Heidelberg is one of Germany's most visited cities. The Christmas markets make Heidelberg's Old Town sparkle with Christmas cheer. Here are 11 photos that show how cute and quaint Heidelberg truly is.
Oh Hannover. Where do I begin? I feel as if this can be more of a ramble than a formulated expression of my last goodbye. When I arrived on the night October 14, 2014 I thought my life was about to change but not necessarily for the good. I left the ocean, something I loved dearly and inspired me everyday to live as the best version of myself. I felt detached and confused, but then I fell in love with you – Hannover.
The first couple months were hard as I noticed that no one smiles and no one says thank you when you hold the door open – you know typical European behavior. But, then I began to embrace to this different type of life, and I am glad that I did. Hannover you gave me a traditional and true German experience. I never heard English; life was slower and definitely not touristy like Hamburg, Berlin or Munich (what I call the Big Three).
I think on some deep level I connected and felt empathy for you. Growing up in Cleveland under a Ukrainian culture (who were immigrants to the united states in 1951) I was influenced by European culture. The Great and vibrant Cleveland became a shithole during my upbringing. Cleveland was this dying city that everyone wanted to leave, including myself. It took me three moves abroad to realize the wonderfulness of Cleveland.
So I think you, Hannover can empathize, as it seems that every German and asshole from the Big Three said, “Why the hell did you move to Hannover?” I seriously did not understand what people meant. Maybe this town experienced some “death” like Cleveland, and if it did Hannover is not like this anymore.
In the matter of a few kilometers I could walk in pristine royal gardens, drop my clothes onto the earth and swim nude with the locals at the FKK Maschee Park Lake, walk in a forest in Liste or pick strawberries at the Hemmingen “erdbeeren” fields. I could experience the Berlin hipster vibe near Café Glocksee, Faust and the Limmerstrasse or explore world-class history and architecture in Old Town. Hannover is the most bikeable town I’ve ever been in and that itself contributes to one’s quality of life.
Hannover, you are the City of Music and embrace everything from jazz to opera to techno. Hannover to me is a cross between Cleveland and Seattle – my two USA homes. But, it’s funny and ironic how life works out. I am realistic that my life may not have been “real” during this time abroad. I did not have to go to some job everyday but yet I created my own art through writing. We lived in the most notable building in Hannover known as the Leibnizhaus.
You see now that its my last day here, I can finally connect the dots. If things did not work out exactly the way it did, my experience would not have been what it was. If Josh never met Jurgen three agos, we never would have been here. If our landlord didn’t accept our cat, we would not have lived in Old Town let alone the Leibnizhaus. If the current tenants did not choose to stay longer we would not have had the exact apartment that overlooks the Holzmarkt square. Being in this location, I was able to create unique photographs for my vegan cookbook using various café tables and antique dishware that I bought at the Old Town’s Flohmarkt. It sounds ridiculous to the logical mind, but nothing that I created would have been possible without living in this town at the exact moment in time. If it happened two or three years ago, I don’t think my “ career maturity” was there yet.
It’s funny thinking back to when I lived in Surfer’s Paradise, Australia that I had the same experience and emotions there as I do here in Hannover. There I lived with three roommates on a beachfront apartment that overlooked the ocean. In Australia, the ocean put me to sleep, and was my alarm clock in the morning. Here in Hannover’s Old Town, the four Old Town church bells wake me up every morning. It’s beautiful. It’s magical. It’s real.
But, someone with strong intuition said that I would become more spiritual on my journey abroad. And you know what, she was right. The nature and the people who I met along the way enhanced my life and my mindset. The many cafes inspired my creativity and yes the techno clubs allowed me to embrace this part of my personality without judgment.
I’m not sure why life has put me in these places, but I do know that it is a combination of fate and my love for travel. Learning about your history Hannover has made me thankful for living here. One thing I laughed about because I have interests in witches is that I discovered Hannover was a neutral town and did not like to play into witch trials unlike other towns like Wurzburg. Twenty-seven witches were killed in Hannover of which 26 were women. Yes people died or burned at the stakes, but its amazing yet intriguing to live somewhere that has such deep rooted history and is a middle-of-the-road type of place because that is who I am and who I became more of – an in the middle person who does not identify with one extreme label. There is something special about Hannover even with its history of being ruled by France and England’s King George IV and having 90% of the city bombed during WWII, Hannover experienced it all.
