Month: September 2013

Freiburg 3.0

I’ve been dying again, so y’all have to forgive me for not blogging much recently (incidentally, halfway up some mountain in Freiburg, Andy managed to convince me that we’re now going to use ‘y’all’ for the plural of ‘you group of people’ in English, if only because it’s slightly classier than ‘yooouuussee’)

Anyway, back to Freiburg, which is very lovely, but also rather small. So on the third day we decided to escape to the countryside.

We were headed to Titisee, but on the train overheard a fairly loud American woman telling her friends about some style of county fair near Baerental. We sneakily followed them off the train, onto another bus, and down the road:

We peered at all the wares- skins and furs and honey and liquors and smoked pieces of animal, and I took up with the most amazingly invigorating (SOUR!!) plum juice that has ever passed my lips. Because the fair itself was quite small, we also roamed a bit on the moors..

It was quaint- the sort of thing you’d expect to see in one of those English detective show that your mother watches- but nice. Ever since the time of school fetes I’ve been a bit of sucker for anything that’s outside with voices and food and children and music. This one had these:

When we got to Titisee itself, we discovered that there wasn’t a great deal to see. The lake itself is lovely, but unless you rock up when the sun is shining (we did not), there’s not much to the town itself, except hundreds of carbon copy souvenir shops selling black forest cakes, hats, Kirschwasser, and- of course- the world famous black forest Cuckoo Clocks.

Can you guess how much the one in the centre costs?

If you guessed anything less than Four thousand euros, you are clearly a philistine who doesn’t recognise a masterpiece (that’s what’s written on the little orange sign) when you see one.

There were paddleboats, and although there weren’t any shaped like swans (schade), we committed for a red-is-for-speedy little number, and zoomed around the lake, chasing tourist ferries and molesting water buoys.

I insisted on driving: everyone knows that all boats are women and respond better to a like-handed touch right?

It started to get drizzly, which seemed like a good time to take refuge with a book and some cake. This creation was amazing- it paired the tartness of the Johannisberries (I think red currant?) with a fluffy meringue topping, and a nutty base. So very very good.

We hung around until 8pm to check out the crazy water-lights-music show. Pretty, especially the part with the more techno-robot music and the lasers.

But ABSOLUTELY freezing. We bought a blanket because it was already a bit chilly, but then it also started to rain, and we rapidly became wet and miserable, and started to hang out for the whole thing to come to an end.

Of course the next day was beautifully sunny again, so we spent the morning before Andy’s flight just sort of drifting about town.

Several of the houses contain little plaques nestled in the paving out the front- memoirs to the Jewish people who used to live there and were persecuted and murdered in the Nazi times.

After Andy got on the bus back to the airport, I used my perfect German to ask the kind lady at the tourist information where Freiburg was hiding all of its op shops….. and spent a happy afternoon shopping, and then a slightly more stressful evening trying to work out how to get all my stuff back in my luggage.

Freiburg Markets and Schauinsland

Day two in that foresty Jewel that is Freiburg.

This, my friends and enemies, is Martin’s gate- one of the original entrance points into the Old City. Now also known, as a result of a beautiful salute to capitalism, as ‘McDonald’s Gate’ .

Schade, but at least they didn’t put the golden arches on.

Saturdays, like Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and also Wednesdays, are Market days in the Church square.

I followed my nose to the berries, and Andy followed his to a spicy sausage. This is his guarded ‘get away from my sausage’ look:

They had spices and fresh fruits and dried fruits and baked goods and cured meats and all manner of things that are pretty for the eyes and tasty for my breakfast.

Including some very, very tasty raw bliss balls, made from dates and figs and cashews and a little bit of cocoa, which seemed to come with obligatory ‘eye contact’- the seller was the type who stares into your souls as he serves you his produce.

I wasn’t allowed to buy any flowers or plants, but we did sink our claws into a couple of the local dried wursty things.

Let me introduce you: (left to right) chili sausage (german ‘spicy’), garlic sausage, hunter sausage- the last one being the local specialty.

