A May 2011 trip
to Freiburg by Wildcat Dianne
Quote: My final leg of my 2011 European vacation took me to the Schwarzwald region of Germany. Enjoy these entries from Freiburg, Staufen, and the Tittisee!
I arrived in Freiburg on one of many trips into the city via the tram at Vauban, which is a new suburb of the city that used to be a French Army base. After World War II, Freiburg was occupied by French troops and their headquarters were located at Vauban. After the French left Freiburg in the mid-1990's, the buildings left by them were turned into apartments run by solar power for about 5,000 residents. I took a walk through here one time to see what Vauban was all about, and it is a quiet little place that one would never know was a French military base after the war.
The rest of Freiburg is ancient compared to Vauban. Freiburg (which translates into English as "free borough" or "fortified town of free people") was founded in 1120 by Konrad and Duke Berthold of Zahringen and was originally a small town of about six thousand people. The town grew within the centuries, but by the mid-14th century, Freiburg was controlled by the corrupt bishops and the Urach family. After many skirmishes among the people of Freiburg and the archbishop's armies, the people of Freiburg were able to buy their freedom in 1368 and live under the protection of the Hapsburgs until 1386. After the Battle of Sempach killed several noble leaders of Freiburg, the city fell under the control of other groups for many centuries.
Although a university town, Freiburg was not immune to the rise of National Socialism or the devastation of World War II. On 22 October 1940, the 350 Jews of Freiburg were deported to the French concentration camp at Gurs. They suffered through almost two years of horrible conditions, disease and death until the Nazis had the small number of survivors deported to Auschwitz and certain death on 18 July 1942. The city of Freiburg itself suffered one air raid in 1940 at the hands of the RAF when they bombed the train station killing 57 people. The biggest air raid on Freiburg occured on 27 November 1944 when many more people were killed and the city center with the exception of the Munster was destroyed. After years of reconstruction, Freiburg has returned to its former glory.
When I first arrived in Freiburg, I became aware of the little waterways that lined the streets. "Bachle", I exclaimed, since I had done my homework on Freiburg and knew that these were little waterways built in the Middle Ages that helped firemen fight fires that occured on a regular basis in Freiburg and destroyed many homes due to their being constructed of wood. Most of the buildings in Freiburg today are concrete and brick and the bachle are used for tired tourist to soak their feet or leap over. Legend has it if you fall in a bachle, you will marry a Freiburger so I was very careful not to land in a Bachle because I love my independence as a bachelorette!
The Rasthausplatz is the hub of Freiburg, and you can see the beautiful architecture of the red Old Town Hall and the New Town Hall in pink and white. In the cobblestones that make the walkways of the Rasthausplatz, you can see the city symbols embedded there showing us that Madison, Wisconsin and several other cities around the world are Freiburg's sister cities.
Down the road, you can see St. Martin's Tower that is jokingly known as the McDonald's Tower since a McDonald's calls the ground floor home now. A walk along the Konvictstrasse with its beautiful wisteria hanging from the houses lining it and no sign of a McDonald's anywhere gave me a break from the city drag for a few minutes. Near the Schwabentor (Swabian Gate) is where the Cafe Atlantika (see journal on that) is located and is named for Freiburg's rivals, the Swabians. Is that considered Germany's Red Sox/Yankees rivalry?
After seeing the Munster in all its splendid glory, I took a free elevator up the Schlossberg (Castle Hill). When Germany and France were enemies in the 18th Century, this was considered a border between the nations that was contested several times. During French occupation the Schlossberg was built to control the people of Freiburg and housed a garrison of over 150,000 soldiers. The fortress and castle that used to be on the Schlossberg was destroyed by the French as they retreated in the 18th Century. Today, the Schlossberg is home to great views of the city along with a restaurant that one can get a drink and sit down and catch their breath before heading back down to the city itself.
Other places to enjoy a cold or hot one when you are in Freiburg are the Hausbraurei Freiling where I had the house specialty in their Biergarten (beer garden) the UC/Uni-Cafe where I had a huge cappucino on the terrace.
