A FOREST OF THESE TREES IS A SPECTACLE TOO MUCH FOR ONE MAN TO SEE – DAVID DOUGLAS, BOTANIST
If you want a nice quiet weekend getaway from the chaos and madness of a big city then Freiburg is the place to be! Freiburg, also known as the Jewel of the black forest is a lovely small city encompassed by a dense forest in South-West Germany. You will definitely fall in love with this city… and here’s why:
Freiburg was established in 1120 by members of a noble family in the region – the dukes of Bertold and Konrad of Zähringen. Since the city was strategically located at a juncture of trade routes connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the North and Baltic Sea, it was named as a ‘free market town’, which is what ‘Freiburg’ means in German. The people of Freiburg had to fight hard for their freedom as they were under attack by many different European powers (mainly France and Austria). One of the longest and the bloodiest battles took place in Freiburg in 1644, during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), between the Austrian and the French troops. The war had devastating effects; the population of Freiburg dropped significantly from around 10,000 to around 2,000 (mostly whom were women). Then came World War 2 during which the medieval Innenstadt – the old part of the city – was destroyed completely. One particularly interesting, yet tragic, historical case that took place during WW2 in Freiburg was the accidental bombing by the German Luftwaffe in 1940 near a train station, which killed 57 people. Since during this period, navigation was unreliable the war planes that were en route to France somehow lost their direction and bombed the city thinking they were bombing France. After all this gratuitous bloodshed, Freiburg finally became a part of Baden in 1805.
Getting around the city
The city itself gives off a medieval vibe thanks to its cobblestones, instead of the usual tarmac, and the small canals that run throughout the city. The small canals, known as the Freiburg Bächle, were once used as sewers and for industrial use. Nowadays, they act as an accessory to Freiburg and give the city a unique feel. The canals are also great, especially in the summer where you can see kids playing with the water and the animals using the canals to cool off from the summer heat. It is such a peaceful experience to be walking down the charming cobblestone-lined streets of Freiburg and hear the soft flow of water running smoothly. Legend has it that if you fall into these canals or ‘accidentally’ step into one then you will marry a Freiburger. *wink wink nudge nudge*. While exploring Freiburg, you will also come across and marvel at 3 gates – Schwabentor, Martinstor, Breisacher Tor – spread across town.
Places to see
Most of the tourist places are within walking distance of one another, which saves a lot of time while exploring the city. Start your tour straight up by going to the Cathedral Square (most of the other monuments are within this Square). The Cathedral Square with the farmers’ market is one of the many great places to visit in Freiburg since it gives you a great chance to mingle with the locals. You can find stalls of fresh fruit and vegetable as well as the all-time German favourite – Currywurst (fried pork sausage cut into slices and seasoned with curry ketchup) or Bratwurst mit Brötchen (sausage in a bun). The farmers market is located beside the Freiburg Münster (The Cathedral of Freiburg). This gothic Cathedral dates back to 1200 when the construction first began. The architecture of the Freiburg Münster is captivating due to the details and the sheer size of it. While visiting this beauty, make sure to climb up the tower and get a bird’s-eye view of the picturesque town. Nearby the Cathedral, there is this gorgeous red building once used as a merchants’ hall and a customs house, known as the Historische Kaufhaus (Historical Merchants’ Hall). Built as a department store in the 14th century, the Historic Kaufhaus with its gothic arches, coloured windows and sculptures and coats of arms by emperors brings history alive and makes you feel like you’re in the Middle Ages. Known as the Kaisersaal (imperial hall), the upper floor of the building is a grand hall, with a beautiful interior decor, nowadays used by the city for festive occasions.
Freiburg has a nice, pleasant and mostly predictable weather. The summers are hot up to 30 degrees celsius with the odd showers from time to time (mostly in May and June) and the winters are snowy and cold. The great thing about the spring and summer climate is the vivacious vibe it brings to the city. You will see a lot of street performers and youngsters on their skateboards or dancing on the streets.
Wine & Dine
One of my all-time favourite things to eat is home-made ice cream and Freiburgers make them so well! Located in a small alley in the city, Homemade Sweets Company makes really tasty ice-creams. They also sell a variety of gorgeous home-made cupcakes *yummy*. Be sure to visit this cafe, you won’t regret it! There is also a dessert to go with the name of Freiburg – black forest cake. Known as Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte in German, the particularity of this cake is that it is often prepared with alcohol – and if there is just the right amount (not too much, just a splash) of alcohol in the cake then it tastes lecker (delicious)!
Cover Photo Credit: Photo: David Wilson (flickr); Licence: CC BY 2.0