I feel I would look dashing in this hat.

We decided that we hadn’t seen enough of the edges of the world from on high, so headed up the 1,284 m Schauinsland (*edited- the first day we went up Schlossberg, not Schauinsland). Being lazy little so-and-sos, we took the cable car up the mountain itself, before doing a bit of roaming around on the peak.

Andy was fascinated by these bright red seedpods:…

… but I was a bit more interested in the colourful groundcovers. It doesn’t look that exciting from here, but let’s zoom in a bit…

…. pretty huh?

I’m now confident enough in my German capabilities to assure you that ‘Naturschutzgebeit’ translates literally to mean ‘BEWARE, EAGLE ATTACK’.
We didn’t manage to get attacked, or even see any eagles, but there were various flavours of livestock. Andy, hallucinating from cow-cravings after months of german pork-diet, managed to amuse himself for several minutes trying to fit the cow onto his spoon…

.. but eventually decided to skull some sugar to boost his energy instead,

The clouds started shifting down the mountain, and I tried to convince Andy that they were actually ghosts. I was reprimanded for silliness, only to be rewarded with an ‘I told you so’ moment when we encountered this fine fellow:
The Ghost of the Woods

As it got colder, and damper, we took refuge in an eatery near the cable car station, and helped ourselves to some of the finest black forest ham, liverwurst, blood sausage (ummm), and meat jelly (ugh!).

Plus of course, (and I want all of you who know my sister to imagine this in her poshest voice):
One simply does not visit the black forest without trying their cake:

Ella would have respected the cook for their ability to get Kirshwasser (cherry liquor) into the cherries, the sauce and the cream filling. Probably the cake too. Personally, I’m not that into this style of ‘model cake’ (more looks than substance), but it seemed unfair to judge only on the Coles and Woolies incarnations.

The ghosts followed us down the mountainside.

The Jewel of the Black Forest

This week I’m attending my very first out-of-town conference. Actually, it’s technically  a ‘Summer School’, but as it includes the exchange of scientific information, and involves the spending of the intitute’s money to send me ‘away’, I’m going to call it a win.

The train from Berlin to Freiburg is only about 7-8 hours, but, as it turns out, no-one in Europe expects to travel for that long, so instead I was given an Easyjet flight to the quaint Swiss-French-German ‘Euroairport’ located on the edge of the three countries.

I bought an extra ticket, grabbed my Andy, and we packed ourselves off to Euroairport (physically Switzerland but somehow either that, France, or Germany, depending on which bus you get into once you exit the airport).

Somehow is somehow a very German word.

Freiburg is an old university town situated in the (most) south-western corner of the country on the edge of the Black forest (Schwartzwald). The city itself is not huge, but it seems to act as a gateway to both the forest- for hiking and skiiing and looking long distances from the top of mountains- and to France and Switzerland.

(You can really feel Autumn creeping into this photo)

We came at this from the right, so first just saw the bottom part of wahrheit and thought it was arbeit, and had a bit of a panic- Arbeit machts frei being the false promise posted on the fences of the concentration camps.
This is, in fact, is more about how ‘truth will set you free’.

Frieburg is also a ‘green city’. They have almost no cars in the central area, and are very proud of this fact. Instead, they have the trams, and, like all cities who have maintained their tramlines in the wake of modernisation, are slightly snobbish about it.

Originally the University building, and now the Rathaus (government building, so nice that it sounds like house of rats in german!). The structure on the left is repeated on the right, with the centre part originally being a gateway, through which students and professors were allowed to enter (but not, of course, the hoi poloi).
Apparently every year they have a ‘Carnevale’, where the mayor must hand over the Rathaus keys to a group of ‘witches’ who then hang out of all the Rathaus windows.

(A sister city I think)

Autumn flowers, with the famous Freiburg Münster in the background.

We were determined to see some of this forest that everyone had been talking about, so took a cable car up to Schlossberg and rolled around in NATURE.*

*I have since been told by a German that much of the Black Forest is not natural- and is merely plantations of Spruce (I think) trees- which makes it much more ‘black’, but really killed my ‘I’m frolicking in a real live forest’ mood.