The best ways to get around Freiburg are by foot and tram. The tram system in Freiburg is one of the best, and if you are to leave Freiburg, the train station is there for your convenience. A trip to Freiburg is worth a few days of your time when you see Germany. It is the heart and soul of the Schwarzwald!
Attraction | "Going Gothic In Freiburg "
The Munster was my first stop on my trip to Freiburg. Arriving in the Munsterplatz, one almost gets a case of whiplash having to just about bend over backwards to see the high spires of the Munster including the tallest spire, the Munsterturm or Cathedral Tower. Construction of the Freiburger Munster began around 1200 by the last Duke of Zahringen. It was originally built in the Romanesque style of architecture, but in 1230, the new rulers of Freiburg and Baden-Wurtemburg ordered construction of the Munster to be completed in the Gothic style of Architecture. Construction of the Munster took over 100 years to complete and since the Munster is constructed in sandstone, a week stone, you will see scaffolding up and around the Munster's towers since it is always undergoing one form of reconstruction or repair on a regular basis.
After arriving inside the church, I was blown away by the interior of the Munster that includes two altars, the main or high altar built by Hans Baldrung and a smaller altar in a side chapel that was built by Hans Holbein. After lighting a candle at the Munster's entrance I made my way around the cathedral admiring the great works of art including several statues such as "The Last Supper" and the birth of Christ. Tours can be conducted at the Munster, but if you can tour the place yourself, it would allow you to see all of the Munster in its beauty and not miss these statues and other works of art that might be missed on a tour.
The stained glass windows of the Freiburger Munster are the originals since during World War II, the windows were taken down and hidden in a safe place to protect them from Allied air raids. Freiburg went through World War II relatively unscathed by Allied bombings, but that ended on 27 November 1944 when Freiburg was bombed by American planes and much of the city was destroyed by the bombs. Miraculously, the Munster suffered almost no damage at all including the tower that remains standing today.
After touring the main part of the Munster, I was ready to tackle the exhausting climb up the Munsterturm (Cathedral Tower). Being in relatively good shape, I knew with pacing myself, I would make it to the top of the tower, but if you are not in good shape or afraid of heights, I would not tackle this climb at all. Just send a friend up there to see it and tell you all about it when they come down! HA HA! Completed in 1330, the Munsterturm is the only tower in Germany completed in the Middle Ages and is 380 feet high. As I labored up the steep narrow steps to the top of the tower, I saw one of the Munster's sixteen bells including the 7,253-pound Hosanna bell that was built and added to the Munsterturm in 1258. Man, I thought, I definitely would not want to be up here when those bells start ringing. Talk about getting your bell rung. But the Hosanna and the other fifteen bells of the Munsterturm only go off on Thursday nights, Fridays at 11 a.m. and then on 27 November to commemorate the anniversary of the Allied bombing of Freiburg during World War II.
I finally arrived at the top of the Munsterturm through the souvenir shop and after a few more narrow steep steps, I was greeted by some of the most spectacular views of Freiburg I had seen during my whole trip there. It was a sunny clear day, and I got to see all of old Freiburg in its splendor, and I got some great shots in the process.
After the euphoria of the climb up the Munsterturm wore off, I headed back down the narrow steep stairs into the Munsterplatz. There was a fruit and vegetable market there (it's there everyday) with tables full of brightly colored goodies. I was starving and saw a sausage stand at the beginning of the market and got myself a sausage native to the area with grilled onions on a bun. After that long climb up to the Munsterturm, I was starving and that sandwich with the spicy mustard was heaven to my tummy and tongue! While I was eating, I looked at the exterior of the Munster and saw a funny gargoyle statue of a dog that looked like he was going to jump or take a dump on the Munster and got a picture. "Don't jump, doggy!"
