Tag Archives: Freiburg

Freiburg & Forests: Day 4 – The Black Forest

Right, so the whole reason we came to Freiburg in the first place was to visit the Black Forest. My husband went through my list to see what we could hit up I’ve the August bank holiday weekend and this was his top pick (he really wanted to go walk in some nature). We had a bit of a (rainy) taste of it yesterday as we walked up Schlossberg, but today’s hikes were a bit more of what we were after.

 List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 80/100Sight: The Black Forest
Location: South West Germany
Position: #458

Half an hour from Freiburg (by tram and bus) is a mountain in the Black Forest called Schauinsland. This was going to be our hiking playground for the day. To get up there we used the Schauinslandbahn – which is not only the longest cable car in journey but this was the first circulating cable car ever built. The journey is meant to take about 20 minutes (although it feels shorter) and takes you to 1294 metres above sea level.

There are a lot of hiking routes that can be done on and around this mountain, we decided to do the two medium difficulty hikes that added up to 13 kilometres, with a fair bit of ascending and descending. Rather than give a play by play of the walks, I figured it would be worth going over some highlights.

The first walk we did (titled as Hike 3) was about 8.8 km long and took us 3 and a half hours to complete. Early into the walk I had to keep stopping because of the recurring wow factor of the views. I took so may pictures in this first stretch of the walk compared to the rest of the day (probably because taking photos is the last thing you want to do when making a steep ascent or descent).

For this hike we were mostly in the open fields, which allowed for lots of beautiful panoramic views and a number of animal sightings. Well, we mostly saw cows (and they were glorious), but we also saw some birds of prey (I think they were red kites) soaring through the sky and making good use of the updrafts.

This hike took us past a number of hotels and guesthouse sand we were able to resist… for the first two hours. It was just after lunchtime by the time we got to the final one and we really felt the need for a snack, so I finally got to try some Flammkuchen – in the German mountains no less.

We probably should have taken more of a break between the two hikes because the second one we did (known as Hike 2) felt a lot more difficult than the first one, despite being less than half the length at 4.2km long. Maybe this was was because this was a lot steeper than the first one and that there were fewer opportunities for extended breaks… yes that’s probably it.

This hike was far more in the trees, although that did not prevent us from seeing more cows and the occasional goats. Being more in the shade meant that despite the sun being out and being quite hot, it was pretty damned cold.

Whilst there weren’t as many opportunities to have an extended sit, there were some interesting landmarks such as a small mining museum, a 400 year old house and a memorial to some English Boy Scouts who died of exhaustion on the mountain in 1936. The latter landmark is pretty interesting as it was a way that the ruling Nazi party tried to ingratiate themselves with the UK.

The highlight of the walk is right at the end when you arrive at observation tower and, with legs like wet noodles, get to the top platform that puts you at 1302 metres high. It was ruddy cold up there, but you just to let the many different views all soak in. It also served as a reminder of how near the borders Freiburg is as, on one side of the tower, you can see the Swiss Alps in the distance.

We were up on the Schauinsland for hours, but we couldn’t walk for much longer and so at the end of the second hike we made our way back to Freiburg. Sadly, because it was Sunday, there was no chance for some last minute purchases of Mezzo Mix to bring back to the UK. It did, however expedite outer search for dinner.

Right so this wasn’t the best meal we had this holiday. The soup dumplings were really delicious, but the soup itself was quite oily (and that did not sit well with my stomach). For a main, I tried sauerbraten for the first time. It came with spatzle, which really appears to be a theme for the dinners of this holiday. I really enjoyed the sauce that this came in (and therefore dredged the spatzle in as much sauce as possible), which makes me wonder if this is something that could be a pick for Germany when doing my food challenge.

As tomorrow is a ‘crack of dawn’ flight, there’ll be no real point in me doing any sort of write-up. It’s been a nice little break here in Freiburg and definitely one with a lot of variety over the three full days. Could have done with one more to check out the open air zoo, but other than that this worked out well.

