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German Village Reviews

Let’s Do the Tryst

Run off with your sweetheart for a romantic weekend where you can really reconnect.
By Caitlin Barnett

German Village Guest House

Historic German Village is the jewel of Columbus. Delightful in its quaint, small town character, the neighborhood also boasts a convenient location (it’s just south of downtown) and hip lodging. John Pribble III and his wife, Darci Congrove, offer the quintessential urban getaway at the German Village Guest House.

Renovated in 2005, the building features exposed brick walls, modern décor, and a fresh take on accommodations. Both Pribble and Congrove have day jobs, so they give you a key and stock the communal kitchen with plenty of breakfast goodies and snacks, like homemade banana bread. Borrow a book or DVD from their library and spend the night in, cozy in your complimentary terry robes. For an evening on the town, marvel at the architecture as you stroll hand-in-hand through Schiller Park, then along the brick roads to one of the area’s acclaimed restaurants, like Lindey’s.

Venice isn't your bag? NY Post suggests Columbus

The Other Paper 01/03/08

Columbus apparently made a big impression on a New York Post travel writer who included this city in a Christmas Day column about five of the most memorable trips he'd taken in 2007.

Not only a big impression but a fast one — he stayed here only one night, according to John Pribble, proprietor of the German Village Guesthouse, where the writer rested his presumably weary bones.

Nevertheless, Columbus was listed alongside such tourist destinations as Venice, Budapest and New Orleans.

Landsel appreciated the "charming guesthouse," which he called "perhaps one of the nicest in the Midwest." He also praised the historic area that surrounds it, calling German Village "one of the most atmospheric old-city neighborhoods in North America."

And he didn't stop there. After taking a trip up High Street, Landsel heaped praise on the "lively" North Market ("everything from gelato to hormone-free ham loaf!"), the "edgy" Short North, the "boisterous" University District and "sedate" Worthington.

Apparently, Clintonville, which he must have passed through to get from campus to Worthington, didn't make an impression on him.

And Landsel also didn't make an impression on Pribble, who couldn't remember whether he'd met the writer during his visit last June.

Even so, Pribble was grateful for the endorsement.

"Being mentioned in that context is like being a freshman at the senior prom and having all the seniors notice you," Pribble said.

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"One of the most atmospheric old city neighborhoods in North America. Coastal types pay good money to live in districts that only come close to approaching the charm and scale of this elegant neighborhood crowded with red brick row houses along impossibly well-kept streets."
— David Landsel, NY Post

St Louis Post Dispatch — Historic neighborhood offers variety of attractions

Jim Winnerman St Louis Post Dispatch 01/06/08 — Article

COLUMBUS, OHIO — In 1959, Frank Fetch decided to renovate a private brick home in a section of Columbus known as German Village, which had been neglected since World War I. When his residence was completed, Fetch held an open house and asked for help in restoring the 233-acre community.

Today, German Village is among the largest privately financed redevelopment projects in the nation. The 1,200 buildings have again become a vibrant neighborhood of homes and a unique collection of charming shops and eateries. The community has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

THE BASICS: John Pribble and his wife, Darci Congrove, have been active in the revitalization effort. After restoring their own home, they began to think how nice it would be if their neighbor would sell them her well-maintained garden.

"The garden came with the house," Pribble says, recalling how he got into the business of being an innkeeper.

Pribble's inn is actually two 1890s-era buildings a few blocks apart. One is a guesthouse with the garden and the other is a home divided into two, four-room suites. Both are conveniently located in the center of German Village. All attractions are within a comfortable walking distance, and on-street parking is ample. The inn is also the only accommodations available in the village.

THE UNIQUE: With hectic business careers separate from the inn, Pribble and his wife have developed their own approach to inn-keeping. Because they are frequently not available in person, guests are given Pribble's cell phone number and instructions where to find the key to enter the guesthouse or suites.

The method is unusual for guests who frequent bed and breakfast inns, expecting a warm greeting, conversation and a personally cooked breakfast from an innkeeper. But the ultra chic decor, plentiful welcome snacks, fresh fruit and a multitude of breakfast choices quickly dispel concerns. So do small vases of fresh flowers and flat screen TVs.

A stay becomes more akin to visiting a friend's home who is away but in phone contact. Even a washer and drier and a kitchen fully stocked with china, silverware and appliances are available in each suite and in the guesthouse.

THE ROOMS: The guesthouse contains three large rooms, each with a private bath. A second home is divided into two suites, each with a private entrance, living room, kitchen and bedroom.