But what is most charming is the beauty before World War II. I wish I could take a telepathic trip to see it in person because the entire city was decadent and rich with historic architecture.
I hope the people who live here realize how lucky they are to be in Hannover. Not only is life convenient, but also the quality of life is one of a kind. Kids still play outside. Women can walk around alone at night. It’s clean. The city is affordable. Not everything is commercialized. You don’t have to pay $3,000 to live in a nice flat without worrying about your ceiling leaking or pay $3.00 for an avocado. I feel its one of the last remaining gems on this planet, which is what I felt in Australia, especially in terms of women’s safety.
But, I don’t know I feel that there is some interconnectedness between all the cities that I’ve spent time in - Cleveland, Seattle, Surfer’s Paradise, Hannover – all of you are so different but alike in many ways.
So, if you change, change for the better.
I will always remember the fun times I’ve had in Hannover and believe its one of the best places to live in Europe. Ich liebe dich Hannover.
Some people have domestic souls. Other people have adventurous spirits. My soul feels most alive when it’s on the road not knowing where I’ll go or who I’ll meet along the way. I have one week left of living in Germany and at times I have emotional breakdowns in the comfort of my cute and quaint Old Town apartment. It sounds ridiculous but those who have lived abroad understand the emotional rollercoaster.
This is my fourth time living abroad and also the fourth time prepping my mind for what’s about to come – reverse culture shock, expensive rent, scamming cable companies, endless work and lack of vacation days. It seems that it would get easier as time goes on, right? In some ways it is easier because I’ve been through this experience, but other times its difficult because traveling enhances wisdom. Those who actually want to learn about other cultures (and just don’t move abroad to do drugs and party day and night) you begin to understand human history better. You become wise about philosophies and you certainly know there is more to life than materialism and a paycheck. Traveling is the most liberating experience one can do for their soul.
This move home will be difficult because I spent this year writing, publishing and creating. Although nothing has made me a millionaire yet – I know this reality cannot exist yet because Seattle’s cost of living is so expensive. I am forever thankful for Hannover and Germany that gave me such a wonderful experience. From the simple berries that grow on trees to the different types of wooden tables that the local cafes have, I was able to produce some of the most creative food photography pieces for my vegan cookbook. I don’t think it was possible without living in Old Town. Funny, how life works out.
Well, back to the reverse culture shock. After I lived in Australia at 20 years old, I knew my spirit did not feel at home in America. I’ve kept this in mind throughout the years and living in Germany and exploring my family’s roots further acknowledges why I am a Euro at heart. There is no other place in the world where you can sit at a café and stare at an 11th Century castle while sipping on a latte. I’ve connected to Europe on every level from art to food.
Although I don’t eat meat, I explored each culture’s finest vegetarian and vegan-friendly foods. The freshness of the produce, the slow-cooked meals – food is a part of the culture. I know going back to America grocery shopping is exhausting as you need to read every fucking label for chemicals and “non-food” ingredients.
After Paris, I became sad. After Hannover almost got blown to bits by a terrorist attack I was ready to go home. Now that things have calmed down and seeing the attacks in California, I know my life is safer here in Europe. Hannover, like Australia, are these little gems where you can roam around town without feeling like someone is going to rob or mug you. For a woman, it’s very safe (although anything can happen anywhere) but I get so irritated about the lack of safety in America. I can't even go into a movie theatre without planning an escape route in case someone decides to shoot it up.
Many of us are victims of consumerism and are taught to hate our bodies, think we’re fat and not good enough. Not once in Europe have I had a conversation with a woman over cake and coffee about weight or body image. These are the exact feelings that I had at 20, which led me to study yoga in India. I couldn’t handle certain things that are shoved down the throats in America. I think my beef is that I can’t imagine a world of GMO-foods, constant consumerism and globalization. At times I wonder where the world is going.
But the reality is that when you move abroad you change. When you return home and people are still doing the same thing they were 1.5 years earlier, they don’t change. There is a clash of understanding and most people don’t give two shits about your travel or experiences (mainly family cares). Or when you do talk about your travels you sound like a snob. (Although most people don’t realize you slept on 25 Euros / night beds and ate for less than 40 Euros per day. It’s a Catch-22.
