In this edition of the Euroculture City Guides, Maike Mewes (German), who recently finished her second semester at the university of Uppsala, will give you an insight into life in the German city of Göttingen, where she studied at the University of Göttingen during her first semester.
The City Guide Project is led by Paola Gosio and Felix Lengers.
Euroculturer Magazine (EM): Why did you choose to study and live in this particular city?
Maike Mewes (MM): I already completed my Bachelor’s degree in Göttingen – more by chance – and got to know about the Euroculture Master’s programme. Göttingen is a very beautiful city with a high percentage of students (almost 25% of the inhabitants). Located in the middle of Germany, Göttingen also offers the possibility to visit many other interesting places – either with the regional trains which are for free as a student (at least in Lower Saxony and some neighboring cities) or with the ICE which connects you to Berlin, Munich, or Cologne within only a few hours.
EM: What are the aspects you appreciate the most about the city and which ones are those that you like less?
MM: In my opinion, Göttingen is the perfect city to study! It is quite small which helps a lot to find one’s way around after a short time and not to feel lost. One can easily walk or go everywhere by bike or use the bus for free, and there are several green areas like parks and the forest around the city. The Kiessee, a small lake, is the perfect place to go for a picnic during a nice sunny afternoon with some friends. Göttingen is also a city with a large number of students and therefore offers many possibilities to meet friends in cafés and bars and to do cultural activities, which are included in the Kultursemesterticket, like going to the theatre or concerts of the symphony orchestra (depending on the theatre/concert either for free or almost for free!). Tip: have a look at the long list of activities one can attend with the student card!
EM: Was it easy to communicate with the locals or did you encounter any issues? Do you have any tips on how to deal with the language barrier?
MM: As I am German and already knew Göttingen, I did not really have a problem communicating with anyone. In general, I think it is possible to communicate in English about the most important topics, but I can definitely recommend taking a language class at the ZESS. This is the University’s institute for languages, and they offer high quality classes for all students (again something for free). For any further questions about how to register and so on, the Euroculture staff in Göttingen provides a lot of information during the first weeks and most importantly, is always willing to help!
EM: If you were in the city for 1 day as a tourist, what would you certainly do?
MM: Pay a visit to the famous Gänseliesel, which is standing in the middle of the city center and is the most kissed girl in Göttingen! Maybe you are lucky to see a PhD student who just finished their thesis and has the honour to kiss the Gänseliesel! Also, I would take a walk to see the Deutsches Theater (German theatre), the city wall that runs around the city, the botanical garden, some of the churches and maybe the Bismarckturm up in the Stadtwald (city forest). Moreover, I would definitely eat a piece of cake from Café Cortés or Kaffeehus or some ice cream from Eislust! And if I came in spring, I would have a look at the main campus and the beautiful cherry blossoms!
EM: Do you have recommendations on nice places in the surroundings of the city to take daytrips to?
MM: I would definitely suggest going for a daytrip to Hannover, especially because the train ticket is included in the Göttinger Studierendenausweis (student card). Even if it is just possible to take regional trains, it is worth it. Furthermore, it is possible to go to the Harz or the mountain Brocken if you like to hike or to go for a long walk. The train ticket everyone gets from the University can also be used to go to the North Sea for some days, to visit Hamburg, Bremen or Münster – just to mention some of my favourite cities. Thus, I can really recommend using this possibility to move around for free.
EM: What would you consider the best local dishes and which places serve them best?
MM: If you want real German food, solid, plain, and fare, pay a visit to the restaurant Szültenbürger.
EM: Do you have some recommendations of good restaurants for vegans and vegetarians and other special diets?
MM: My absolute favourite is Café Cortés serving a large selection of delicious hand-made cakes (also vegan ones)!! My second favourite is Kaffeehus, close to the main campus. In addition to this, I could recommend Abessina which serves Ethiopian Eritrean food, followed by India Haus, Chennai Masala, Löwenstein (vegetarian, vegan or kosher), Café Tante Guilia and Café Botanik.
EM: Where would you go to have a drink or on a night out with friends?
MM: I personally like Sausalitos to have a cocktail or something to eat as they have a daily Happy Hour and one can sit outside, although it is in the center, but in a quiet corner. As I am not a big fan of beer, I don’t really have a personal recommendation for that, but I have heard good things about Trou, Nautibar and CharlieBar. Just to have a relaxed evening when the weather is nice, Göttingen students love to take a drink and sit outside at the Wilhelmplatz, called Willi.
EM: How do the prices of the city compare with the one you were in for your other semester? What were some of the cheaper goods and what were some of the more expensive goods? (e.g food, museums, public transport)
MM: Göttingen is quite affordable in terms of rent, food and so on – especially compared to Sweden. Public transport within the city can be used for free with the bus ticket (Studierendenausweis = student card) and there are many different places to get some cheap food. But above all, I can absolutely recommend the Mensa in Göttingen, as they serve more than 10 different dishes everyday which you can combine freely, and which are affordable for students! That is also the easiest way to meet the other students, just to go there together and everyone can choose what they want to eat.
EM: Which websites/sources did you use to find an apartment in the city and what tips would you give to someone moving in the city?
MM: I found my apartment via wg-gesucht.de which is a typical website in Germany to find a place to live, either a studio flat or a room in a shared apartment. Otherwise, there are several Facebook groups one could have a look at, even Ebay Kleinanzeigen is a possibility, and the Studentenwerk offers many different student accommodations, especially for exchange students who only stay for one semester and need something furnished.
EM: In short, to whom would you recommend choosing your city as an Euroculture semester destination?
MM: If you are looking for the big city life, Göttingen is not the best place for you. If you are looking for a beautiful, cozy, green city to live in, where you always meet someone you know and can feel at home, Göttingen is the perfect place for you!
Picture Credit: Christina Nellemann Sørensen & Hui-Yu Weng