The second half of this week has been all about Freiburg and transport. It’s a small city full of trams :), an eclectic mix of old and modern shuffling through all the small city centre streets and outwards to the suburbs. A university town so plenty of young people, trendy shops, bars and restaurants mixed with a good sprinkling of things for the tourists.
Freiburg Old Town
One of the things the city is known for are the Bächle, small water-filled runnels, supplied with water by the River Dreisam. These run along the edges of most roads and streets in the old city, originally used for carrying drinking water around the city back in the 15th century, now popular with tourists and with children who sail boats along them.
When large parts of the city were destroyed by 300 bombers from the British RAF Bomber Command in 1944 most bächle were badly damaged. Since being rebuilt two people have tried to sue the own when they have driven into or tripped on a bächle – in both cases the courts found against the claimants and made them pay costs as they felt it impossible not to visit the city and know they were there.
Sailing your boat down a Bächle
On the cobble streets there are small brass plaques inset, called ‘stolperstein (stumbling blocks), each one commemorates a German who lived in there and was affected by Nazi persecution, concentration camps, death, emigration and even suicide. As of last year 48,000 of these plaques had been placed throughout Europe – the sight of them is another stark reminder that war touches so many.
For a small city its certainly noisy, every 100 yards there are accordion players belting out Bavarian music, many very good, some not so good but taking the chance on a few coins, add to them a mobile funky jazz band touring and it was anything but peaceful.
All the regular city attractions are in the old town within 15 minutes walk of each other, a massive Gothic Cathedral cathedral dominates and around it there is a cracking ‘Munster Market’ open five days a week. Plenty of “ye olde German wooden toys” etc but it has numerous flower, fruit and bakery stalls too. The city tours take a walk around many of the oldest buildings including several red stone 16th century– former merchants houses.
We were already mightily impressed with the amount to see and do, then we came across the pièce de résistance – a “floating woman” illusion. Iain wasn’t fussed and felt he could explain it all away – I on the other hand love it, I could have stood there for an hour. I adore people who get off their bums to make a fee euro rather than rob old ladies and if they do sitting on a platform pretending they are floating then they get my couple of Euro everytime.
At the edge of the old town is a large town park, which in turn leads up to The Schlossberg, a 1500 ft tree covered hill. There are several footpaths up to the hill from the town, or there is a funicular railway – we took the lazy option. There have been fortfied structures on the hill for over 900 years and more are being uncovered to attract visitors. For us the most attractive thing about it was the sheer peace and quiet, despite there being plenty of other walkers it is high enough that there is no traffic noise (and no accordions either!)
For a small city we found so much to do, despite poor weather, for most of the four days we have been here. The one thing we hadn’t done was visit Schauinsland, for a few reasons : its over 4200 ft high and to get to the top you take the longest loop cable car in Germany for just over 2 1/2 miles – the ride in the cable car takes 20 minutes.
This morning it was reasonably sunny and we had nothing better to do, so a bus and a tram later we were at the base station. No matter how brave I thought I was after a few chair lifts nothing had me ready for this. It was horrendous, this little glass bubble trundling up into the sky on a bit of wire, however as there were another four people in our bubble, sorry car, then I had to put a brave face on.
that is the “brave” face
Twenty minutes is a long, long time – 1200 seconds and every one of them felt like an age. On the plus side, as a loop cable car you don’t get the horrendous shake and judder as it passes over the pylons, also when its thick with cloud you can’t see too far which for me is a bonus! It was built in the 1930’s but closed down in 1987 when the a safety permit wasn’t granted – only to be re-opened again in 1989 after updating of the cable cars and cable stations.
A long way in any direction
At the top there are several cafes, restaurants,play areas – oh and a massive car-park as there is a road all the way to the top, in my new found cocky braveness though roads are for wimps :). We were expecting amazing views but the low cloud looked set in on the mountain and we made do with a sit on the deckchairs looking at the grey mist.
We did plan to walk back down, but as it was cold and a bit damp at the top we came down on the cable car back into the sunshine. We spent the afternoon riding the trams around the city as we had an 24 hour pass and decided to get our money worth. Much quieter everywhere on a Sunday and a pleasant enough way to see the whole city, especially with a stop off for coffee and cake at Starbucks ending the week perfectly.
The only views were of clouds