Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A cold day in Leipzig

I went to Leipzig on Monday as part of my new project to check out as many post-Socialist cities as possible before I die. The first thing I did when I got off the train was walk accross the street to the tourist information office. I got stuck in a line. Being bored, I began listening to the conversation of the lady who was preventing me from getting back on the streets and seeing the sights.

She was Russian but spoke decent enough German. The lady serving her was about 60 and, based on her accent, most definitely had spent her life in the Leipzig area. They kept talking and talking and the Leipziger then asked her co-worker (who was just standing around rather than answering my questions) for help.

I officially began eavesdropping. Turns out the Russian lady wanted to find Ho Chi Minh Street. Soon after East Germany became Germany, they changed street names in a hurry. I assume they thought it would some how bring closer them to Capitalism a little more quickly. Karl Marx Square became Augustus Square and Ho Chi Minh Street become something else. Nobody knows what (at the tourist office).

Turns out, the Leipzig tourist info lady was no help. More so, however, because she didn´t know how to spell Ho Chi Minh. The Russian was of no help. She tried to tell the woman to look up Ho T-S-C-H-I Min. I guess that is the litteral transliteration of Хо Ши Мин

The Leipzig lady says to her co-worker. "Do you know how to spell Ho Chi Minh?"

Response: "Ho Tschi Min?"

Leipzig lady: "Ja, Ho Tschi Min. He was some sort of Asian Communist leader."

So what really got me was, after being in post-Socialist Leipzig for about 4 minutes, that the person who was supposed to be able to tell me about the city she had been living in since about 1950 didn´t even know where Ho Chi Minh was from. This woman lived in Communist East Germany for East Germany´s entire existance and was about 20 in 1969 when good old Ho kicked the bucket.

In school, all these people learned about were the other Communist "Friendship Countries". And she didn`t know how to spell Ho freaking Chi freaking Minh.

I decided to tell them. I went out on a limb and guessed Ho Chi Minh. The German guy, probably from the West (based on the fact that he was a tourist), confirmed the fact that this 25 year-old Canadian was right. Soon after, the Leipzig lady was able to tell the Russian that she couldn`t find the street.

PS - Ho Chi Minh even in freaking Vietnamese is spelled Hồ Chí Minh

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