I personally don’t care that everything closes at 8:00pm and on Sundays in Germany. To me, it ensures that at least one culture has work-life balance left in this world. Even mundane tasks in Europe seem more exciting because it’s different. But the most exciting part was talking to people from around the world. Everyone has a different viewpoint about life and your brain begins to soak their perspective to help you formulate yours.
I've had it before, and I am sure I'll have it again - but adjusting to the speed of America is difficult. I felt this on a trip in the UK (which is the Little USA in my books) where I couldn't keep up with the flow of footpath traffic or the having money ready in hand in store lines.
It’s hard to return home when you already feel at home. In a nutshell, to me, living abroad gave me confidence. Not everyday was rainbows and pancakes, but meeting like-minds somehow encourages your wildest dreams. Reverse culture shock is never easy. It sounds simple like “Oh she just needs to snap out of her emotions,” but it doesn’t work like that. Remember what I said earlier, it’s the wisdom you gain that makes you see the world differently.
If you don’t think reverse culture shock can affect anyone, think again. This article is an example of how extreme shock can make someone do something impulsive.
OH Hannover. What can I say about this place? Its been my home for the last 14 months and I just adore this city. Last year was my first German Christmas market experience and from the first time I lay my eyes on the beautiful arrangement, I knew my future Christmas experiences would be ruined. Why? Because nothing could beat the beauty and the fairy-tale atmosphere that you can experience in Germany.
To me, Hannover’s Old Town Christmas markets are very special. The Old Town, like Hannover itself, is big but small. Hannover is a place where English is never spoken, unless you meet up with a native English speaker. It’s the true authentic German experience. The Old Town architecture boasts a combination of medieval and 1700’s Bavarian-style housing. Hannover markets are special because it blends a combination of modern, historic, medieval and Finnish stalls. Most stalls are constructed by hand where hunks of wood are designed into the most magical-looking stalls. You can enjoy Gloggi in the Finnish tent that is warmed by a fire. You can enjoy a medieval concert while eating flammkuchen. Or you can eat a gurken (pickle) while walking around the 14th Century Marktkirche.
Experiencing the Hannover markets is a walk through history. During certain times of the day, medieval-dressed men battle swords or play bagpipes and beat drums like they did back in 1592. What I find most amazing is that it embraces its history and culture. You can find soup boiling in a cauldron or gluwein served in a small ceramic cup. Nothing is forgotten.
Hannover Christmas stalls also offer Bio (organic) products, wine, punch and food. One of my favorite stalls offers organic holunder mulled wine and apfel-ingwer punch that kicks my taste buds to heaven. Although meat-heavy, Hannover offers a weekend long vegan Christmas market in Steintor that invites local and regional vendors to sell vegan products and food including goulash, doner kebabs, curry wurst, Christmas cakes and more.
When in Hannover, get lost and awaken your senses with Christmas cheer. There are other Christmas markets to visit next to the Hauptbanhof and in the Liste neighborhood. But nothing compares to the Old Town markets that will always a remain a special place in my Jolly Ol’ St. Nick heart.
It will seem weird trying to enjoy the same Christmas spirit in America. No markets, no public drinking, no Christmas cookie and cake shops – that feels surreal. Especially, when we can’t even get a snowman on a Starbuck’s cup to remind us of our country’s history, roots and culture.
I woke up tired and sleepy on a traditionally cloudy German morning. Cold and wearing my sweats, I showed up to Steintor platz where I volunteered to help build the weekend long vegan Hannover Christmas markets. One gal I spoke with said, “Only one-percent of Germans are vegan, but it’s a growing trend.”
One percent seemed tiny, but living in a meat and dairy society, I was pleasantly surprised at how open-minded Germans are about veganism. I spoke with and watched many meat-eaters support the local market not only because they know eating more vegetable-based foods are healthy for them and the planet.
This blew my socks off because in the States I feel many people live at one end of the spectrum. You are either a peace-loving vegan hippie or a manly man who has the right to bear-arms, hunts and grills deer-steaks in the back yard. There’s barely a fusion between the two and for many Americans eating 16-ounce steaks is what a man does. But this was opposite in Germany, where many meat eaters are open and supportive to eating alternative food.
