Zentralstadion Leipzig, July 2000

Written April 19, 2003. External links valid at the time.

My brother Matthias and I were visiting relatives in Leipzig, in the former East Germany, in 2000. Somewhat to the disappointment of our hosts, we had little interest in the culture and beauty of that city, instead nosing around all the signs of industrial and urban decay that we could find. We were ecstatic at the sight, for example, of downtown apartment buildings whose roofs were collapsing, right next door to ones that had already gotten the "makeover" and looked perfect, or at the harbour connected to a weed-overgrown canal that goes nowhere (it was never finished) that had never had a single ship in it since it was built.

Germans being what they are, with their love of construction, East Germany will eventually look as blandly tidy as the rest of the country. But in the year 2000, there was still plenty to see. Too bad we only had a couple of days.

As we were driving around, I got intrigued by these grass-overgrown steps going up an embankment to who knows where. After dinner, Matthias and I came back to explore.

The steps lead into a giant sports stadium that had been constructed out of the rubble of bombed buildings during the early postwar years.

The stadium was locked up, but we hopped the fence to get in...

What an amazing sight! This place had been built to seat 100,000 spectators and now it was all wrecked and overgrown. Almost all the benches were gone, except for one section on the other side, which oddly was right next to a section that they had dug away completely.

We were not the only unauthorized visitors. There was a jogger doing laps on top of the perimeter. Anyhow the atmosphere of this place was fantastic, it seemed right out of one of those apocalyptic movies where all the humans are gone and nature takes over their creations. But when we were poking around the main building, peering in the windows, we noticed that the lights were on and there were people there. So we figured we'd best leave before we get in trouble.

At the time of our visit we knew nothing of this place, having merely stumbled on it by chance. But it turns out this is the site of the 2006 soccer world cup! Needless to say, this old wreck of a stadium wouldn't do, and they are building a complete modern stadium inside it. Thus another intriguing old ruin disappears. You can see what they're up to on this web site (in German, but you can try a Google translation). Here are pictures of the stadium in better days. Also you can try googling for miscellaneous other pictures.

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