GÖTTINGEN calls itself the “City of Science” (Stadt die Wissenschaft); it has nurtured forty Nobel Prize winners and institutions such as the German Aerospace Centre and the Max-Planck-Institutes. But don’t let that put you off. For most visitors – and probably the majority of locals – the town is more about its café and bar culture than high culture. The root cause of both is the same: the Georg-August Universität. Founded in 1734 by Hannover elector Georg August, also known as King George II of Great Britain, the university grew into one of the intellectual think-tanks of Europe and boasted a roll-call of distinguished professors, among them Brothers Grimm, Jakob and Wilhelm. It also brings a city-sized vibrancy to a medium-sized town. One in five of the 130,000-strong population is a student, nurturing a free-thinking liberalism that harks back to the Göttingen Seven, an academic grouping that dared to question the authority of Hannover king Ernst August in 1837. Students and easy-going attitudes also mean nightlife – perhaps the primary reason to visit, whatever the value of the Hanseatic heritage.
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