Anyways, the Vegan Christmas markets are every non-meat eaters dream. From homemade meals to desserts, everything I tasted was heaven on earth. Goulash, doner kebabs, seitan chicken in peanut sauce, marzipan cupcakes and raw goji berry and coconut squares were the best things my tastebuds have ever tried.
Each stall was cutely decorated and it was a collection of like-minded people. From books to food products to condoms, there was something for everybody. I spoke with the director of a vegan river cruise that runs twice per year. Wow, how open-minded are these people?
When I first moved to Germany I had concerns about the availability of vegan products. After a bit of time and research, Germany was chocked full of the same stuff that we have in the states. In fact, due to EU food policies, the vegan options are healthier because of the lack of salt, sugar and preservatives in the food.
I loved the community and the atmosphere. The few people who I had conversations with in English were not like traditional Germans. They were relaxed and not as uptight about certain things. They were overall very friendly and hospitable people who invited me to other events in the area.
I could only wish the vegan markets were year round. But the Vegane Hannover group also offers a springtime market. For a mid-sized city, Hannover has a thriving Vegan scene and is one of the best in Germany. So when in Hannover at Christmas, experience these markets that run the first weekend in December.
It’s the opening week of the German Christmas markets and the atmosphere is filled with cheer. Week’s prior to opening, the locals intensely cut, build and decorate their stalls. Luckily, we live in Hannover’s Old Town and reside in the city’s most prominent building, The Leibnizhaus. Our cute German apartment overlooks the Christmas forest that they have built the last three market seasons.
The most interesting part of living here is watching the “TLC” (tender, love and care) that is put forth to celebrating a culture’s tradition. In early November, I woke up with life being normal, but by mid-November, I woke up to the sounds of chainsaws and some twenty massive coniferous trees in my front yard. For those who love Christmas, it’s a one-of-a-kind experience that takes us back to the “old-school” methods of doing things.
I watched men chop, saw and stack planks of wood on top of each other to build a gluweing stand. Impressed, I knew this would never fly in the states. I felt any business guru would do a cost-benefit analysis and find that it saves much time to throw up a prefabricated booth. It can be hard to express, but there is a different feeling to Christmas when watching this amount of effort to go into celebrating this holiday.
I felt like a kid again. Growing up in America, Christmas gifts and the usual “blah blahs” can lose its touch especially when chronically busy at work. I know many people who don’t put up trees anymore because it takes too much time out of their busy schedule. How sad, eh?
Hannover’s markets are special to me because they offer a medieval market that takes place next to the small river, the place where Hannover all began. Men and women dress like its 1492 and are ready to slay dragons. Beverages are served in cute brown ceramic cups that look like the local pottery artist made them.
In the traditional stalls, men and women decorate their stalls with slices of woods, chunks of trees, pine tree branches and plenty of ribbons. The best thing about these markets is that it brings back the Christmas cheer for everyone. No longer is Christmas the time to spoil kids with the latest gadgets, but the moment to spend time with friends and family and eat traditional food (vegan and vegetarian food is available).
It’s the time to be merry, forget about financial worries and celebrate the good times in life. Watching the locals’ build the markets are similar to watching a cake bake. You can see it and smell it. Your mouth salivates for it and stomach grumbles with desire. You become impatient and can’t wait for everything to be complete so you can get your hands on it.
This 2015 the markets are extra special because there is no shame in saying the word “Christmas.” Getting to the point where everything today is becoming politically correct, the one thing I respect is this celebration for a holiday that originated in the 1600’s. So it’s not a holiday or a seasonal market, but it’s a Christmas market and the Germans are rich in sticking with their culture.
With whatever happens in this crazy and insane world, the one thing I hope is that the German Christmas markets never change. So in an easy nutshell, this is what it felt like to watch two seasons of the Germans building a Christmas market.
Elizabeth Rae Kovar is a Fitness Trainer, Author of Finding Om, Presenter, Yogi, Vegan & lover of the World. View her portfolio at www.elizabethkovar.comor health-based blog at mindbodysoul-food.com