Stop the world! Yep, that’s the feeling we’ve all got with the way 2016 is playing out. Personally, I’m exhausted. Terrorism, news, Europe, taxes and a thousand other activities part of daily life—from cooking to recycling and laundry, errands, banking, even just managing my mini computer crises. Sure, maybe those simple escapes at home, from crawling into a cozy bed with a hot cuppa tea and a Netflix binge, can be relaxing, but in those situations at home I still find it incredibly difficult to disconnect. To truly find peace. Even when I try to unplug for a weekend at home, I still find myself checking my phone compulsively, or there’s always another distraction.
Weekends are meant to be a break, a moment for relaxation. And yet, somehow, there just doesn’t seem to be enough time, nor space, for true relaxation. That’s where the holiday weekend comes in. A while back, we called it a staycation—a holiday close to home where you could unwind and relax. Now, though, we have to find a way to relax where, when and however we can.
This August I visited the small and cozy Chemnitz, a city in Saxony probably best known by its former name: Karl-Marx-Stadt. In fact, the city’s most famous tourist attraction (and one of the first things you’ll spot when arriving by train), is a huge sculpture of Karl Marx located on Brückenstraße. I was in Chemnitz because it was the closest, coolest city to the iBug street art festival–an arts & cultural festival that has symbolized the changing nature of Saxony.
Traveling is always what you make of it. Small cities, like Chemnitz, provide the perfect escape. Whirlwind Eurotrips where you visit 10 cities in 14 days are one thing, but when you stop and slow down to really see a place, you get a whole new perspective. And a fresh take on life, too.
When I arrived in Chemnitz on a Friday afternoon, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Small cities can go one way or another. But with the right attitude, a small city can be as exciting as any big one. Or as relaxing as the countryside. On the weekend I chose to visit Chemnitz, the city was celebrating its Stadtfest—the perfect opportunity for eating roasted almonds and enjoying traditional German music. Rather than embrace the debauchery of a German city festival, however, I spent my time exploring the small city’s outlying areas. Navigating on a pink flamingo around the little pond in Schlossteich while reading a new book I picked up at the city’s central shopping mall, Galerie Roter Turm. Getting lost in the side streets, trying out local beer gardens and kneipen (pubs).
My afternoons in Chemnitz were spent enjoying the sunshine, exploring the parks while reading and leisurely meals at the city’s many beer gardens (#germany). At the top of a small hill overlooking the Schlossteich, Miaramar Chemnitz provided the perfect viewpoint out over the city: a peaceful pond below, the Stadtfest in the distance and a delicious meal of schnitzel with regional, in-season mushrooms. The tower of the Schloßbergmuseum from the distance framing a picture-perfect postcard and a Radler (a very summer drink: beer mixed with cola) keeping me cool.
Chemnitz may be famous for its history, but today the city offers a surprisingly leisurely escape. The Küchwaldpark on the edge of the city has its small number of attractions (a transportation museum and a train that circles the park). Reminiscences of the Soviet era scatter the city—whether it’s a statue of Karl Marx or the Kosmonautenzentrum—a small, kid-friendly museum dedicated to the history of the Kosmonauts.
It’s easy to relax in a small city when you don’t know anyone, when you don’t have much to do or see. Free time is spent with picnics in the park, reading by the lake or simply appreciating the small bits of nature that make the city so green and lively with long walks with your thoughts. A summer visit to Chemnitz is peaceful and quiet, easy and chill. A summertime outdoor cinema (Sommerkino) operates in front of the Opera House, and the city’s Stadtfest keeps the city grounded in its German roots.
At night, the city gets dark. A common feature of former East German cities. On this summer weekend, up on the hill outside of the city center, it was very dark. Except for the glow in the distance of the Stadtfest, a Ferris Wheel turning until midnight, there isn’t a lot of light pollution here. Sitting on the terrace of my hotel suite, waiting and watching for nothing in particular. Just a calmness, a quietness. Peace at last.
Until my phone buzzes with a Tweet…
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My visit to Chemnitz was made possible with the support of Simply Saxony. I stayed at the Pentahotel Chemnitz, located outside the main city center, but like everything else in Chemnitz, it was easily accessible. The hotel has a gym, sauna, spa and swimming pool making it a great place for relaxation.