Admission into the Munster is free and it's open from 10-4:30 Mondays through Saturdays and from 1-4 on Sundays. It costs one 1.50 Euros to get up the tower and that is open Monday to Saturdays from 9:30-5:00 and from 1-5 on Sundays. This is a definite can't miss when you tour Freiburg especially the tower.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 10, 2011
Freiburg Minster - Freiburger Munster
Attraction | "A Tourist Trap With a Name That Makes One Chuckle."
After a nice morning in Saint Blasien, I arrived at Lake Titisee after passing a town on the train named Aha. Imagine living in Aha and someone asks you where you are from. "I am from Aha near Lake Titisee!" Wouldn't that be difficult to keep from laughing out loud at the person? The name Titisee (see in German is Lake) is said to originate from Roman Emperor Titus and the waters of the lake are from the Feldberg Glacier. After getting off the train and maneuvering through the throngs of tourists, I arrived in the town itself, and any hopes of trying to get nice pictures of the lake without tripping over a tourist were dashed and I only got a few pictures of the lake without tourists in them. After having a capuccino at one of lakeside restaurants, I walked around town browsing in the shops crowded with people. I looked at several souvenir shops and nothing rocked my world and I only bought three angel figurines for a Euro a piece at the Christmas shop in Titisee that I would divide between me and my friends Tami and Carole when I got home four days later and a Dutch flag for my collection that I hadn't been able to find in the Netherlands during my visit there. I was happy walking away from the town along a trail that led into some woods outside of town and away from the maddening throngs of tourists.
I was glad to get out of Titisee and the tourist traps and head back to Freiburg and dinner at Cafe Atlantik. So take my advice and if you decide to go to the Schwarzwald, avoid Lake Titisee. The only thing I enjoyed out of that whole experience was giggling at the name of the place everytime I tried to say it!
Member Rating 1 out of 5 on August 10, 2011
I got an early start that morning and took the train to St. Blasien with my guide who wanted to visit his father, who was a rehabilitation spa in St. Blasien, which is known for its 18th Century Baroque cathedral Dom Sankt Blasius, and curative spas for several ailments including lung disease. I loved the small village located about 2 hours from Freiburg by train with its brightly painted exteriors and Baroque architecture. It reminded me of my frequent visits to Piestany, Slovakia with my friend Ivan in 2001 and 2002. After having a big salad for lunch at a local restaurant, I decided to visit Dom Sankt Blasien before we caught the train to Titisee about 2 hours later.
The town of Saint Blasien was originally home to a Benedictine Abbey called Abbey Saint Blasien for over 500 years. Built sometime between the 10th and 11th Centuries, the Abbey was home to the Benedictine order of priests (and some nuns) who at first led a strict existence for the first two hundred years they lived in Saint Blasien. After the 12th Century, the Benedictines loosened several of their restrictions and rules and started to acquire property throughout the Schwarzwald. By the 15th Century, the Benedictines of Saint Blasien was one of the richest orders in Europe owning land, houses, convents, seminaries and abbeys throughout Germany, Switzerland and Austria. In 1806, the Benedictine Order of Saint Blasien dissolved due to increasing secularization in Baden-Wurtemburg and other German states, and the order moved to Austria in 1809. What remained of the Abbey became home to the Jesuit College of Saint Blasien (Kolleg Sankt Blasien) in 1934. Kolleg Sankt Blasien is a very old school that is home to about 800 students and it is known throughout Germany as a good school for education and sports.
I didn't see much of Kolleg Sankt Blasien, but the Dom that dominated the skyline of Saint Blasien had my attention from the minute the train pulled into Saint Blasien. Known as Dom Sankt Blasius, the cathedral with its huge rotunda was constructed from 1768-1781 after a fire destroyed the original Dom in 1768. The Dom was designed by architecture Pierre Michel d'Ixnard and its rotunda at 150-feet wide and 206-feet high makes this cathedral the third largest one in Europe north of the Alps. Another fire did significant damage to Dom Sankt Blasius in 1874, but the damage was not repaired until the 1980's. What I saw that day in May was astounding. A beautiful domed cathedral with bright white interiors that made the paintings and murals at the altar and around the rotunda pop.