Of course, after a nice climb up a mountain, there’s really nothing more refreshing than clambering up a few hundred stairs.

It was quite spectacular- you could see all the way to what was apparently France. There was a mild amount of ‘tower swaying in the wind’ happening, but not enough for serious panicking.

If you’ve been reading any of this blog, you’ll know already what came next…

Walking tour of the city! Freiburg isn’t big enough to have a free tour company, but the English walking tour we went on only cost 9 euros, and covered a couple of hours, and a lot of the history and main buildings of the centre-plus the guide was able to suggest events coming up in the next couple of days that might be of interest.

There are two main ‘squares’ in the city- the first centered around the old university- now the Rathaus, that I showed in the earlier city, and the second around Freibug’s famous church (Münster).

First however…
one of these things is not like the others:

Do you see the bottom poking out (top-centre)??

In the square around the church a market, selling mostly flowers and plants, fresh fruit and vegetables, and of course black forest delicacies like smoked ham, runs every day of the week, from the early morning until about midday.

In order to keep the merchants honest, shapes were carved into the church to demonstrate the correct size of- for example- a loaf of bread, or a yard of material.

The entrance to the church is of course amazing- carved with all the biblical figures you can remember or imagine- and some more besides.

(The lady in the middle represents Judaism, and it’s no coincident that she is blind. Way to diss another religion at your place of worship Freiburgians).

The inside is everything a gothic church should be, and more. This to me, looks like something out of a movie or from a painting:

The way the light comes in over the altar, not to mention the details of the stained glass windows…

Very, very showy! Apparently during the war all of the citizens took the glass out of the windows, and hid it away, replacing it with plain glass. Just a short time later, these replacement windows were completely destroyed (I think by fire from bombing)!

One of the rather cute (and kitsch) details, is that each glass contains a symbol from the guilds who donate the money to it’s making. This one, clearly, was funded by the Bakers.

Unfortunately the spire is currently under repair- but the postcards suggest it will be quite lovely again when it’s restored.

The city is absolutely littered with these tiny streams (Bächle)- no more than 30 cm across- historically installed for fighting fires, and of course used for waste disposal (ick!). The legend states that if you fall in, you have to marry a Freiburger.

So of course I spent a good amount of energy trying to push Andy in.

(Really getting into the ‘ye olde timey’ spirit!)

This street was very pretty by itself, but must be absolutely magnificent at the right time of year: all the greenery you can see is wisteria, which would cover the place in a blue-purple carpet (and ceiling) of flowers.

(The house of the executioner).

It seems to be a really lovely city. The tour guide told us that ‘there are two types of professors in the world- the type who are tenured at Freiburg Uni and the type who want to be tenured at Freiburg’. 
Sure, that’s a bit of exaggeration mixed with a healthy dose of village pride, but we could both see the attraction. Not a lot to do as a tourist in the town itself, but everything there is truely ‘picturesque’, and as mentioned, it’s just a hop, skip and a jump into the mountains or the surrounding countries for hiking, skiiing, wine tasting, cheese eating, shopping….

Fishmarkets and Ahrensburg

You can NOT go to Hamburg without going to the Sunday morning fish market. Or at least so said my mother-in-law, again and again, until the three of us agreed that yes, Mari-Anne, waking up at 5am to get the opportunity to smell fish by 6am was actually what we really, really wanted to do while on holiday.

It turned out to be rather beautiful. Beautiful enough that I’ll tell the next load who come ‘You can’t go to Hamburg without going to the fishmarket’. You all know I love early morning crispness when it’s coupled with the selling of wares. Sure, in a perfect universe they’d be selling frocks and not fish, but not every reality can be one with a fleamarket.

In the centre was the market hall, complete with cover bands and folks clearly still dancing from the night before- including at least one bride and groom set.

