Tuesday, August 19, 2014

August 15th-18th – Free Time in Freiburg

After we sat in a 2-hour queue to get through the Gothard Tunnel in Switzerland, and the weather closed in as soon as we passed north of the Alps, it began to seem like it wasn't a good idea to head away from the sun of Italy, into cloud covered Germany. However, a few fun-packed days in the southern German city of Freiburg has restored our faith.

The town is mainly famous for its lively atmosphere and for its stunning location on the edge of the Black Forest; and, during our 3 days here, we got to appreciate the best of both. We picked up our friend Nicky from the "Euroairport", which sits at the corner of Switzerland, France and Germany, enabling us to cross the borders of three different countries in the space of 10 minutes, and then we headed up to Freiburg.

The city was badly damaged by Allied bombs in the Second World War, but fortunately its centrepiece, its stunning Munster (Cathedral) somehow managed to survive the devastation. Seeing as its steeple has been described as "the most beautiful in Christendom", we had a breathless climb up its vertiginous steps and enjoyed the panoramic views over the town and across to the Black Forest and the mountains beyond.

We also couldn't help but notice the huge black clouds that were now heading our way, so we ducked into the wonderful Markt Halle which is packed with bars, restaurants and people. After a couple of glasses of local Riesling, the rain had stopped and we did a bit more exploring of town – a mix of modern buildings, historic medieval and baroque buildings, and busy shopping streets.

That evening, we'd noticed that there was a Spanish band on at the Markt Halle, so we headed back there for more wine, beer, food, music and superb people watching. The atmosphere was excellent and the people crammed in there covered all ages – I don't think you'd find such a mix of ages all enjoying the same experience in many places in the UK.

The next day we took a train out to the Black Forest to visit a town (and lake) enigmatically called "Titisee". It was very popular with tourists, but you could see why – it was just gorgeous. The weather wasn't great, but we kept ourselves warm with a walk around the beautiful lake enjoying the views.

Our final day here saw us take the cable car up to Schauinsland, the tall mountain behind Freiburg. The cable car is 3.6km long, and takes you up to a height of 1,286 metres above sea level, which meant that the views were amazing, and the air super fresh (so fresh that some of the gusts were absolutely freezing – is it really mid-August?). We followed some walking trails and had a lovely lunch in a ski-lodge hotel.

Even though we'd never known about Freiburg's attractions before, it's a great place to visit – heartily recommended. If we liked it this much when it was cold and cloudy, imagine how good it is when it's hot and sunny?