Writer Rebecca Salentin runs the ZierlichManierlich mobile café in Leipzig

There’s perhaps no better place to soak up the true atmosphere of Leipzig than Richard Wagner Park. This broad expanse of grassland, shaded by large oak trees, stretches from the former German University for Physical Culture and Sport (Deutsche Hochschule für Körperkultur und Sport – DHfK) to the White Elster river. The area has become a huge chill-out zone since Rebecca Salentin opened the ZierlichManierlich mobile café here six years ago. Operating from a bright green caravan, Salentin and her team serve home-made cakes, coffee, soft drinks, panini and fresh salads. All unbelievably delicious, and mostly made using organic ingredients from the region. A slice of Saxon life on wheels.

A business idea inspired by a bike ride

Rebecca Salentin had the idea for a mobile café while out for a bike ride one day. “I cycle past here all the time with my children and I thought it would be such a great location for a mobile snack bar,” says the 35-year-old. She and a friend began looking for an old trailer or circus caravan in autumn 2008 and discovered one quite by accident in a friend’s garden in Stuttgart. “There stood this old, dilapidated mail wagon with peeling yellow paint. They let me have it,” says Rebecca Salentin. After her friends had towed it at 60 km an hour all the way to Leipzig that winter, she renovated it herself – a task that took until spring 2009. Leipzig’s Parks department gave her the go-ahead to run a café from the wagon between April and the end of October. “The authorities thought it would help to attract more people to the area,” she says.

Six months from idea to opening

They were right. Rebecca Salentin opened ZierlichManierlich on 10 April 2009, just six months after she first had the idea. Her energy and determination made it possible. Now, six years later, Salentin employs two people and is able to earn a living from ZierlichManierlich. Hundreds of people, many of them on bicycles, visit Richard Wagner Park on sunny weekends – students, families, artists and tourists. It’s a relaxing, enjoyable and lively place to meet friends, eat, read, play and chill out. Salentin herself originally comes from the Eifel region of western Germany. She moved to Leipzig in 2003 to study at the respected German Institute of Literature. Although that didn’t work out, the woman with the wild curls became a writer anyway. A part-time writer, you could say – Salentin writes between November and March, when the mobile café is closed for the winter. She is organised and disciplined, determined to make full use of the break.

“Schuld war Elvis” to be published for the 2015 Leipzig Book Fair

Her second book, “Schuld war Elvis”, will be published in March 2015 by C. Bertelsmann-Verlag. It’s a saga about three generations of one family and is set in a small town in the Eifel mountains. Now that the café is up and running, Salentin plans to spend more time writing over the next year and intends to embark on a book tour to promote her new novel. How does she manage all that in addition to two children? “Well, I had my boys early on and they’re now 13 and 15 years old, so the most demanding phase is over. I do have my hands pretty full sometimes, but that’s exactly how I like it,” she says. “I always wanted to write, and I always wanted to run a café.” The café-owning author is very happy in Saxony. “I enjoy the cultural scene here and I love being able to go everywhere on my bike. I have everything I need in Leipzig. I won’t be leaving here any time soon.”