Wave-Gotik-Treffen in Leipzig: discovering Saxon hospitality
A special tram, WGT ice creams, shop windows decorated in black: an entire city welcomes hordes of black-clad visitors from all over the world at Whitsun.
Thomas Schäfer, leaseholder of Auensee campsite, stands expectantly under the bushy, broad-leafed trees that shade his pitches. In a few hours’ time many of this year’s WGT guests will arrive, something he is really looking forward to. “Hospitality is second nature to us here in Leipzig. The city is a long-established venue for trade shows, after all. Leipzig residents enjoy welcoming visitors and always have,” he says. Schäfer is in charge of 164 pitches for tents and caravans, 47 rustic log cabins and 11 romantic Finnish chalets. The campsite has been an institution in Leipzig since before German reunification thanks to its blend of natural surroundings, peace, proximity to the city and personal service, all of which tourists love. “Our guests really appreciate the individual tips we provide. Warmth and sincerity can often be in short supply in big hotels. It’s completely different here.” The down-to-earth, friendly atmosphere is also enjoyed by WGT fans every year at Whitsun.
Fashion parade across the campsite
The goths camp alongside Leipzig’s “normal” visitors. “Some of our guests had a bit of a shock at first when the goths began to get dressed up. But now everyone enjoys it,” says Schäfer. The black-clad parade begins at the campsite, he says. “When they all stroll across the campsite after their morning bathroom ritual – which for most of them is actually more of a midday bathroom ritual – it’s a real spectacle.” But he says it can sometimes be a challenge for the cleaners to get rid of the traces of hair dye, makeup and hairspray. “It’s all just part and parcel of the WGT and our hospitality, though,” he says, smiling.
Perfect imperfect: a warm welcome in Eden
Some 15 kilometres further west as the crow flies, the sun is shining over Eden, a newly opened hostel. Eva, one of its four founders, sits at a small table attaching labels to room keys. Reception is out in the garden today, as is the breakfast room. Two English-speaking backpackers sit outside cheerfully eating their breakfast. The hostel’s dog, Taxi, and her two puppies romp around nearby. Gabriela, owner number two, explains Eden’s philosophy: “We offer inexpensive accommodation with a twist so people can get to know Leipzig in a very special way.” Personal contact with guests is very important, she says. “We often help to organise individual sightseeing tours and enjoy sharing our knowledge of the city. It’s also really nice when guests and friends get together at barbecues,” says Gabriela.
Authentic and cosy: spending the night in creative and friendly surroundings
The welcoming atmosphere and hospitality at Eden gives it the feel of a cosy and creative shared house. The four founders – Gabriela, Thea, Eva and Jule – have put a lot of thought into the design of their hostel. Each room was created individually by an artists’ collective and they made a lot of the furniture themselves. The “Mackintosh” twin-bed room looks as if it has been created especially for WGT visitors, with its gothic-style jet-black chairs. All of the furniture here is the result of a joint effort between woodwork collective Ernst & Jung and Leipzig artist Miez Wars. The guests think it’s a really cool concept. One of them is Ottilie from New Zealand, who is putting on her WGT makeup in the “Girls’ Dorm”. The 24-year-old student is on a long round-the-world trip which was carefully planned so she would be in Leipzig at Whitsun. “The hostel is great and I love the festival atmosphere all over the city – Leipzig is so welcoming,” she says. When she is ready, she makes her way to the city centre to meet friends from Spain. They still need to make the tough decision about whether to go to a live gig, an exhibition, a medieval market or a party. After all, the entire city celebrates WGT at Whitsun.