After visiting Dom Sankt Blasius, I had a gelato from a local gelateria before catching the train to Lake Titisee. But if you are interested in taking a cure or seeing some beautiful Baroque architecture, make a quick trip to Saint Blasien, Germany. It will be worth a couple of hours of your time.
Restaurant | "A Punk Restaurant with Interesting Restrooms."
Once I entered Cafe Atlantika, I was able to seat myself. The waitress brought me a menu, and I was able to peruse that along with the beer menu that is always on the tables at Cafe Atlantika. I didn't have to look at the menu that night because on the blackboard nearby that posted the daily specials, they had Schnitzel and Fries for 5.50 Euros. They also say, "when in Rome, do what the locals do.", and I was in the mood to try some local food like schnitzel, and that is what I ordered. In Germany and Austria, Schnitzel is usually pork unless it says Wienerschnitzel, which is veal. So if you don't want baby cow on your vacation to Germany, make sure the menu says Schnitzel or Schnitzel with chicken. I also ordered a local beer on tap to enjoy while I was waiting for my food to be prepared.
While I was waiting, I needed to use the restroom, and when I walked into the restroom at Cafe Atlantika, I was greeted by a room that was wallpapered with posters of European punk bands that played at the restaurant along with a little graffiti on the toilet and walls. But the room was clean and while I was doing my thing, I was reading the posters on the walls and thinking, "Man, I wish my friend Aschley was here!" Aschley is a friend of mine who is a drummer in a punk band and he would have loved dining in Cafe Atlantika because of the punk ambiance and atmosphere! Not wanting my dinner to arrive without my not being at the table, I cut the reading session short and headed back to my table. Not long after that, my food arrived and I dug in.
My Schnitzel was very very good. It came as a pretty good-sized piece of pork cutlet breaded and fried, and the pork was tender and juicy. The fries were nice and hot and the gravy that came on top of the schnitzel was great, and I used that to dunk my fries in. The portions were big, but I ate every bite and was so full afterwards. My beer was cold and hit the spot after a long day of touring St. Blazien, a small town in the Schwartzwald and Lake Titisee. The total for my meal was under 9 Euros for both the beer and dinner, and I left with my tummy full and my wallet happy.
I enjoyed my meal at Cafe Atlantika so much that I returned there for another dinner the following Sunday. That time I ate outside since it was a beautiful afternoon in Freiburg. The second time around, I was craving pasta and had pasta with seafood and a great alfredo sauce on top. Along with another local beer, my dinner that night was also under 9 Euros.
Cafe Atlantika also has a full bar and on most weekends there are punk bands who play there. I was there too early to see the bands, but I was able to soak in the ambiance in Cafe Atlantika without the bands and left there both times very full and satisfied and happy that there are still restaurants in the world that are inexpensive but have good food without skimping on the quality. If you are ever in Freiburg and on a tight food budget, Cafe Atlantika is a great place for dinner anytime of the week.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 9, 2011
Restaurant | "Exchanging My Soul to the Devil for Some Schwarzwald Torte"
Well, fasten your seatbelts, my friend, because you are about to get a tour of the real Schwarzwald Torte via my taste buds and please don't blame me if you gain five pounds after reading this review!
I knew what I wanted and I ordered it from the lady behind the counter. You guessed it, I got the Schwarzwald Torte and a bottle of water to wash it down. Then I went outside to sit at the outdoor seating that is available for Cafe Decker's customers during the warm weather months. A few minutes later, my order came, and I almost died upon seeing what lay before me. A huge slice of made from scratch chocolate cake with kirsch soaked cherry filling in the middle and on top of the torte along with tons of whipped cream icing. I sold my soul to the devil and got this in exchange. I must have been a very good girl, I thought to myself and made the devil happy somehow. The torte looked too pretty to eat, but I dug in and ate and savored every bite with the little burn of the kirsch lingering at the back of my throat. I was in heaven, or was it hell? Who cares? I was a happy and sated little girl!
