Navigating Public Transportation In Leipzig, Germany

Submitted by Mark Meloni on the 2019 winter session study abroad program in Leipzig, Germany sponsored by the Department of Languages, Literatures & Cultures…

My first week in Leipzig has left me with countless positive reflections on the city. Life here is different from home in a few crucial ways, even when daily routines are involved.

By far the most salient experience I have had is with the public transportation system within Leipzig. A system of trams runs along a web that spans the entire city; the trams run frequently and they always arrive on time. At any point throughout the day at Hauptbahnhof (the largest stop in Leipzig,) a hundred or so people assemble on the platform. As some stand and smoke, others run across the tracks or speed walk to different platforms, an immersive experience in another culture arises unexpectedly. Juxtaposed with the slower pace of life in Newark or Blackbird Forest, the chaos of Leipzig’s Hauptbahnhof seemed at first to me like an alien planet. I relied entirely on help from others to navigate using the trams for the first few days after arrival. Gradually, through studying my map intently, I gained spatial awareness. By the end of the week, I found myself weaving in between platforms with no trouble, even giving directions to friends in German instead of English without intending to. At this point, everyone in this study abroad program has gained an understanding of Leipzig’s tram system. It will be interesting to see what other elements of Leipzig that we understand by the end of the month.