It was through my friendship with Beate Furcht I first became aware of Zeitz; she knew my interest in meandering great swaths of unrestored architecture, it came with complaints about soulless restoration and the gentrification which was quickly swallowing Leipzig whole and churning out a new city.
The only other city well known for its preservation of history was Görlitz,. To get there from Leipzig one would have to take the train to Dresden and then transfer, which is not a big deal but does cut into time spent at a desired destination -- and if you're budget is scant like mine, a single night at a hotel is equal to the cost of a month's food, so you choose food (usually). Zeitz, in contrast, was a painless 45 minute commute -- more or less. We packed a couple of rucksacks with water and snacks, hopped on our bikes, which cost little to travel with by train...and voila!
The day I travel there, it was during the height of spring. Zeitz is split into two areas; one is old; the other new. The train station sits between them. We decided to conquer the old section first, not because we knew it was old so much as alluring. A clock tower rose up like a beacon, calling us. What was not apparent at the onset of our venture is that the old part of the village sits perched high upon a hill. A steep hill. It was a bit shocking to be faced with; we'd grown used to the unchallenging terrain, the flat faced bike paths webbed throughout Leipzig.
When finally we made it to the newer section of town; it is dominated by industrial ruins before turning into residential neighborhoods. There, one quickly is overcome by the sense that all is not good. It reminded me of the days I spent wandering around Detroit, Michigan. When a young man followed behind me while I pedaled up a side street to get a better look at the expense of a massive industrial graveyard, listening to my gut instinct, and knowing rationally he was likely either a drug dealer or a neo nazi, or both, I quickly retreated to the main drag. Avoiding conversation was necessary, otherwise natives were unable to deduce that I was a foreigner.
During its heyday, Zeitz held close ties to the Roman Empire. Later, probably beginning in the late 1800's, it enjoyed being a major producer of goods. Many of the large, long since empty buildings once housed factories that produced a variety of items; one of the most striking is a baby pram. I spoke with a lot of locals who were eager to share their knowledge of Zeitz. One man said he was the 14th great grandson of Martin Luther, whose son once resided in a small house just a stones throw from the center of the main village.