All rooms and suites are furnished with an urban decor theme, much like the neighborhood residences that have been remolded, according to Pribble. Decor includes upholstered chairs, dressers with leather tops, hand hewed wooden desks and low level lighting.

THE GUESTS: In just two years, guests have come across the nation and 20 countries. Many are referred by neighborhood residents. Others are what Pribble says are "cultural tourists" in town specifically to explore German Village .

Many guests come from nearby Cincinnati, Pittsburgh or Cleveland seeking a romantic weekend or mini-vacation.

THE FOOD: A basket of fruit and freshly baked cookies and cake are waiting at arrival. The refrigerator is stocked with several flavors of juice cartons and milk, plus sliced fruit and a large bowl of fresh berries for breakfast. Also available are a variety of granola bars, single serve boxes of various cereals and fresh bagels and banana bread.

Apparently, Pribble's approach is to stock enough food in each suite and the guesthouse equivalent to a breakfast for each person. Frugal guests can save enough for lunch or prepare a diet dinner with a little planning.

THE HIGH POINTS: Because of Pribble's approach to his business, staying at the German Village Guesthouse is akin to becoming a part of the neighborhood rather than a guest in an inn. Phone calls and wireless high speed Internet are free.

THE LOW POINTS: The rooms are decorated with so much attention to detail there is a brief moment when you consider cleaning the room before leaving. Very brief.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Rooms range from $135 to $165 in the guest house and $195 to $235 for the suites. German Village Guesthouse, 748 Jaeger Street, Columbus, Ohio; call 1-866-587-2738 or visit gvguesthouse.com. GV reviews top

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New York Post — Best of 2007

David Landsel NY Post 12/25/07 — Article

I DON'T know which I like better — the chance to travel a great deal, or year's end, when I have enough time to sit back, take a deep breath and reflect on the experiences of the past twelve months.

Here are just five of the most memorable trips I took this year - and tips on how to do them yourself, if you've a mind.

1) Winter mornings in the baths of BUDAPEST

Let's face it - Hungary's big city in winter isn't going to win any beauty contests.

In fact, I'm not sure if it could win at the peak of spring or summer. It doesn't matter, though. Budapest knows what's important in life. Things like music, good pastry and the healthful properties of a bi-weekly thermal bath. That's a town Iwant to hang with.

The ancient (but recently updated) Rudas baths turned out to be the highlight of my trip (well, that and the day at the pretty Szechenyi baths in City Park). I never want to pay too much to go to a spa again.

How to: For details, visit spasbudapest.com. In 2008, CIE Tours is offering an 11-day tour of Budapest, Vienna and Prague from $1,399 land-only (cietours.com).

2) Eating and drinking in ONTARIO

Some of the New World's most interesting wines are right on our own doorstep. I am not talking about the North Fork.

In fact, while we're all for supporting things local, I defy anyone to do a proper tasting tour of Ontario's Niagara Peninsula or Prince Edward County and come back not wanting to knock some sense into New York state winemakers.

Unfortunately, Ontario wines aren't as available in New York as you'd think, in part because there often simply isn't enough being produced to export.

I particularly loved Prince Edward County, where two stops I won't soon forget were Sandbanks Estate for their ruddy Baco Noir and delicate ice cider at the County Cider Company.

As far as reasons to drive up to Niagara next spring, the classic rose at Henry of Pelham and the indulgent sparkling ice wine at Inniskillin are all I need.

How to: Information at winesofontario.org and ontariotravel.net.

3) Nighttime in VENICE

Some cities look great in morning light, others are more the sunset type, still more look better at night.

Then, some cities just can't help but be attractive no matter what time it is. Venice is one of them.

For maximum effect, wander the back alleys of the Dursoduro into the Campo Santa Margherita with its student crowd and then head on through Campo San Barnaba and squeeze through the crevasse-sized alleyway that propels you out onto to the expansive Zattere promenade.

How to: For information, visit turismovenezia.it

4) Watching NEW ORLEANS bounce back

The picture in New Orleans is often grim, and the media eats it up. Let's be honest - the facts aren't always encouraging.

But what's not being reported are the dozens of tiny victories every day -- whether you're talking about another perfect blueberry mojito served at St. Joe's Bar on Magazine Street, the morning light hitting the facades of Royal Street just so, the rumble of the streetcar coming back up St. Charles Avenue for the first time since the storm or an unforgettable remoulade at Mandina's on Canal Street.

