Somehow the holiday season snuck up on us this year. It’s probably partly because Thanksgiving – our festive American predecessor to Christmas – comes and goes without fanfare in Germany. Plus we don’t shop much and aren’t buying Christmas gifts this year, so we haven’t been down into the Goettingen city center for months except for groceries. We have a few festive decorations for our apartment, including the wooden pine cone ornament we bought at the 2015 Christmas market, but not much else. It seems we’ve been living in a bubble, far from the holiday festivities. A visit from an American friend and a trip to the 2016 Goettingen Christmas Market helped put us in the spirit of the holidays, particularly since this year brought some fun new additions to the event!
1. The Gänseliesel, Göttingen’s “Goose Girl”
Ok, so the statue of the town’s famous Goose Girl is hardly new, but we’re used to seeing her draped in summer flowers. Or in the dark. For some reason we typically end up in the city center at night, so it was nice to see the statue in the daylight.
We recommend visiting on a nice sunny day to really appreciate the statue. It’s difficult to see the details or flowers when it’s gloomy or dark.
2. Giant Advent Calendar
Goettingen might not be the only town in Germany with this idea, but I still love it.
The entire side of a building is decorated to resemble a giant Advent calendar to count down the days until Christmas.
If you have friends or families visiting from out-of-town, especially outside Europe, the Goettingen Christmas Market is a great place to spend an evening with them. I guarantee they’ll love it.
The 2016 Goettingen Christmas Market had already been open for weeks before we paid a visit. It was Kate, an American friend from Oregon, who finally motivated us. During her whirlwind trip to the UAE and Europe, she carved out a couple of days to spend at our place. She has the honor of being the first American to visit us in Germany.
Though she had just visited several of Berlin’s Christmas Markets – which typically rank among the best in Europe – Kate assured us she was up for anything, so we spent the day with her at our local Goettingen Christmas Market.
Of course, the best part of Kate’s visit was just getting to catch up with her. But we’re glad we didn’t miss the market altogether since Germany’s Christmas markets really are special. No doubt we’ll look back someday with nostalgia and wish we could visit again so easily.
4. Outdoor Booths Heated with Braziers
The Goettingen Christmas Market typically has wooden booths folks can gather ’round, including ones that are covered, but this year the booths are also HEATED. Metal braziers suspended in the center of each booth hold burning embers that feel incredibly warm and toasty on a cold December day.
They should have these at all Christmas markets! The idea is simply brilliant.
5. Kartoffelpuffer – Potato Cakes
Like Idaho, Germany is famous for its potatoes – and Germans, their love of them. It wouldn’t be a proper German Christmas market without some sort of fried tater.
This year we tried Kartoffelpuffer for the first time. Clearly not a health food, these potato pancakes are made from patties of shredded potatoes, flour, and eggs, deep fried in a vat of oil. Sometimes they have garlic or onion added. Common sides for dipping include Apfelmus (applesauce) or a sauce made of quark (cheese curd) with herbs.
They’re definitely tasty, but you probably won’t want very many since they’re pretty greasy. Or just go for it – you only live once!
6. Nuts & Bolts of Chocolate
Like the Kartoffelpuffer booth, we didn’t see this really nifty tool vendor last year. What makes it so cool is that the entire booth consists of tools – nuts, bolts, screws – made out of chocolate. Rather than being wrapped in colored foil, the chocolate appears to be painted or dusted with edible coloring in shades of gold, silver, and copper. It even glints in the light like real metal.
If you know someone who would love a wrench or a biner in chocolate, now you know where you can find it!
7. Christmas Exhibit at St. Johanniskirche
The stalls of the market surround St. Johanniskirche (St. John’s Church), the very same church we admired daily from the window of our temporary flat last December when we first arrived in Germany. This year, the church is featuring an art exhibit with a handful of religious dioramas inside the church. Some of them are quite clever.
Even if you’re not into the religious exhibits, the church provides a welcome reprieve from the cold if you need to warm up your feet.
And of course, don’t forget to drink Glühwein – hot mulled wine. It wouldn’t be an authentic German Christmas market experience without it!
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Know Before You Go
The Goettingen Christmas Market has over 80 stalls.
Highlights include an ice rink (though we’ve yet to find it), the many food and Glühwein (mulled wine) vendors, a small Ferris wheel offering rides, and the side of a building in the square decked out like an Advent calendar.
Open 23rd November – 29th December 2016
Closed December 24 & 25 for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day