Sunday, August 10, 2008


The University Auditorium

Skipping some other places for now to get closer to the present, this weekend* I got myself to Göttingen, the self-described "City of Science" (Stadt der Wissenschaft). As Hannover is only an hour train ride away I basically had to make it there this summer or regret it in the future. Yes, I am a nerd. I have given up denying, and have decided to embrace it.

Model of the solar system, with the planets proportionate sizes and distances away from each other down the street. Pluto was in a neighboring city.

As you might imagine, it has a particular draw for people like myself, but very little for other travellers, and so I enjoyed an essentially tourist-free weekend. Most if not all other sightseers were Germans. This isn't to say there weren't English-speakers around; quite the contrary as I would say I heard the most English walking the streets there of any German city so far. Presumably, this is because the city is full of students (about 1/5 the population) and English is slowly becoming the international language of choice, aided by its position as the lingua franca of science.

Not a barber shop, this was in fact St. Petri's Church

The city claims its title due to the world-renowned Georg-August Universität which is located in the centre of the city. Gauss, Riemann, and Hilbert all had positions there, and the city boasts 44 Nobel prize laureates.

Because of the university, and what one of my sources referred to as a sort of "mutual understanding" between the British and Germans, Göttingen was spared completely during the war, as were Heidelberg, Cambridge and Oxford. Thus the city still has many original buildings, including lots of 16th-century half-timbered houses. Medieval architecture also appears throughout.

Just outside the downtown, featuring the Schwartzer Bär Pub in the foreground

A memorial to Gauss was set up at the southwest side of the city, though I don't know whether to laugh at or be annoyed by the work of some vandals....... (look closely at Gauss's left hand if you can't see)

Gauss Denkmal

The city is also home to the "most kissed girl in the world" - the Ganseliesel (goose girl). This fountain in the middle of the old city square is traditionally kissed by every graduate of the University. It has been illegal for years, but no one actually cares.

The Ganseliesel

All in all, a pretty cool town, recommended to any who find themselves in central Germany and have an interest in the history of science.

Man, I'm a geek.

*Not this weekend at all anymore, started writing this long ago. Ugh, I can't keep up......

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