How to: Stay with good people at the Chimes B&B (chimesneworleans.com) or the O'Malley House (1896omalleyhouse.com). JetBlue flies daily, nonstop (jetblue.com). For more info, visit neworleanscvb.com

5) Finding something to love about OHIO

There's a reason why travel is so great. Never was that so clear as the steamy mid-summer evening spent wandering in Columbus' German Village.

The name warns of kitsch around the corner, but this actually turns out to be one of the most atmospheric old city neighborhoods in North America. Coastal types pay good money to live in districts that only come close to approaching the charm and scale of this elegant neighborhood crowded with red brick row houses along impossibly well-kept streets.

(To top it off, this is the location of a charming guesthouse, perhaps one of the nicest in the Midwest.)

A visit to the North Market, with its artisanal food producers (everything from gelato to hormone free ham loaf!) and lively atmosphere, coupled with a trip up High Street, from the edgy Short North area past the boisterous university district and into the sedate suburb of Worthington (with a stop for ice cream at legendary Ohio churner Graeter's) just sealed the deal -- Columbus is vastly underrated.

How to: A stay at the German Village Guesthouse is your key to the perfect visit (gvguesthouse.com).

Several carriers, including American (aa.com) offer frequent service from LaGuardia. For more information on the region, see experiencecolumbus.com.

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"Nothing is more hip than the German Village Guest House."
— Laura Johnston, Cleveland Plain Dealer

Cleveland Plain Dealer — Step into charming German Village

Laura Johnston Cleveland Plain Dealer 09/16/07 — Article

Columbus -- Picking my path down Beck Street, my feet thumping the bricks and my iPod pumping a Jock Jams anthem into my ears, I stop.

There, behind that wrought-iron fence is a storybook garden with a wooden trellis, deck chairs, curtains and lamps. And there, that next house, lush pink and greenery surrounding a glittering pool. And there, across the street, a forest of flowers in Frank Fetch Park. Like charms on a silver bracelet, they beckon.

"Aren't I darling?" "Look at me!" "No, no, look at me!"

I look. And I marvel at the narrow brick road and wavy brick sidewalks, the magazine-spread gardens and stunningly restored brick homes.

I'm not in Ohio anymore. This must be Charleston, S.C. Or Back Bay Boston. Or some hidden corner of Brooklyn.

It feels too cosmopolitan, too old and too stylish to be Columbus. But I look up. The skyline's still there, towering over the peaked roofs and chimneys.

Welcome to German Village, 233 acres of homes, stores and restaurants listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Once a working-class neighborhood full of brewery workers and their families, German Village was settled like much of Columbus' south side by Germans who immigrated after 1830. By 1865, Columbus was one-third German, and German-language businesses, schools and newspapers thrived.

That ended with anti-German sentiment during World War I. And when Prohibition passed, the beer makers and taverns fell on hard times. In the 1950s, the northern third of the neighborhood was razed.

It wasn't until 1960, when a local activist pushed for preservation, that the neighborhood was recognized as something worth saving.

Now, homes here can go for more than $1 million, and folks come from all over to visit the village's famed boutiques and restaurants. The annual Oktoberfest, a fund- raiser for the volunteer German Village Society, draws thousands for beer, pretzels, polka and, this year, the band Saving Jane. I came. I shopped. I drank and ate -- a lot. And I plan to return.

Thursday, 11 a.m.

First stop: the German Village Society Meeting Haus (that's the German spelling of house, of course) to get my bearings -- and lots of information. Stocked with maps, pamphlets, souvenirs, a snappy movie and wall panels tracking the timeline of the neighborhood, the visitors center is a must-see stop. It's open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.

"Walking around here is the best part," says P. Susan Sharrock, the chatty office manager. "Looking at people's gardens costs nothing."

Getting the goods on what to do and where to eat is also free from Sharrock, who dishes that the Olde Mohawk Restaurant was once a "house of ill repute" and that the best burgers in town are at Thurman Cafe. I mark that on my to-do list.

But first it's lunch at Katzinger's Delicatessen on the edge of German Village, which runs from East Livingston Avenue to Nursery Lane, bounded by Pearl and Lathrop streets. At 12:30 p.m. on a Thursday, frat boys, businessmen and a quartet of senior citizens pack the casual corner. It's also jammed with cheese and fish cases and shelves of pasta, salsa, pickles and crackers. Bright hand-lettered signs line the walls, and two barrels of pickles (garlic and dill, help yourself) stand amid the chaos. The sandwiches are huge, and my Reuben totally breaks my diet. But dripping with dressing and oozing cheese, it's worth the calories.

