Another Leipzig: New Leipzig, North Dakota


For this travel post, I decided to show you not a place I’ve been or give you some tips I think you’d appreciate. Instead, we will virtually travel together to a tiny town tucked away in southwest North Dakota, USA, most of us probably for the first time. Why?

Because the town is called New Leipzig, and it has its own Oktoberfest as a celebration of its “Germanness,” where they nevertheless drink Heineken and Miller Lite.

New Leipzig - Google Images

The idea of writing about it came from a Google search for other Leipzigs around the world, and this one, in particular, caught my attention. The town has a very cute website, where its history, attractions and facilities, as well as event and historical photos are proudly displayed. When it comes to describing the size of the population, the town’s website in 2015 said they were “274 Warm & Willing People With Strong Ethical Standards.”

It calls itself “The Small Friendly German Town On The Dakota Prairie.”

According to the New Leipzig website, the name of the town does derive from the now millennium-old city of Leipzig, Germany. New Leipzig was originally settled and christened by Bessarabia German immigrants in 1910. Between 1814 and 1940, such immigrants were given and lived on plots of land in Bessarabia, then part of the Russian Empire and now making up parts of Ukraine and Moldova. Their communities were named after sites where Napoleon had been defeated, Leipzig being one of them (in the battle of 1813).

They once again replicated the Leipzig name in their new home in the US, and it has remained thus. It makes sense that the present residents of New Leipzig, memorializing their heritage, hold an annual Oktoberfest (since 1971), given that many Bessarabia Germans came from Bavaria and adjacent areas.

I don’t know about you, but when I think of the Midwestern US state of North Dakota (ND), I think of COLD. The movie (and now TV series) “Fargo” is named after the largest city in ND, and the COLD is what I remember the most from the movie, despite its great plot and actors.

I’d later come to find out the film was not actually shot in Fargo, but it would be difficult to dispel from my mind this image of endless icy whiteness; and indeed winter temperatures in Fargo can get down to nearly -30 °C, with a seasonal average of 132 cm of snow. It was even voted “America’s Toughest Weather City” in a poll by The Weather Channel, according to Wikipedia. In the summer the temperature can go above 30 °C, which attests to its climate extremes (though I still think of COLD COLD COLD).

I am telling you all this because we would probably fly into Fargo, and perhaps poke around the city for a bit, if we were to visit New Leipzig.

To get to the tiny town, literally 500 times smaller than Fargo in terms of population, we’d drive about four hours west by car. New Leipzig is described as having weather extremes, as well. And the “Weather” section of the town’s old website was all about how to prepare for tornadoes.

Google Maps

But I don’t want to discourage you from going. On the contrary, it could be quite an interesting adventure, in terms of weather, road trip encounters and culture as well… definitely “off the beaten path” when it comes to tourist destinations.

It would be cool to get to visit all the Leipzigs around the world, and to trace their origins in terms of migration and such.

Keep up with this column for features on more Leipzigs out there, besides the more usual travel stuff.

A Global Studies doctoral degree holder and former newspaper reporter, avid eater, pseudo-philosopher and poet, occasion-propelled singer, semi-professional socializer, movie addict, Brazilian-American nomad. In this space, she will share some of her experiences and (mis)adventures regarding various topics, with special attention to social issues.

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