We meet with Stephen Gerhard Stehli in the Magdeburg Cathedral. The chairman of the Society of Friends of Magdeburg Cathedral has an exciting story to tell. After all, he is a native New Yorker who lives on the real Broadway. According to him, it is located in Magdeburg, the metropolis by the river Elbe. “I’m not far from the Broadway”, says Stehli, and by that, he means the “Breiter Weg” (from the German “breit” meaning “broad” and “Weg“ meaning “way“) in Magdeburg.
But where did the legendary story about the Breiter Weg as the real Broadway originate? Well, many centuries ago – like many other people – Magdeburg merchants ventured out into the New World. However, they could not forget their home, thus in New York – still called Nieuw Amsterdam at that time – they built a replica of Breiter Weg, which they dubbed Breede Weg, today’s Broadway.
In this way, the Magdeburg merchants were able to preserve a part of their home country in New York. Conversely, New Yorker Stehli found a place he could call home in Magdeburg. He has been living on the Elbe for nearly 25 years. He has really taken to the city: “Everything is just right for me here. I feel very comfortable here, and I would like to stay here.”
Good reasons for visiting Magdeburg
And the Magdeburger by choice cites several reasons why other New Yorkers ought to follow him, or at least pay a visit to the metropolis by the river Elbe. What initially amazes international guests from overseas the most are the testimonies to over 1200 years of history. The Broadway original continues to offer a stunning clear view of the Cathedral towers that dominate the Magdeburg skyline. “The Cathedral is the key attraction”, points out Stehli. What’s more, the Breiter Weg really has everything to offer. From rows of shops, through residential quarters, right down to a colourful nightlife. Everything here is in fact a bit more compact, perhaps a bit cosier and on a smaller scale than in New York.
And what is the most convincing argument for a New Yorker to come here? Naturally, the opportunity to have an authentic New Yorker like Stephen Gerhard Stehli personally show them the Breiter Weg with all its facets.
Universitätsplatz square instead of Columbus Circle – Hasselbachplatz square instead of Bowling Green
Incidentally, there are some commonalities between Magdeburg and New York. Both ends of the Breiter Weg resemble its copy in the American cosmopolitan city: Universitätsplatz square instead of Columbus Circle and Hasselbachplatz square instead of Bowling Green. In both cities, there are spacious parks, such as Central Park and the Stadtpark Rotehorn city park.
“My cathedral is my home”
One thing is certain: Stehli’s heart beats for Magdeburg. He explains his decades of commitment to the Magdeburg landmark as follows: “This is European history at its best.” To him, the Magdeburg Cathedral has strong symbolism.
European Capital of Culture: Magdeburg deserves the title
When asked whether Magdeburg deserved the title of “European Capital of Culture 2025”, the Cathedral aficionado remarked that the city was a very good fit alongside the list of previous title laureates. “I think it will enhance the city’s cosmopolitan flair. It will have a very invigorating effect, and people will see: It’s worthwhile living here in Magdeburg.”
A New Yorker in Magdeburg, a Magdeburger in New York
Despite his strong commitment to Magdeburg, Stehli has still kept up with a certain tradition. Each time he crosses the city limits of New York by car – no matter what time of day it is – he greets the city of his birth by honking his horn several times. Just like a proud New Yorker.
During one of his future visits, perhaps he will encounter Menahem Pressler, native Magdeburger and world-renowned Beaux Arts Trio pianist. Pressler, who was born in the metropolis by the river Elbe in 1923, fled from the Nazi regime via Palestine to the United States. And today he is: a Magdeburger in New York.