Thursday, 1:30 p.m.

Refreshed and stuffed, I mean to simply wander. But a few blocks down Third Street, I can't resist Caterina Ltd., a collection of European house wares, art and gifts.

The sunny store bursts with blue-and-yellow aprons and vases and pretty pieces, including a set of monogrammed dinnerware custom-ordered from Italy. I want the pink-and-green "Rosetta" pattern, but at $144 for a dinner plate, I manage to put it back without breaking it.

But I do find an affordable Christmas present for my mom.

Down a few more blocks is The Book Loft, the only full-service independent bookstore left in Columbus, says co-owner Carl Jacobsma. "This is no Borders."

Nope. It's way more confusing, a maze of stairs and 32 rooms, with arrows pointing out specific sections. But it's way more fun, never knowing what you'll walk into. And every book is at least 5 percent off.

I ask about "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert, get directions to the autobiography section and am, frankly, proud when I follow them, up the stairs, then down the stairs, to find it.

Books in hand, I'm off to St. Mary Roman Catholic Church, finished in 1868. I peek into the cool dimness and check out the stained glass and ceiling paintings, which incorporate German phrases.

That's not to say German Village is very, well, German.

There's Schmidt's Sausage Haus, of course (more on that in a minute), but no one walks around speaking Deutsch. The locals don't wear dirndls or juggle pretzels.

The neighborhood is more antique than ethnic, more hip urban enclave than living-history museum.

Thursday, 4 p.m.

Nothing is more hip than the German Village Guesthouse and its annex, Whittier Suites, considered a boutique hotel.

Really, my suite is its own apartment -- living room, bedroom, fully stocked kitchen and a bath room with a shower big enough to do cartwheels. In grays and neutrals, it's Zen and modern, and the kitchen is chock-full of yummy food, from banana bread to fresh blueberries.

At more than $200 a night, though, the price is a little steep. So, as many of the glowing guestbook comments from celebrating couples indicate, this place is best for special occasions. Another, more affordable option is the Best Western Clarmont Inn & Suites on High Street.

After checking in, I walk the block to SchillerPark, 23.5 acres of grass, paths, playground and gardens.

The park is fat with flowers lining paths to the statues of poet Friedrich von Schiller and the "Umbrella Girl" (which is, no kidding, a girl holding an umbrella). It's also planted with people -- painting, running, playing tennis, gardening, reading and walking dogs.

This is where German Village hangs out.

I, however, am in the mood to eat, tourist style.

As a warm-up, I stop at the first Max & Erma's. Although it shares a menu with the suburban franchises, this original is tucked into a corner storefront and gives the "neighborhood gathering place" slogan some meaning.

I then walk to Schmidt's Sausage Haus, which is as cheesy as it is meaty. With an oompah band playing the "Simpsons" theme song in the background, I load my buffet plate with bratwurst, sausage stew, mashed potatoes, potato salad, sauerkraut and mild Bahama Mamas. (I kept thinking the talked-about Bahama Mama was a drink. It's not. It's a sausage.) It's comfort food at its best. And yes, my diet is completely gone. I refuse to think about it.

Because, for dessert (only $2 with the Autobahn Buffet), I treat myself to a jumbo cream puff, a half-pound of filling in a pastry shell.

Good thing I plan to run in the morning.

Now, though, I sit and drink wine in SchillerPark while watching a performance of "The Taming of the Shrew." It's one of the last Shakespeare-in-the-park plays of the season, which runs May through Labor Day weekend.

Other events -- from a party to watch the Columbus Marathon to a Halloween bash and pet parade -- fill SchillerPark in the fall.

Friday, 8 a.m.

Tucking the duvet under my chin, I spend my last sleepy moments in a squishy king-size bed before talking myself up and into my running shoes.

I do a loop of SchillerPark, then up Third Street, over to High -- where German Village meets the Brewery District -- then anywhere my feet want to carry me, down Beck Street, past Frank Fetch Park, around and through and in and out of alleys.

After a luxurious shower, I hit the sidewalks again to check out Starbucks and Cup o' Joe, across from each other on Third Street.

Unlike most people in their 20s, I abhor coffee, so I order a smoothie at Cup o' Joe and settle in to people watch. The place is chill, with folks studying and talking and clicking away on their laptops, but I hear from locals it's the place to be seen.

