Freiburg, Germany

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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.

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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.

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There are also semblances to Italian architecture that give the city a European flare beyond the traditional German city.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Published in Fusia magazine, May 2015

Colouring Outside the Lines

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Right from the beginning, we are taught to think within confines. We need to colour within the lines, we need to go to school and get a degree or multiple degrees, and we need to get a good job. We are told that these are the things that are meaningful and lead to a happy and fulfilled life. However, for me, I have never been happier than when I am colouring outside of the lines and treading off of the beaten, traditional path.

As much of a free spirit as I’ve always felt I could be, I have tended to play things quite safe and practical throughout most of my life; always putting things off until later when it was more sensible. So when I decided to uproot my life and move halfway across the world with no certainties in hand, my friends who know me best were all shocked; they said “that’s so unlike you,” to which I replied “that’s the point.”

I realized that the old adage is true: “If you want something that you’ve never had before, you have to do something that you’ve never done before.” I’ve made all of the right steps practically speaking; I got all of the appropriate degrees, I’ve done all of the internships, and I’m advancing in my career, however slowly that may be. However, I realized that there is more to life and being happy than advancing in one’s career or chosen profession and there’s more to life than getting your ducks in a row and working towards the ‘married with kids, blissful little white picket fence life,’ as nice as that may be. There is something about flying free and going off of the ‘responsible’ path that is exhilarating and worthwhile. There are certain interludes or detours that you never regret taking in your life; indeed, some of these moments are the moments when you are actually living your life to the fullest.

So, I decided that this year I would continue to ‘seize the day’ by saying yes to all new and exciting opportunities, which includes doing the things that I’ve never done before. As a result, I have made some of the most worthwhile experiences in just a few months…all from saying yes to the unknown. I said yes to moving to Europe, I said yes to going on a trip to Prague with complete strangers, I said yes to flying to Namibia and going on a Safari with my brother’s sister-in-law – even though I don’t really know her all that well either. But in each circumstance, I’ve made amazing memories and experienced things that I otherwise never would have.

So, when some of my new Berlin friends asked me to partake in a Spartan Race in June, I naturally said yes. I have NEVER done anything like this before. It is going to push me to my absolute limit, both physically and mentally, but that is exactly why I want to do it. In agreeing to this I’ve said yes to running through mud, climbing over walls, crawling under barbed wire, and pushing myself to the brink of exhaustion and past it; all of it simply for the experience. I don’t care about winning or losing, I just care about actually doing it. And I know that it is going to be an incredible experience and I am extremely excited about it.

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Believe it or not, I have never been happier or more excited about things than in these past few months, and this is all from simply by saying yes. We tend to say no to too much in our lives, I think, but there should be a time for saying yes. Even something as simple as agreeing to go and play indoor volleyball and actually playing, regardless of how bad I am at volleyball, instead of sitting on the side lines has been liberating for me. It is small, but it is a big achievement for me, because I am actively participating in every aspect of my life instead of passively waiting for things to turn around. At a certain point, you need to stop playing it safe and you need to stop sitting on the sidelines of your own life. You need to make active decisions and you need to get in the game! Not every risk pays off, but some of the most rewarding experiences come from taking a chance, taking a leap of faith, and going outside of your comfort zone.

There is a time for responsibility and practicality, but sometimes you just need to think outside of the box and colour outside of the lines.

 

Published in Fusia magazine, April 2015