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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….

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