This must have been how Leipzig saw its future in the 1910s, I said to myself as I took in the measure of its massive Hauptbahnhof and the long row of six ironwork train sheds distantly modelled, as all railway stations are, on the arches of Europe’s cathedrals (that’s why ‘sheds’ doesn’t seem quite right). A hundred years after its construction, this railway station, Europe’s largest in terms of floor space, still dominates the city. Most of the city’s tram and bus lines draw up outside, on Willy-Brandt-Platz; on the other side is the Brühl, an important street in the old town: it used to be part of the city’s Jewish quarter and at one time was world centre of the fur trade. Richard Wagner was born there, in 1813.
I hadn’t spared a thought for Leipzig since autumn 1989. I’d just got married and was living with my wife’s family near Munich; smoggy Leipzig was on the news every day in that fateful week of October. The city had drawn attention to itself – in what was supposed to be a celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the GDR – with a mass demonstration of