InterRail #1: Freiburg im Breisgau
As with all Dovaston Tours, there is always a problem of some sort. This time it was my fault. Leaving Düsseldorf bright and early on a Sunday morning with my small suitcase in tow, I casually made my way by tram and then train to Köln where my parents and a nice sit down breakfast were waiting for me. Now, I am known to be a pretty organised person – previously I have even been known to pack for my holidays weeks in advance, taking pleasure in packing and repacking items several times in the weeks before the travelling begins. However this time, I am ashamed to admit, the excitement of going away got the better of me and halfway through my train journey I realised I had forgotten something of the utmost importance.
Yes my friends, halfway to Köln, just as we left the delightful town that is Leverkusen, I remembered that I had left my passport in my flat. Usually this would not cause any problems, I was staying within Europe which meant technically I could travel without a passport, but with some alternative form of ID. This is something that I have become very accustomed to travelling everywhere during my Year Abroad on my ID card alone.
However for the trip I was about to for the trip that I was about to undertake, using an Inter-Rail pass, my ticket was only valid if used in conjunction with my UK passport. I nervously spent the remaining 15 minutes of my trip reassuring myself that it would be fine and that in the 12 years that I have been doing such trips they have never once checked my ticket against my passport.. To cut a long story short, after a very short reunion with my parents and a rushed explanation of the situation, I was back on the train heading in the opposite direction back to Düsseldorf. Thankfully I had just enough time to make the return journey to my flat, pick up the all-important document and, in just under two hours, I was back with my parents in Köln Hbf waiting for our train which would take us down south to the beautiful town of Freiburg im Breisgau.
Freiburg is referred to as the ‘Jewel of the Black Forest’ and is the perfect base for people wanting to explore the popular Schwarzwald. The city is known for its old University and noble Minster, as well as its position among numerous wine growing regions and scenic countryside. Another interesting fact that I stumbled across, one which was particularly promising for us visiting the town as part of our holiday trip, was that fact it has been proven to be Germany’s warmest and sunniest city! Hooray!
After arriving in the city and heading to our hotel to drop off our bags we were ready to explore. The main streets were cordoned off as the active citizens of Freiburg were taking part in the cities Marathon but luckily we still had access to the main points of interest. We began our tour in the impressive Münsterplatz (Cathedral square). Münsterplatz is at the heart of the old town and is the city’s largest square. As the name suggests this is the location of the Münster, a gigantic red sandstone gothic cathedral which is particular famous for its towering spire that can be seen for miles.
Unfortunately the aforementioned spire was under restoration so we were unable to admire it in its full beauty – pretty impressive all the same though. On the same square are a number of other pretty buildings, painted in various colours with a selection of intricate turrets, rooftops and chimneys. One of the most striking has to be the Historisches Kaufhaus, or Historical Merchants Hall, another gothic building on the south side of the square, which was once the financial centre of the region.
Stopping off in the charming Ganters Brauerei, just to the right of the Merchants Hall, we enjoyed refreshments before continuing on our tour.
Our next stop was the Rathausplatz to admire the Altes and Neues Rathaus, old and new Town Halls. Nowadays, the Old town hall (the red building hiding behind the tree) is the home of the Tourist Information office.
By this time, the Marathon was over and we were free to wander down the main street of Freiburg, Kaiser Josef Strasse. Another unique trait that Freiburg has to offer is the unusual system of city gutters, otherwise known as the Bächle. These however were not meant for sewage purposes, instead they were once used as a means of providing water in order to fight fires and feed local livestock. The water in these Bächle still flows today and it has become a local myth that, should one step or fall into one, they are destined to marry a Freiburger or ‘Bobbele‘ (citizen of Freiburg) .
At the end of Kaiser Josef Strasse is one of the old city gates, the Martinstor.
Passing through the gate, we found ourselves in a more peaceful area of the city and just a few metres from the gate stumbled across the endearing narrow lanes of Fischerau and Gerberau. These two lanes are arguably two of Freiburg’s most picturesque and received their curious names due to the fisherman and tanners that lived in the houses lining the street during medieval times. Nowadays a number of cafes, taverns and small shops can be found in and around this area.
Once we had finished wandering around these quaint streets it was time for some food and we ambled down the road to a recommended Greek restaurant, Irodion. Although from the frontage it doesn’t look like anything special, once you enter into the heart of the restaurant, an atmospheric and authentic Grecian setting awaits. The food is delicious with very generous portions and as with most Greek restaurants, particularly great for any carnivores!
Following on from here and still savouring the large but tasty meal, we made our way to the area of Oberlinden, a vibrant quarter of the town which, mostly spared from WW2 destruction, has kept its old world charm and offers many a place to sit and watch the world go by. Just off the main street is my favourite street in Freiburg – the stunning Konviktstrasse.
With the wisteria canopy, colourful houses and abundance of endearing shops it is not hard to understand why this is such a popular street for locals and visitors alike.
Our time in Freiburg was soon at an end and we retired back to the hotel, ready for the early start in the morning.
Top Tip: A day ticket for the tram network in Freiburg costs just 10,50 euros for up to 5 people travelling together . The ticket is valid for 24 hours.