From there, I'm off to the Helen Winnemore Craft shop, by most accounts the oldest retailer of American crafts.

In 1938, Winnemore began offering afternoon tea as shoppers perused her dressers and cabinets for goodies made by fellow Quakers. Now saleswomen offer iced tea and water when you enter the store.

Sun streams through colorful glassware, and chimes tinkle as I open drawers brimming with jewelry and sift through greeting cards.

Afterward, I make a quick stop at Schmidt's Fudge Haus and Gifts, where I pick up some chocolate-and-peanut-butter buckeyes to take home.

Friday, 1:30 p.m.

And then, lunch at the Thurman Cafe, where the burger is every bit as big and scrumptious as promised.

A small, well-worn pub, it -- like the neighboring Easy Street Cafe -- is a busy hot spot on weekend nights. But for a late lunch, I get a table by a window, surrounded by Budweiser labels on the ceiling and autographed dollar bills on the walls.

I order a Macedonian burger, three-quarters of a pound of beef on toast, with roasted red peppers. Plus steak fries. Mmm.

After lunch, I head to Studio Fovero, a salon and spa set in a comfortable brick carriage house. Haircuts start at $38, and mine was definitely worth it.

Then I stop by Franklin Art Glass Studios, which sells sheets of stained glass and gorgeous wall hangings and lamps. It also makes custom pieces. I resist a sudden urge to buy a stained glass lamp for my living room.

My husband, Craig, would kill me.

When he joins me that evening, he does like the black-and- white photograph of Cleveland I found at Metroscap, a store that sells only marvelous, framed black-and-white cityscapes. They're small and square, little snippets of detail that can make any city feel as glamorous as New York.

Friday, 6:30 p.m.

I feel movie-star fancy as I sashay through Lindey's signature lighted portico.

Craig and I arrive at the Columbus institution after dropping by Barcelona, a Spanish restaurant with what's said to be the best patio in town. Secluded behind a wooden fence, it's romantic and lush with greenery.

Lindey's, a more traditional bistro, also features a fabulous patio, with a fountain and view of the darling Beck streetscape. But we sit inside to enjoy French onion soup, crab cakes and warm chocolate cake (for me) and gazpacho, margherita pizza and apple torte (for him). The service is great, as is the food. And we leave stuffed again, as we search for some nightlife.

Friday, 10 p.m.

Figuring we should try beer in the Brewery District, where southside Germans made beer as early as 1836, we land at the Columbus Brewery Co., a restaurant on the banks of the Scioto River.

While the CBC makes beer, there are no real breweries left in the 300-acre Brewery District, because Prohibition devastated the industry. There are few original buildings either, according to the German Village Society. But there are brand-new condos and plenty of casual bars, though most of the club scene has migrated to the Arena District and Short North, locals informed me.

Settling in on the patio with friends, we taste a pale ale and an apricot ale, both fuller than my typical Bud Light. Unfortunately, the place closes at 11 p.m.

So we move to High Beck Tavern, a bar on the corner of Beck and High streets.

A band plays (I feel really old when I ask my husband why it has to be so loud), and the bar feels like college -- low-key, cool and a little grimy.

Saturday, 8 a.m.

One more time, we walk to SchillerPark, where my husband and I bat tennis balls and watch dog walkers talk before bidding goodbye to our sweet suite.

But once I hit the highway, I call my mom, convincing her that we must come back for the June Haus und Garten tour.

Or, maybe, Oktoberfest.

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St Louis Suburban Journal — Restored Columbus neighborhood a mix of shops, restaurants

By Jim Winnerman 09/10/07 — Article

The minute I saw the mural, I liked Columbus, Ohio, and laughed.

Covering the entire windowless wall of a 14-story building, an advertisement for Coops Paint displayed drawings of several huge cans of paint at the top.

One, however, had tipped over, drenching the wall in bright yellow. On the parking lot below, the liquid appeared to have poured onto the top of a parked car and van, and then flowed over the asphalt. Globs of paint even appeared on an adjacent building where the spill apparently splashed.

Someone in town had a larger-than-life sense of humor, and it turned out to be the Nationwide Corp. Headquartered in Columbus, the company had the mural painted with a tag line on an adjacent building, reading "Life Comes at You Fast." The implication was the firm can help individuals with financial decisions.

