Wetzlar, Germany (home to the Leica Factory) is about 10,000km away from Singapore; it took me almost 20 hours to get to this little idyllic town.
I took a direct flight to Berlin before flying to Frankfurt; next, it was a ride with the Deutsche Bahn to Gißen before finally ending up in the train station of Wetzlar.
Travelling To Wetzlar
In all honesty, the travelling bit was not as painful as it sounds.
The weather was this perfect European summer when I pulled up to the Wetzlar train station; blue skies and the works. There was a long line of taxis outside the train station but I thought I could use the walk especially since Google maps said that my hotel was only 20 minutes away.
Google maps, however, did not tell me that the entire town was on an e l e v a t i o n.
So while I could have paid about 7 euros to get from the train station to my hotel, for almost 30 minutes, I decided to be that Asian dragging her luggage up the hill on cobblestones. I could have given up halfway and grabbed a taxi but oh wait, the taxis that service the entire town were all at the train station and there is no Uber service in Wetzlar.
Well done, me…
It was a Sunday when I arrived which means that all the shops were close. It was dead quiet except for the clattering sound of my luggage on the cobblestones screaming MAKE WAYYYY and the cafes which was packed full of locals. I’d imagine that I was very entertaining to all who were sitting at the cafe wondering why I was disturbing the peace.
The Deutsche Bahn
Other than that little oversight, the rest of the journey was rather smooth unless you count the fact that the Deutsche Bahn was 2 minutes late and emailed me about the delay. Shocking. I mean it’s not like the TGV in France where a 2 minutes delay would be a cause for celebration or when the Japanese Shinkansen left 20 seconds earlier and issued a national apology.
Looking at you SMRT, I’ll take a 2-minute delay from the Deutsche Bahn and an email any day, thank you.
Michel Hotel Wetzlar
Michel Hotel was the gorgeous little place that was in between the train station and the place I wanted to visit (we’ll get to that in a bit).
Now I’m used to staying in tiny ass rooms with barely enough space for your luggage but Michel Hotel gave me a giant room. I mean, 3 beds? Party on.
Bonus points, I had a lovely view of the cemetery as well.
Why The Fuck Are You In Wetzlar?
That was the question every single one of my German friends asked. Some thought I was ill because apparently Wetzlar is a town you go to see a medical specialist or to do an administrative task.
Well, the short answer is that I was there to visit the Leica Factory.
So yes, I travelled 20 hours and more than 10,000km to the factory that produces the camera and lenses I have been working with for the past 6 years.
I do have Leica Singapore to thank for this trip. After all, if their customer service were not so awful towards working photographers, I would never have made the trip. Thank you for the push, Leica SG!
Leica Germany fixed my lens in less than 24 hours; to which I am super grateful for.
I do foresee another trip to the factory sometime in the future for a 6-bit coding to a gorgeous 75mm Summilux I picked up recently.
I don’t normally talk about my gears but that 75mm is incredibly special and was my dream lens for the longest time.
Images to come soon!
It was also quite something touring the factory, visiting the Leica museum, and looking at all the incredible prints. There is something about the rich history and heritage of the brand that made the visit so much fun for my inner geek.
Besides Wetzlar, I also visited the neighbouring town of Gißen where a mate of mine is based. He brought me to yet another cemetery where you can apparently see fireflies at night but since I was jet-lagged as hell, I possibly saw spirits instead.
I also had a private tour of a gorgeous castle, Braunfels. Many thanks to P for taking me there!
I can’t take pictures on the inside as the castle was private property but I saw some incredible works of art while I was there! From Ming dynasty vases to an actual Gregorian chant hymn book! Stunning stuff; it is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area!
A side note for those who are thinking of visiting the Leica Factory in Wetzlar and are looking for accommodations. Unless you want the full Leica experience at the Ernzt Leitz Hotel to Instagram their Leica cushions or something, I reckon you are better off staying at Frankfurt or even Gißen (which seems to have an incredible goth scene for some strange reason) and doing a day trip to the factory. I did three nights in Wetzlar and pretty much spent more time outside of it. Wetzlar is, however, a great town to be in if you are getting over your jetlag. They also have some great hiking trails which I discovered by accident.
It is about an hour from Frankfurt to Gißen, then to Wetzlar by train; faster if you drive. It should be about 14-20 euros to get from the Wetzlar train station to the factory.
Most locals and service staff do understand English but lord, it was a nightmare getting a German SIM Card in Wetzlar. I’m talking about close to 5 shops with a nien, vielleicht der andere Laden.
To which I reply, Mein Deutsch ist von Singen in Wagner-Opern. So, sure.
In all honesty, it was pretty easy to get around; pointing to the red dot on your camera is always an option although I found out that not many Germans actually know that the Leica Factory is in Wetzlar!
In all, I have to thank the customer service at Leica Germany for the quick turnaround time on my lens and for the yummy hot chocolate!
Also, a very special mention to P and L whom I had an incredible dinner, and time with!