CHEMNITZ (pronounced “kemnitz”) is a curio after Leipzig. When the GDR regime wanted to create its own outpost of Stalinist Russia to celebrate Karl Marx’s seventieth birthday in 1953, it turned to Saxony’s third-largest city, probably inspired by an industrial heritage that had earned it the nickname of a “Saxon Manchester”. In places, a city known for four decades as Karl-Marx-Stadt is a Soviet-style throwback that’s as bizarre as it is controversial. Even reunification brought its own problems in the form of depopulation, although award-winning recent investment has reversed the trend and revived the city centre. Nowadays Chemnitz declares itself a “Stadt der Moderne”. From a tourist’s point of view it is a curio worth a detour partly because of its glimpse at a Soviet past that’s all but absent from Leipzig, but also because of a brace of modern art galleries and good day-trips in its backyard.

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