I discovered Nationwide had helped everyone in Columbus with some financial decisions beginning in the 1990s. The firm took the initiative to redevelop a 75-acre downtown area that had been home to a closed penitentiary, parking lots and empty warehouses. Now known as the Arena District, it is a pleasant place to walk and eat, even when the surrounding entertainment and sports venues are closed.

But the walk did not end there. The Arena District leads into the indoor North Market District, which dates to 1876 and contains an eclectic mix of farm-fresh produce stands and other stalls with names such as The Grapes of Wrath (wine) and Curds of Whey (cheese.) That district leads to the Short North District, a mix of art galleries, fashionable clothing stores and nightclubs. The trio of districts makes a unique string of eating and shopping attractions that may cover a mile.

Several blocks south of downtown, I discovered a paradox to corporate-driven redevelopment. In what is now called German Village, a 1960 grassroots initiative by a local citizen began an effort to preserve a 233-acre tract filled with 1,200 long-neglected brick homes and businesses.

The area was settled from 1840 until 1917 by immigrant Germans. At one time they were a third of the population of Columbus, having been attracted to town by work in seven breweries.

When war with Germany began in 1917, followed by Prohibition and World War II, the area remained unpopular until neighborhood hero Frank Fetch decided to restore one of the homes himself. When completed, he hosted an open house that resulted in a group being formed that was interested in preserving the community.

Today the village is the among the largest privately funded restoration effort in the United States. It is filled with one-of-a-kind boutique clothing and antique shops, galleries, restaurants and pubs. All are intermingled with block after block of immaculately maintained Italianate brick homes facing brick paved streets.

It is an ideal area to explore by walking because many of the businesses stand alone in the middle of a block of homes. A town architect ensures signage and lighting are unobtrusive.

One of the most unusual bookstores in the world also is in the village. The independently owned Book Loft stretches a city block, but the entrance is at the end of a brick walk through a long, shady courtyard. Inside, the 32 rooms have been cobbled together from a series of adjoined 1863 buildings which were purchased one by one as the store prospered. Each room is no larger than 10-by-10 feet. Because every inch is covered with shelves crammed with books, one room blends seamlessly into the next, and it is easy to get lost.

The only accommodation in the village is the German Village Guesthouse, a unique bed-and-breakfast correctly advertised as "more boutique hotel than inn." It occupies two homes a few blocks apart and is an easy to walk to all village attractions.

Inside, the contemporary room decor used in the inn provides an insight into how innovative some of the redevelopment efforts are in the village. Staying at the inn imparted a sense of being a part of the community instead of a tourist. It was an enjoyable alternative to a chain hotel or motel.

The German Village Society (614-221-8888) has information to help plan a visit and can arrange a variety of history, home or garden tours. The German Village Guest House (866-587-2738) is centrally located in the village.

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"I'm not in Ohio anymore. This must be Charleston. Or Back Bay Boston. Or some hidden corner of Brooklyn. It feels too cosmopolitan, too old and too stylish to be Columbus."
– Laura Johnston, Cleveland Plain Dealer

The Tennesean — Old-world vibe brightens Christmas in Columbus

Kathy Witt The Tennessean 11/18/07 — Article

Visit Columbus, Ohio, this holiday season and you'll be greeted with a city twinkling with 10,000 candles in its German Village and dazzling with the works of a French Impressionist in its downtown.

The Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal will be on display at an indoor garden railway, and the North Pole experienced at the zoo. All this, plus shopping and gallery-hopping in a winter wonderland give travelers a world of reasons to explore Columbus.

Soon it will be cheaper than ever: Skybus begins a Chattanooga-to-Columbus route in December, with fares as low as $10 each way.

Look at the lights

Add an old-world touch to your holidays with a visit to German Village, a 233-acre neighborhood listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its bricked streets, wrought-iron fences, tiny and trim yards, and eclectic architecture — including buildings with Queen Anne, Italianate and Dutch features — lend a Euro vibe to the nation's largest privately funded historic district.

During its Village Lights event, 10,000 candles illuminate the streets and charming SchillerPark as strolling carolers sing and shopkeepers and restaurateurs offer hot mulled cider and snacks. Santa Claus and his reindeer cause a stir, as does Pelsnickel, the German gift giver known for rewarding those on the "nice" list while punishing those under "naughty."

Visit the shops on foot or via tram, poking into the 32-room Book Loft, plus antiques and art galleries and fine crafts shops along the cobbled way: Mars Creations for funky, affordable jewelry; Caterina for fine European linens; DogWorks for Fido's stocking stuffers; and others. Stop by the locals' watering hole, Beck Tavern, which is tucked in the village center, or Club 185 with its exposed brick walls, tin ceiling and easygoing atmosphere.

