– Hey, I’m moving to Magdeburg for my studies.
– That’s great. But, umm… where’s that?
– Magdeburg is, umm… wait, I need to figure this out!
Magdeburg is iconic; as iconic as the city I come from, if not more. But first, some basic knowledge –
Magdeburg is a small city, with one-hundredth of Calcutta’s population. So if you are on Tinder, you’ve probably come across everyone who fits your criteria, in the first one hour of swiping. There aren’t as many cool places as there are in Calcutta; I still couldn’t figure out where people spend some time without getting drunk.
This city is old but young, unlike Calcutta which is relatively younger but umm, old.
Magdeburg was the first capital of Germany in the 10th century. Perhaps the only visible old structure is the Magdeburger Cathedral, which is standing still since the 1200’s. The main Cathedral in the same place was built in 900’s, caught fire and was rebuilt over 300 years. It’s the oldest Gothic church in Germany. The rest of the city had to bear the brunt of, every possible war including the World War II. So yes, everything you see around is a new structure.
Calcutta was the British-India’s capital. That’s it. Most Bengalis did not, till the last decade, realise that the British had left and they have to take it forward, prosper progress. Calcutta however, is the third most revenue generating city in India after Mumbai and Delhi even now. The otherwise city of palaces is now in a dilapidated state.
Calcutta is West Bengal’s capital; West Bengal is a state. Magdeburg is Saxony-Anhalt’s capital. Saxony-Anhalt is a state in Germany. So yes, technically, the same status.
Magdeburg isn’t one-tenth as exciting as Calcutta is, but people are good and disciplined. People wait for the traffic light to go green. Yup. They do. Even when there’s no one around. There’s a lane for cyclists on the footpath. People generally do not walk on that. Magdeburg also has a tram network like Calcutta. That gives me serious Deja Vu moments. Trams here are on time and looks better.
People are used to seeing brown-skinned people here and my generation knows English. For everything else, there’s a Google Translate which does a pretty decent job.
One name you’ll find here is “Otto”; the original Otto is the first emperor of Germany. He was a religious conqueror of sorts. Militarily, he consolidated German tribes after his father and ruled till northern Italy. I study in Otto-von-Guericke Universitat. This guy Otto is a different person. This Otto is to Magdeburg what Rabindranath Tagore is to Shantiniketan. They just don’t sell Otto pakoras though.
BTW, Otto-von-Guericke demonstrated that vacuum exists. So like one J C Bose who demonstrated something which we now know as basic, that the tree has life, we had Otto-von-Guericke, who did the Magdeburg experiment. I guess for some really unrelated reasons, Levis (the clothing brand) used the concept of the Magdeburg experiment in their earlier logo. I do not know what they were smoking up, really.
Also, the Fevicol logo; Apart from that, Magdeburg has given Europe the Magdeburg Rights and was the epicentre of Protestant movement. It used to be an important city in medieval Europe. Do Indians survive here?
You have an Indian store here, overpriced, but it exists. You can buy your spices here. If you are an Indian reading this, you know we Bengalis love our potato and fish. Guess what? You’ll get a lot of that here. A lot. Read it one more time, a lot. I think all these one thousand years of German evolution, they’ve only invested in making cars. When it comes to food, there’s wurst and Potatoes. Wurst is meat. I eat it. Potato comes in various shapes, sizes, and forms. They keep coming back like the ghosts in the horror movies. Pommes is French fries; that’s lunch. If not anything else, they give you boiled potato to eat. Just, boiled potato. One big boiled potato. Getting back to the discussion.
What were we discussing by the way?