Hello, again, Blogonauts! Or should I say, Wilkommen!
You're joining me in Germany! The next couple of weeks will be a winding wander through parts of Europe that are new to me. Stay alert for possible discoveries.
(I'm leaving my linguistic comfort zone to get by as much as I can speaking only German. Plus, we will explore a bit of history, primarily that of the Holy Roman Empire, that was somehow absent in my schooling.)
So... on Monday Lufthansa was late lufting my hansa from Valencia to Frankfurt, which left me only enough time to catch a few hours of sleep and to grab a croissant and coffee...or so I thought. Tuesday morning's express Deutsche Bahn train was also expressly delayed. Eventually, however, it shuttled me south to Freiburg im Breisgau ... or simply, Freiburg (pronounced "Fry-Burg").
Take a moment to call to mind the stereotypes of German cities. Freiburg will fit fit many of them:
- Medieval half-timbered buildings (most reconstructed or restored after a heavy, late-in-the-war Allied bombardment)
- Decorative paintings, ironwork, and sculptures adorning shops
- A towering Gothic church that dominates the skyline
- Cobble stone streets that bedevil the bones of bicyclists
But in addition, this city has many unique features that can be both puzzling and at the same time endearing. I'll name just a couple here today, but others may emerge in future posts.
First, flowing alongside almost all the streets in the city center are "Bächle," or little streams. These were added to the city in the 13th century; some streets were even elevated then to better direct the streams and take advantage of gravity.
The motivation for this feature was to minimize the danger of fires. Because they essentially tilted the city, the Bächle are consistently flowing downhill. In case of fire, damming them would flood street and thus help to prevent the flames from spreading. And from what I've read, the scheme worked. There have been no widespread conflagrations since the rivulets were installed.
Nowadays, children play with toy boats tied to strings as they walk along the Bächle...and dogs stop to drink and play. (The local rumor says that if you accidentally stumble into one of the little rivers, you're destined then to marry someone from Freiburg. Perhaps that's to distract you from your bruised knees and ego.)
Freiburg also sits on the edge of the Schwarzwald, or Black Forest. Yes, it is the same Black Forest known for chocolate cake with cherries and cuckoo clocks. Although it's a short drive to reach the primary Schwarzwald mountain range, within Freiburg is a sample forested hill, the Schlossberg, meaning Castle Mountain. But wait ... where is the castle?
Well, there have been border disputes in this region for centuries, and in order to keep the German-speaking Freiburgers in check, Schlossberg once held a large French fortress. (More on that in a few days.) But before they departed, the French destroyed their fortress. (I suppose they were following the dictum, "take only photos, leave only footprints.") And in its wake the forest has returned. Now a broad network of trails lead up to and along the ridge. The views of the city from there are delightful...and I climbed up to take full advantage of the sunny Wednesday to see them.
With that, I'll close out for today. But come back tomorrow, for there's more to come in my exploration of Freiburg. And as always, please check out the photos in the "Flirtations with Freiburg" album.
Blog to you later!