Cafe Decker is open daily and the prices are very reasonable for lunch or in my case, a piece of Schwarzwald Torte (about 3.50 Euros plus extra for my water). Rick Steves raves about Cafe Decker in his Europe Through the Back Door: Germany guidebook, and I hope my review will bring them more business! Don't miss it if you make it to Staufen!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 5, 2011
After getting off the train at Staufen, I walked towards town but not before catching a view of the castle ruins on Staufen's Schlossberg. I was tempted to climb up the hill to go and see the ruins, but I wanted to save my energy for the trip into Staufen and the return trip back to Freiburg. So I enjoyed the view from below. At the foot of the Schlossberg, there is a statue of a fat naked man gorging himself that I found pretty darn funny and got a picture of it before continuing on to town. "What happens to one who overdoes it on German sausages!", I said to myself!
A few minutes later, I arrived in Staufen's Wine Co-op Square. Staufen is known in the Schwarzwald region for its wine growing and vineyards, and the Schlossberg is covered with grapes of all kinds for several varieties of wine. Silver mining and wine made the town of Staufen a rich town. The Wine Co-Op Square has several wine shops for one to get a bottle of their favorite wine, and you can't miss it because it has a huge wine press in the middle of the square. Upon seeing the wine press for the first time, I thought it was a pillar that was used as a form of public punishment for small crimes in medieval times. I guess making wine with this huge press is better than doing it with one's stinky feet! Wine Co-Op Square was also home to a sandstone courthouse that was destroyed at the end of World War II and is now remembered only in a photo located across from the wine press.
Like Freiburg, Staufen also has bachlen, the little water canals that were used by firemen in old times to keep fires at bay, and I was having fun leaping over them tempting fate. If you fall in abachle, legend has it that you are to marry a local. Luckily, I did not fall in any bachlen on this vacation and my bachelorettehood stayed intact!
Staufen is famous for another legend. The legend of Dr. Faustus or Faust. The legend goes that Dr. Faust was a bored man disappointed with his life. Looking for a little spice in his life, he makes a deal with Mephistopheles (a.k.a. The Devil) by exchanging his soul for unlimited knowledge, worldly pleasures and the magical powers he needed to acquire them. Faust then went on to seduce women and got into other mischief before dying. Christopher Marlowe wrote about Faust in 1604 while Johann Wolfgang Goethe gave Faust worldwide fame with his 1808 play by the same name. I guess you can say the expression, "The Devil made me do it!" came from Staufen! HA HA!
After leaving the Wine Co-Op Square, I entered the Hauptstrasse, Staufen's main drag where most of the town's businesses and markets are located. It is also home to the Rathaus (City Hall), a quaint building that is divided into two parts. One side of the Rathaus was completed in Gothic style while the other side is Renaissance architecture. On several buildings on the Hauptstrasse, you can see paintings depicting scenes of Goethe's Faust and of life in the Schwarzwald. A lot of these buildings have undergone some serious renovations in the past five years, and in 2008, controversy hit Staufen when digging for geothermal springs that would have been a money-saving heat source caused the ground under several buildings to rise and fall. This problem caused many buildings to crack and this damage is evident on the exterior of the Rathaus and other buildings along the Hauptstrasse.
After all of this walking, I was hungry and needed a drink before heading back to Freiburg. I stopped at Cafe Decker (see my review in my next entry) for something nutritious (yeah, right) before making my way back to the train station via the Hinterstadtle or back streets of Staufen. I love walking the back roads of many of the places I visit because you can see many hidden architectural gems that are not seen via the tour bus.
I had a devil of a time in Staufen that day (pardon the pun), and if you are ever in Germany's Schwarzwald region, you should make a trip to Staufen. It is easily accessible by bus, car or train and the last train leaves Staufen for Freiburg at about 7 p.m. There are several hotels in Staufen if you decide to stay overnight, but if you are staying in Freiburg, it's a great day trip for people like me who want to enjoy small-town Germany at its best.