If 10,000 lights aren't quite enough, head to Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, where more than two million of them twinkle throughout the zoo's exhibits, lighting up the model railroad, the Enchanted Ice Rink, Mrs. Claus' Kitchen and a fully restored 1914 carousel. The event, a Columbus tradition for more than 17 years, includes horse-drawn wagon rides, children's and family activities, diving demonstrations, a hands-on touch pool and visits with Santa Claus.

Art abounds

Joie de vivre is abundant at the Columbus Museum of Art, where "In Monet's Garden: The Lure of Giverny" invites visitors into the artist's gardens in this picturesque French village. With a core of 12 Monet paintings, the exhibition also features works by American Impressionists who visited and worked at Giverny. Adding depth to the exhibition while demonstrating the enduring seductiveness of these gardens will be 20 additional works by contemporary artists.

At Wexner Center for the Arts, the critically acclaimed exhibition "William Wegman: Funney/Strange," runs through the end of the year. This 40-year retrospective of more than 200 works showcases Wegman's wryly funny style through his photography, painting, drawing, collage work and videography from the 1960s to the present. Wegman fans will make a beeline for his famous photographs of Weimaraner dogs in fanciful or surreal poses, including Dusted, in which man's best friend is being showered with flour, and Armored, featuring a dog completely covered in shiny silver doilies.

Pop into the Wexner's museum shop for Wegman-inspired gifts for the holidays, including the DVD Fay's Twelve Days of Christmas. This timely item features the artist's dog, Fay Ray, and her brood celebrating the merriment of the season in numbers and shapes.

The architectural wonders of the world are re-created in moss, twigs, leaves and seeds and are presented in small scale at Franklin Park Conservatory. Famed garden railroad designer Paul Busse has crafted a whimsical three-dimensional world called "Enchanted Express" to illustrate the historical and literary connections between plants and people.

The indoor garden railway adventure chugs through the Conservatory's Himalayan Mountain, Rain Forest and Desert biomes and travels past vignettes of the Great Wall of China, the Lost City of the Incas and the Egyptian pyramids, among other storied structures. Also on tour are the residences of famous fairy tale denizens Rapunzel, the Three Little Pigs and the Old Woman in the Shoe.

Get busy and shop

Columbus has a dynamic shopping scene that bustles throughout the city's many distinctive neighborhoods, offering specialty shopping not found anywhere else — such as the live caterpillar, with instructions on how to watch it turn into a butterfly, at the Franklin Park Conservatory gift shop.

In the Short North Arts District, miles of independently owned bouiques and galleries stretch as far as the eye can see. Within this jumble of shops can be found everything from thrift-shop treasures, original works of art and artisan chocolates to desgner furniture and contempo shoes.

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Washington Post — O-Hi-Germany?
For a bit of Deutschland, a village in Columbus is (almost) the real deal

Peter Mandel The Washington Post 04/20/03

What's so scary about a sauerkraut ball? Deep-fried cabbage blobs are what people eat for snacks in Columbus, Ohio -- or in its cobble stoned German Village, anyway. And I am determined to bite into one. I am going to taste the cream cheese, sausage, mustard, breadcrumbs, all the condiments.

But first, bartender, can you bring over another mug of beer?

It's the first warm day of spring and I am holed up at the Hey Hey Bar & Grill. Bar talk buzzes around the fact that I am from out of town. How do I like the historic brick and sandstone homes?

I think they are fine.

Have I been to Schiller Park and seen its man-made miniature hill, built for sledding?

Not yet. Not yet.

And, well, what about those tasty chunks on my plate? When am I going to dig in?

Columbus is the kind of town you visit for a particular reason, not just on a whim. Maybe you are touring Ohio in 2003 -- the state's 200th birthday. Perhaps you've come to look at the house where writer James Thurber grew up. Or maybe you are an alum of national football champ Ohio State, which sits on the northern edge of town.

As for me, I happen to like old sections of cities. I am told that Columbus's 19th-century German Village neighborhood covers more than 230 acres. That it is the largest privately funded historic district in the United States. And that it is a Mecca for good sausages, pastries and pilsner beer.