 This was my favourite spectacle of the morning. The Flowerking, who would pack boxes with house plants and ‘backwards auction’ them. They were super cheap-a box for 30 euros filled eight or nine plants including a ficus tree and at least one other nice big thing- and I really really wanted one. But it was pointed out to me that we still had a lot of day to do, and it would be very hard to carry the plants around all day.
Plus sometimes he would scream ‘wer hat kein geld?’ (who has no money)- and just lob free plants into the crowd.
Awesome. And what a showman.

The other thing that I would definitely be participating in if I lived in Hamburg- giant baskets of fruit. For 10 euros. All of it looking 1 billion times better quality than what we get at Kaufland, and with apricots and bananas and avocados and….

I made do with some fruit salad.

I did not eat fish. They had it, but the concept of fish- especially pickled but even plain or smoked- that early seemed rather unbearable.

We had met up with Mari-Anne’s cousin at the markets, so then headed back to his house, which is in the ‘Hamburg suburb’ of Ahrensburg, a rather serene, beautiful area.

Wolfgang and his wife had a lovely backyard, complete with lavender, and a pond with little fishes, and we spent a good part of the morning basking in the sun, drinking tea, and struggling through our german.

After lunch, the men and I went for an explore of Ahrensburg, which included the church, as well as the building and grounds of the Ahrensburg castle.

Near the castle they had some sort of ‘bee museum’, complete with hives and honey production and a very lovely talkative bee keeper who told us all about the structures of the colonies and the plight of the bees and so on. Andy and I have been learning German for 8 months now, but we only have lessons for 3 hours/week, and apart from that we don’t really have much interaction with the German language. Everyone at the institute speaks English (it’s the official language there), although of course the Germans speak the language to eachother. Apart from that, we go to the shops, and we sometimes go out. But it’s mostly all English all the time, and we both think that the most marked change in our language skills since arrival in Germany is loss of ‘native-speaker’ English as opposed to gain of German.

So it was really really nice to get to practice some normal conversational German with Mari-Anne’s cousins, and then to try to understand and converse with the bee keeper.

Farewell Hamburg!

On the East Side

Summer in Berlin is very, very beautiful.

I’m sure you’ve heard me natter on already about how Perth has bluer skies, but Berlin has greener grass (possibly in part because you’re not allowed to walk on it)- and how the Deutsch really revel in the sunshine, unlike us wossy Aussies who are busy slip-slop-slap-wrapping* (slip on a T-shirt, slop= sunscreen, slap=hat, wrap=sunnies) and scuttling around in the shadows to really get our frolic on.

*Side note- I just goggled it and realised that they’ve changed it to slide (instead of wrapping the sunnies on) and seek (for the shade).

Anyway, let’s check out the east of Berlin, and this lovely old couple who seem to be basking:

We visited the east side gallery, which has been described by one of my german colleagues as ‘the least impressive tourist destination in Berlin’, but which is so famous that I only realised I hadn’t been in 2009 when I saw the three or four out of the 100 murals which I am not already familiar with from all the postcards in all the tourist shops.

This is one of them.

But this, this I’m sure you recognise.

It’s actually sad that everyone feels the need to tag it. Take a photo doufii (plural of doufuses?).

My aim in life: to pose next to colourful things, hopefully while also wearing colourful things.

Kind of cool. As I said, shame about the graffiti on top, but if you’re in a touristy mood and, like me, have the snaphappy gene, it’s definitely going to look good on your facebook profile.
Our actual aim in heading to the Great East was to check out a street festival selling art. It turned out to be a bit of a bust- way too many people, and very poncey art, most of it highly derivative and highly priced.
The best thing by far was the long strip of butchers’ paper running down the middle of the road, and that was a little over painted by the time arrived. 

We made up for it by finding German sweets.

It’s not kartoffel, but I’m going to be honest with you- it might as well be. I know the Deutsch love their carbs, but you need to get some of them from sugar, and not just starch and cellulose my friends.

It is known.

See what I mean about the (subdued in this picture) reveling? Although this situation with the bbq would freak me out in our much-more-flammable homeland.

We also took a long walk to the apartment that Andy’s grandfather used to live in back when he was a non-doughnuty Berliner.