, because white is the colour of funerals and black stands for bad luck.
After she had taught us a traditional Chinese song (which we all sang together!), we enjoyed a delicious Chinese meal.

Report by Martha Fromme

Network Meeting

Once a year, the members of the “Welcome to Leipzig” network get together at the cultural centre “Moritzbastei”, the biggest student club in Europe in the heart of Leipzig. It is an opportunity for the different network partners to meet and get to know one another. During the meetings, the different stakeholders discuss recent developments in the project and how things will continue in the future.

The first network meeting took place in 2014. It focused on the experiences of guest researchers in Germany – both positive and negative. First of all, the patrons of the event, Matthias Schwarz, Vice Rector for Research and Young Academics, and Andreas Müller, Mayor for General Administration, talked about their own arrival in Leipzig and other cities. Afterwards, researchers talked very openly about what had made their arrival in Leipzig easier and about what could still be improved. Cedric Krummes from Luxembourg criticized the fact that the doors of the authorities always seemed to be closed, and was disappointed that staff did not offer consultation in foreign languages. However, Danuta Rytel-Schwarz, a Polish professor at the Institute for Slavonic Studies, stressed that she was met with helpfulness when looking for a kindergarten place and that before long she felt at home in Leipzig. The network meeting helped the different stakeholders to get to know each other. Annemone Fabricius, coordinator of the “Welcome to Leipzig” project, was referring to the guests who were in attendance when she said, “We have succeeded in eliminating the anonymity between the university administration and the municipal authorities.”

The following network meeting was held in September 2015. Representatives from the Family Information Office, the Authority of Public Order, the Department of Migration and Integration, the tax authorities and the Saxon Education Agency gave short talks to report from their own areas. Afterwards, everybody had the opportunity to ask questions about developments in these fields. Employees of Leipzig University, the city administration and the research institutions in Leipzig as well as guest scientists were invited to enjoy a snack and drink and talk about the numerous topics and challenges in their areas and in daily life as a guest researcher.

The network meeting is part of every project year.

Intercultural summer meeting and guided tour through Pongoland in the Leipzig Zoo

Once a year, the “Welcome to Leipzig” project organizes a summer event where guest researchers zoo-2015from different research institutions are invited to meet up and get to know interesting places in Leipzig.

In July 2015, we organized an intercultural summer meeting and a guided tour of Pongoland, the monkey house in Leipzig’s famous zoo. The tour was led by scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, which also conducts research on the primates there.

 

Over 50 guest researchers and representatives from the different research institutions discovered the world of chimpanzees, gorillas, orang-utans and bonobos, and were fascinated to hear all sorts of interesting facts about their habitat, their perception, their social behaviour and their development. Divided into two different groups, they asked plenty of questions which the researchers were only too happy to answer.

zoo-2015-3After the fascinating tour, the guests got together over some snacks and had the chance to get to know
each other better beyond their own institutions.

It was a very enriching evening – not only because of the interesting tour, but also because of the many lively conversations and encounters with inspiring people from all over the world which ensued.

Report by Martha Fromme