Oldenburg, Indiana, is located in southeast Indiana.


Story by Natalie Hatton

Photos by David Burns

During this time of year, I love visiting my friend in Oldenburg, Ind. It's become a tradition for me. The drive from my house is about an hour. Thatís enough time for me to meditate on and appreciate the unique and seasonal features of rural Indiana. I start my drive on straight roads through flat fields and end up in another version of Indiana with soft rolling hills and winding roads. My favorite part of the drive is when I go south on 229, which takes me straight into the middle of Oldenburg. I have been there now about six or seven times.

For me six or seven times is enough practice for me to know about when Iíll arrive in town, but not enough times for me to recognize the landmarks that tell me Iím on the last twist or turn or hill. As if by magic the last bend in the road gives quite a unique, small-town, Indiana view. Postured above the town trees and buildings you can see the spires of the churches and establishments that make up the heart of Oldenburg. The street signs and shop names like Guten Tag Mercantile and Christiansí Kinder Laden tell you that, yep, youíre in a town with German heritage.

For the past three years, during the first weekend of December, I have gone to Oldenburg for the ďHolidays Under the Spires.Ē I get bundled up and prepared for the winter festivities. We usually eat at a pub that gives out hot chocolate, eggnog and cookies for free. We then walk to several shops that are also prepared for the shivering townspeople with their hot chocolate or cider, various scrumptious things to nibble on, contests and festive Christmas music. My favorite place to stop is the Guten Tag Mercantile, an antique shop.

This year I bought several Christmas ornaments shaped like bird houses, one of which reminds me of my fatherís whitewashed martin house with a pale green roof. I also bought my friendís son a cardboard Christmas poster that was covered with little flaps that reveal a gift for each day of December. He picked out the poster with a train, of course, having just watched Polar Express. This shop also has fun contests for the patrons. For last yearís contest we submitted name suggestions for an antique ceramic doll. I chose Veronica. This year for a $100 gift certificate, one had to guess the month and year of when a photograph featuring stiff unsmiling but nattily clad black and white subjects was taken.

The Christmas cheer spills onto the streets. One year we stopped on a brick walk under an old fashioned lamppost to listen to carolers just like the ones you see in old movies. This year we missed the carolers but we caught Santaís horse drawn carriage (the reindeer must have been resting up) at one end of town and road to the other end for wine tasting at Selkirkís Liquor Store.

I hope you can make it to Oldenburg sometime. For you who love small town life, on the first Saturday in December, I recommend a drive to Oldenburg, Ind., where the street signs are in German and the town life reminds you of old-fashioned Christmas.

For more information on Oldenburg, check out these websites:

http://oldenburgfranciscans.org/

http://www.franklincountyin.com/

http://www.franklincountyin.com/history.htm#oldhistory

http://www.visitindiana.net/festivals.html

Natalie Hatton is a teacher and aspiring freelance writer from east central Indiana. David Burns is a photographer in New Castle, Ind.