The sign declared, Bitte Esel nicht füttern, and in Germany, the land so famously-known for its rules, I obliged.
Even though visitors to the Christmas Market in Oberammergau, Germany were asked not to feed the photogenic donkeys (to keep the live Christmas props from developing upset stomachs), rubbing of the animals’ cotton ball-like ears seemed to be encouraged. Before I approached the stable, I had even noticed that Saint Nicholas was giving the cuddly beasts a head massage.
I must not have had the right touch, though, for when I slowly approached the larger fellow of the pair – my hand naively outstretched to say hello – the donkey chomped down on the palm of my hand. Perhaps he thought my fingers – prophetically named ‘piano fingers’ by the doctor upon my birth – resembled a bunch of tasty hay. Maybe he was just frightened. The duo’s owner looked at me in horror, but did not say anything.
Once my husband knew that my hand had not been mutilated, he started chuckling, eager to show me the image he’d snapped of the offending donkey, recoiling after the encounter.
In the United States, such an incident might have been the makings of a lawsuit. During this visit to the Christmas Market, it instead just provided fodder for an afternoon filled with laughter, chilly extremities, and sightings of animals carved by Oberammergau’s master woodcarvers.
Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.