This is Altenburg, which I visited some time ago. It means “old fort” in German. A strange city. In demographic decline since the 1980s, it lost 40% of its population since then, and people still seem to be leaving. Currently it has 33,000 people, down from 56,000 in 1988 (data from Wiki). And it shows.

There are lots of empty, abandoned buildings, some almost falling apart. Even the castle, which is actually quite nice, is in bad disrepair, which is strange for Germany, as they usually take good care of their touristic sites. Then again, I didn’t see many people visiting it when I was there — though that could be because of “corona”.

The main square downtown, with the curch at the end of the street, is quite pretty, very “German”, and while not crowded it had quite a few people in its bars and cafes, despite “corona” still going on. But turn a corner and you will already see a lot of abandoned and decaying buildings.

This seems to be a problem in many regions of the former Eastern Germany, which emptied out after the end of Communism (although, to be honest, some towns started to decay even before the fall of the Wall).

On the other hand, bigger towns in the region, such as Leipzig and Dresden, seem to be in renewal mode and have currently a growing young population, some of whom are escaping from “dead” towns such as Altenburg, or from the growingly more expensive rents in Berlin.

Still, its a pity, as Altenburg seems a quiet nice little place. Aesthetically, it looks much more pleasant than several other more bustling cities around, such as Chemnitz, Zwickau, etc., which look more industrial and are in general less visually interesting.

A building needing renovation in Altenburg.
The town square.
Castle grounds. Some buildings here are also in disrepair.
Castle tower – it’s pretty high. Looks like Rapunzel’s tower.

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