Since my coming to Deutschland, I have been told that I simply must see Freiburg, as it is one of the most impressive cities in Germany. Everyone told me that it is incredibly beautiful and well worth the trip. I had the opportunity to accompany some friends who were headed to Freiburg for a wedding. So while they were all inside eating wedding cake, I was wandering the streets of Freiburg, enjoying the sunshine and some authentic Italian gelato. Yes, I definitely got the better end of that deal. After close observation I can report with authority that the city did indeed meet all of my expectations, and then some. From the view of the city centre afforded from the Schloßberg, to the actual city centre itself, Freiburg is well worth seeing.
Freiburg is one of those cities that it is impossible not to fall in love with. It is one of the most southern cities in Germany, and proudly boasts that it is the country’s sunniest and warmest city. It is also situated in one of the best possible locations: it is in the centre of the Baden wine-growing region. Which is an entry point for Germany’s infamous Black Forest, and is only a 30 minute drive to the France border, an one hour drive to the Swiss border, and a four hour drive to the border of Italy. When you can live in Germany, but have breakfast in France and dinner in Italy, you are definitely situated in an advantageous location to experience the best that Europe has to offer.
Indeed, other European influences are evident in the cities architecture and atmosphere that make Freiburg an incredibly unique German city. First and foremost, there is a distinctive medieval layout that has been preserved, along with the iconic Freiburg Münster cathedral, the Historisches Kaufhaus and the Martinstor, which is one of the original city gates. All making Freiburg home to some of the oldest architecture in Germany.
There are also semblances to Italian architecture that give the city a European flare beyond the traditional German city.
All throughout the city centre are small channels of water called Freiburg Bächle that are so unique and really impressed me because they were unlike anything that I have yet seen. Apparently these channels were created to provide a steady stream of water for fighting fires and providing water for livestock. Although there is a common misunderstanding that they were originally created as a sewage system; however, even in the medieval ages there would have been strict penalties for polluting these channels. In their contemporary setting, these channels of constantly flowing of water, diverted from the Dreisam, function as a natural cooling system in the summer time and pleasantly fill the air with the gurgling sound of running water.
These Bächle have become so entrenched in the city’s identity that they have given way to a famous Freiburg saying, that a tourist who steps into a Bächle will marry a Freiburger. And indeed you can always tell who the locals are because they step over these channels seemingly without even realizing that they are there, whereas tourist without fail will step into them at least once. So the saying has been adapted to “when you visit Freiburg you will marry a Freiburger” because the stepping into a Bächle is inevitable. However, I can proudly say that throughout this short trip I managed to keep my feet on dry land.
If you are ever planning a drive from Germany to France, Switzerland, or Italy, I would definitely recommend heading through Freiburg and stopping for a leisurely walk around this beautiful city. You will be very glad that you did.
Published in Fusia magazine, May 2015