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5 things you should know about Chemnitz, the newly crowned capital of culture

The Saxonian city of Chemnitz was named European capital of culture for 2025 on Wednesday, meaning it beat off competition from Hanover, Nuremberg, Hildesheim and Magdeburg. Here are some fascinating facts about the city.

5 things you should know about Chemnitz, the newly crowned capital of culture
The Chemnitz town hall. Photo: DPA

City mayor Barbara Ludwig was clearly delighted by the surprise result, saying that “this will do the city so much good. What an amazing feeling.”

Chemnitz probably isn’t on many people’s radars. Here are five things that have marked the city's rocky history.

1. The Saxonian Manchester

The golden days for the city of Chemnitz came in the 19th century when it was one of the first German cities to embrace the revolutionary technology of steam power.

It won the moniker “Saxonian Manchester.” This nickname wasn’t just a reference to the manifold factory chimneys, it was also a comment on the poor air quality in its streets. Just like in the English town, textiles were a central pillar of the local economy.

The city was a hub of invention – six times more patents were registered than the German average. And as industry took off, so too did the population. Chemnitz achieved the status of a Großstadt in 1883 when its population topped 100,000.

2. It is the original home of Audi

The luxury car maker is normally associated with the city of Ingolstadt. But it was actually founded in Chemnitz in the 1930s when four major car companies of the time were united under one brand – Auto-Union (hence the four rings joined together.)

After the war, when the communist rulers in East Germany started seizing the wealth of private companies, the engineers at Auto-Union fled to Bavaria, bringing their know how with them. It was one of several such stories that still have an effect on employment in the city today.

3. A famous name change

The city cente in 1910 (right and 1977 (left). Photos: Wikipedia Commons 

Chemnitz was an important centre of military production during the war, with Auto-Union’s Siegmar factory being used to produce engines for the Wehmacht’s tanks. The allies flattened the city centre in the last few months of the conflict, leaving much of its historical architecture completely destroyed.

In 1953, the communist leadership of the GDR renamed the city Karl Marx Stadt, saying that the city deserved the honour due to its history of active political engagement among its proletariat. There is still a huge granite bust of the 19th century economist in the city centre.

The city that was rebuilt would have been barely recognisable to someone who grew up in Chemnitz in the late 19th century. The opulent Gründerzeit architecture was replaced by endless rows of Plattenbau.

The name was changed back to Chemnitz almost immediately after reunification when three quarters of the population voted in favour of the original name.

Photo: DPA

4. At the foot of the Erzgebirge

The history of Chemnitz isn't just rocky in the metaphorical sense, it has quite literally been influenced by the rock of the Ore mountains.

When we think of German cities with a mountain view the mind obviously springs to Munich. But Chemnitz is one of the few other Großstädte that sits at the foot of a mountain range.

From the city one can travel up into the Ore Mountains, which are largely untouched by tourism.

The thick forests and steep valleys make for some impressive views. As the name suggests the mountains are a rich vein of ore and contributed to the transformation of mining in the early modern era.

5. A neo-Nazi march

In recent history, Chemnitz is best know for a neo-Nazi march which took place there in 2018 after a local man was stabbed to death by a refugee.

There was local unrest over several days and neo-Nazis descended on the city where they also attacked migrants and gave the Hitler salute.

A mass concert in the aftermath with people coming from across the country to stand against right-wing extremism.

READ MORE: Chemnitz: Portrait of a city shaken by anti-foreigner riots

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LIVING IN GERMANY

REVEALED: The most commonly asked questions about Germans and Germany

Ever wondered what the world is asking about Germany and the Germans? We looked at Google’s most searched results to find out – and help clear some of these queries up.

Oktoberfest
Hasan Salihamidzic, the sports director of FC Bayern, arrives with his wife at Oktoberfest in full traditional dress. Photo: picture alliance/dpa |

According to popular searches, Germany is the go-to place for good coffee and bread (although only if you like the hard kind) and the place to avoid if what you’re looking for is good food, good internet connection and low taxes. Of course, this is subjective; some people will travel long stretches to get a fresh, hot pretzel or a juicy Bratwurst, while others will take a hard pass.

When it comes to the question on the bad Internet – there is some truth to this. German is known for being behind other rich nations when it comes to connectivity. And from personal experience, the internet connection can seem a little medieval. The incoming German coalition government has, however, vowed to improve internet connectivity as part of their plans to modernise the country.

There are also frequent questions on learning the German language, and people pointing out that it is hard and complicated. This is probably due to the long compound words and its extensive grammar rules, however, as both English and German are Germanic languages with similar words in common, it’s not impossible to learn as an English-speaker.

Here’s a look at some of those questions…

Why is German called Deutsch? Whereas ‘German’ comes from the Latin, ‘Deutsch’ instead derives itself from the Indo-European root “þeudō”, meaning “people”. This slowly became “Deutsch” as we know it today. It can be a bit confusing to English-speakers, who are right to think it sounds a little more like “Dutch”, however the two languages do have the same roots which may explain it.

And why is Germany so boring? Again, probably a generalisation, especially given that Germany has a landmass of over 350,000 km² with areas ranging from high rise, industrial cities to traditional old town villages and even mountain ranges, so you’re sure to find a place that doesn’t bore you to tears.

Perhaps it is a question that comes from the stereotype that Germans are obsessed with strict about rules, organised and analytical. Or that they have no sense of humour – all of these things being not the most exciting traits. 

Either way, from my experience I can confirm that, even though there is truth to German society enjoying order and rules, the vast majority of people are not boring, and I’m sure if you come to Germany you’ll meet many interesting, funny and exciting people. 

READ ALSO: 12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Germany

When it comes to the German weather, most people assume a cold and cloudy climate, however this isn’t entirely true. While the autumn and winter, especially in the north, comes with grey skies and sub-zero temperatures, Germany can have some beautiful summers, with temperatures frequently rising above 30C in some places.

Unsurprisingly, the power and wealth of the German nation is mentioned – Germany is the largest economy in Europe after all, with a GDP of 3.8 trillion dollars. This could be due to strong industry sectors in the country, including vehicle constructions (I was a little surprised to find no questions posed on German cars), chemical and electrical industry and engineering. There are also many strong economic cities in Germany, most notably Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg.

READ ALSO: Eight unique words and phrases that tell us something about Germany

Smart and tall?

Why are Germans so tall? They are indeed taller than many other nations, with the average German measuring a good 172.87cm (or 5 feet 8.06 inches), however this may be a question better posed to the Dutch, who make up the tallest people in the world.

Why are Germans so smart? While this is again a generalisation – as individuals have different levels of intelligence in all countries – this question may stem from Germany’s free higher education system or their seemingly efficient work ethic. Plus there does seem to be some scientific research behind this question, with a study done in 2006 finding that Germans had the highest IQ in Europe.

So, while many of the questions posed about Germany and Germans on Google stem from stereotypes, we can confirm that some aren’t entirely made up. If you’re looking to debunk some frequently asked questions about France and the French, check out this article by our sister site HERE.

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