Susan Chirac, from the village's preservation group, is leading me through Beacon Hill-like streets and alleyways. Here are fancy Italianate mansions, and over here a group of 1840s cottages, all in brick. Is that a grape arbor? Yep. And here are stables that have been converted into garages, as in Manhattan's Washington Square Mews.

Everywhere we walk we step on patterned cobbles, and most of the churches and houses have slate roofs. "If you climb up into the attic of one of these," says Chirac, "it's like a planetarium. Between the slabs of stone are little pinpricks of light, like stars."

Windowsills and lintels show off Alpine-style curly patterns, and at one of the limestone stoops in front of 130 Jackson St. I make Chirac stop. "Those are fossils in there," she explains. "That's a snail that was embedded when the stone was quarried. That's a sand dollar -- Ohio was once an ancient inland sea -- and that looks like some kind of shell."

The German Village is starting to seem enchanted. But Chirac reminds me that it is not a theme park. "People ask us what hours the village stays open," she complains. "It isn't Santaland."

German settlers first came to the area in the 1830s to work in local breweries, brickworks and quarries, building houses with back gardens and European-style squares like Schiller Park, which serves as the town green. By the mid-1800s, German immigrants made up about a third of Columbus's population. But after a wave of anti-German feeling touched off by World War I and the demise of breweries during Prohibition, the village began losing its ethnic character and slid into a decline that lasted until the 1960s, when restoration began.

One strange thing about the German Village in 2003: It's hard to find any Germans. No one I talk to has a last name like Heinz or Schaeffer. Just a ho-hum bunch of Allens and Baileys and McPhees. Open a copy of a German Village cookbook called "Share the Flavor" and there's really nothing about schnitzel, but page after page on Shrimp & Feta la Grecque, Pasta Fagioli, and Zucchini & Tomato Bearnaise.

Still, I see some German words on signs outside village restaurants and stores. Here is the window of a mysterious place on Fourth Street: What the heck does the owner do or sell? The placard saying "Juergen's Konditori" isn't a great deal of help, so I hunt for clues in its display of Munich beer steins and sculptures in the shape of bunnies, alligators and fish. The door is locked, and I am stumped until I find a tiny, taped-up notice: "Four-Pound Party Breads -- $12.50," it says. "Feeds Fifteen."

Because I am alone and haven't been invited to any parties, I move on. I get to a combination laundromat/general store on Third Street that, although I try, can't pass by. It's called the Hausfrau Haven, and as I push through the door I expect some kind of place where you can put your clothes in the washer and then relax. I think of villagers exhausted from too much hauscleaning. Maybe this is a spa? It turns out that Hausfrau Haven sells mostly bottles of liquor. But, according to Jim Byrd, the man at the counter, it's been a center for village shopping for more than 100 years.

"First we were a dry goods store, and then a butcher's," says Byrd. "Then we were a drugstore. And during Prohibition, we were a pool hall selling bootleg gin." Byrd points out the original pressed-tin ceiling and shows me some of the items he's found in the basement. There are jars of transparent liquid (the gin), rust-tinted canisters of Federal brand allspice, a box of Fun-To-Wash soap flakes and a still-useful supply of Rexall cold cream.

Most interesting is a slightly evaporated but unopened bottle of locally made Old Mork Whiskey ("18 Summers Old"). The label says it was distilled in 1915 and bottled in 1933. Might be worth a taste. But when I ask if he would consider twisting it open, Byrd says no.

The final stop on my walk is Schmidt's Sausage Haus on East Kossuth Street and its companion, Schmidt's Fudge Haus, right next door. Fudge 'n' sausages. Maybe these things go together better than I thought.

Tim Dick, Schmidt's confectioner, shakes his head at the idea of a blend. "No one around here would eat that," he decides. "But after a bratwurst, people do come in to get some pecan-fudge schmurtles for dessert."

Dick shows me how to pour out a layer of molten chocolate to begin forming the fudge. "Martha Stewart was here," he lets me know, "and I guess she liked it because she asked us for a list of ingredients."

"Did you give it to her?" I ask.

"I told her some," Dick says, "but held some things back."

Over at the Hey Hey, the bar crowd is getting impatient. This is my first-ever sauerkraut ball. When am I going to take a bite?

Okay, okay, I say, using a prong of my plastic fork to inspect one of the little balls. Some steam puffs out and there's a pungent smell.

Slicing off a chunk, I draw in a deep breath and chew.

It tastes . . . rich. Nicely varied, like the village.

It doesn't seem very German, I say apologetically. But, well, what does that matter? It isn't bad. Not bad at all.

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