A Nibbling Donkey in Oberammergau, Germany

A pair of donkeys, standing in a stable in Oberammergau, Germany, look directly at the camera.

The sign declared, Bitte Esel nicht füttern. And since I was in Germany, a land famously known for its rules, I was even more sure to obey.

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.

donkeys at Oberammergau Christmas Market

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.

Mittens at German Christmas Market
Nutella and crepes at German Christmas Market in Oberammergau
An Oberammergau, Germany street sign is decorated during Christmas with an angel playing a horn.
A sign hangs in an Oberammergau, Germany Christmas market stand, advertising hot drinks for sale - such as punch for children, etc.
A yellow star decoration hangs on a chalet-style building covered in snow in Oberammergau, Germany.
A birdcage, designed like a miniature traditional Bavarian house, hangs on a tree in Oberammergau, Germany.
Red, green, blue, grey, and brown winter woolen hats sit on an outdoor  display outside a shop in Oberammergau, Germany.
A green and white oriel window with Bavarian and German flags on an Oberammergau building.
A yellow Christmas star and a large, wooden carved owl in Oberammergau, a town in Germany's Bavaria region.

Where in the World?

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

34 thoughts on “A Nibbling Donkey in Oberammergau, Germany

    1. Hi Pamela! Me too; I really appreciate all the handmade items for sale at the German Christmas markets. I picked up a pair of hand-knitted, creme-colored woolen socks at a market in Germany a few years ago, and they’ve been fantastic at keeping my toes warm here in the Alps. :) Now, if only I could knit or crochet!

      1. I would love it, Tricia, but I doubt my travel budget will allow it. It’s mostly wishful travelling these days, or near at hand. The blogging world is a blessing and a curse.

      2. Jo, you’re absolutely correct about the blogging world offering tempting travel distractions! Do keep your eyes open for Ryan Air flights, as I think they fly into an airport close to Munich. We’re really fortunate to have my parents to visit here in Oberammergau, as we’re able to live much like locals – walking to the grocery store, and cooking our own fare. It makes it quite fun!

      3. It’s true that Ryan Air tempt with its off-the-beaten-path destinations! Several Thanksgivings ago, we went onto Ryan Air’s site, in search of the best fare. We eventually decided upon Santiago de Compostela, Spain, and were so thrilled that the good fare led us there, for it was a beautiful city with much character. I would love to make it to the Algarve someday soon!

  1. Again a lovely collection of very Christmas inspired photographs Tricia. I am happy that you still have all your lovely fingers. I hope you and your family had a super Christmas and all the best for the coming New Year. Hugs Virginia

    1. Virginia, we did have a happy Christmas: dinner, a heated Scrabble match, and a visit to the tiny neighborhood church for midnight mass. It was really quite beautiful, particularly when they dimmed the lights at the end of the ceremony, and sang ‘Silent Night’ in German. I’m looking forward to being inspired by more of your creative projects in 2013, and thank you for your thoughtful, beautiful and kind comments this year. All the best!

    1. Cornelia, it’s funny you should mention Schloss Linderhof, for just tonight my parents, husband and I were talking about visiting there in the coming days. We were last there when I was a baby, and my mother was mentioning how she’d love to see Linderhof with a fresh dusting of snow. A few days ago, I saw in the local German newspaper that Linderhof’s fountains were undergoing renovations.

      I think we’re only a few kilometers away, and in the springtime, I would love to bike there. Do you have any recommendations for other special villages or places to see within reach of Oberammergau? It’s so wonderful to get your advice! Vielen Dank, Cornelia!

  2. I love your collection of photos!! So beautiful and like a fairy tale. Love the donkeys and the mittens :)

    1. With your penchant for whipping up sweet treats, I bet you’d love all the goodies there as well, Judy. Alas, I’m continuing with my gluten-free diet, so I’m not able to feast upon many of them anymore, but it’s fun photographing them.

      1. I rarely eat my own baked goodies. I have a small taste of each and give to others. I love photographing food :)

    1. I’ve relished our time in this beautiful city this winter – you’re correct in that it’s the epitome of a Christmas village. I would also heartily welcome some sunshine from down under, too. :)

    1. Belated holiday greetings to you and your family too, Victor! Glad you enjoyed the snowy scenes from Germany’s Alps. Definitely a far cry from our Christmas threshing rice in Cambodia last year. :)

    1. With the Christmas Market stands and treats all packed away, it’s fun to reminisce on our fun times trying to stay warm with a mug of Glühwein this past holiday season. Oberammergau is a special place, and I appreciate it even more after seeing some old footage from the early 1900s the other day. With the Passion Play, so many people have been drawn here for centuries. The village’s history is quite fascinating.

    1. Many thanks, Claudine! We are enjoying life in the Alps – I hadn’t really seen this area dressed in snow before this year, and it’s quite special to have been here for the holidays. Here’s hoping you and your family had an enjoyable holiday season! All the best for 2013.

  3. Oh no! I hope the hungry donkey found something more interesting to eat instead of your fingers…maybe you should have snuck him some of that wonderful Nutella. I enjoyed your post and beautiful photographs so much (except for the nibble part) and hope you had a wonderful holiday!


    1. Elisa, shortly after my petting session, he grazed upon some nutritious Bavarian hay, which would’ve undoubtedly been made more tasty with a slathering of some chocolate spread. I think the handler would’ve been a bit upset with me for upsetting his animals’ stomachs though. :)

      Thanks for sharing your holiday wishes; yes, we had a lovely and quiet one here in the Alps. I wish you all the best for 2013!

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