I’m really pleased to say that it won’t be long until I am back in the air again to see more things outside of my native UK. Still, until then, there’s always time to make plans and fantasise about future getaways.

Freiburg & Forests: Day 3 – Seeing Freiburg

It rained all day today. Okay that’s an exaggeration. It stopped raining at about 5:30 in the afternoon after precipitating near constantly since we left the hotel. Annoying? Yes, but I managed to escape rain for the most part during my trip to Singapore so I can’t exactly complain here. Still, got to make the most of our time here.

We woke to the sight of a big market in the square surrounding the Minster – the smell of which truly made us hungry despite having already eaten breakfast. The smell of cooking sausages, olives and cheese followed us into the Minster, which was currently undergoing some restoration works which rendered the tower inaccessible and made the interior darker (and more atmospheric).

It’s a pity that we didn’t get a chance to see all those stained glass windows shining in their regular glory (due to both the scaffolding and an overcast sky), but you get a flavour of them whilst you’re in there. The distinctive thing about this cathedral would appear to be the integrated sculptures (of which we’ll see more at a later point in the day) and some of the metal railings that had been painted to resemble vines, leaves and berries.

From here we walked down what appears to be one of the main shopping street to see two of the old city gates that are still standing. I saw one of these on a YouTube video about a photographer in Freiburg so it was a bit weird to see them in the flesh. These two are far more prominent than the ones I saw in Munich. It is a shame, however, that the city walls that these once found a place in are no more. Still, they are great to see with the backdrop of the more modern city, their old clocks and murals still being preserved.

From the second gate we went to the Augustinermuseum where we bought a day ticket, which also gives you entry to four other museums around Freiburg. The museum gets its name from the monastery that it occupies, which has been repurposed and updated in recent(ish) years. The focus is mainly on church art, but the attic contains some 18th century paintings that serve as an interesting contrast.

Among the collection I really did enjoy some of the gargoyles that were on display (especially the screaming lion man that represented the sin of wrath) and some sculptures of patron saints of the guilds within Freiburg. There was also a pretty creepy painting of a crying Christ surrounded by lots of crying cherubs (including one who appears to have gotten his leg stuck in the wound on Christ’s side) that still haunts me as I write this.

Lunch was a return to the Minster Square and we indulged in a hot dog made using a local Freiburg sausage. It made for a nice change from the regular bratwurst, and the Freiburg sausage is so long that it needs to be bent in half to fit in the roll.

Next was the second museum of the day: the Archäologisches Museum Colombischlösse. It’s small museum housed in an old villa (which appears to be a theme for the museums in Freiburg) that contains locally excavated Stone Age, Bronze Age and Roman artefacts. What this museum lacks in big ticket items, it really makes up with excellent display work.

There are three things in particular that they did well. Firstly, all the tools were shown alongside the modern equivalents, which helped given context. There were also videos showing some of the techniques used to create a toll within the room. Finally, for fragments, most things were shown in the context of what they once were. All of these things are small touches, but it makes a big difference in a museum like this.

After this we went to the final museum of the day: the Museum Für Neue Kunst. Another fairly small museum, as one where your experience lives and dies depending on the temporary exhibition. The permanent exhibition is still interesting, with one room making a rather powerful statement about the censorship of art under the Nazi regime. There was also a room set up with new acquisitions to the gallery, each with an accompanying essay written by a local art student – which is a novel way to encourage art appreciation.

The temporary exhibition was excellent. It was centred around the idea of interconnectivity and featured audio, video and virtual reality exhibits. There was also gigantic versions of the board game Risk, where the method of world domination had been changed to more modern means such as economic block chaining. I got to use a virtual reality headset twice, the first allowing me to watch and listen to some interviews with immigrant students on topics like LGBT issues and religion. The second one… I took off pretty quickly because it gave me a hint at what it might be like to be schizophrenic and it wasn’t exactly pleasant.

The rain had let up slightly (only to return later in full force) and we decided to make our way up to the top of Schlossberg, the nearby hill that looks over Freiburg. We took the funicular half way up the hill and then hiked our way to the top, where there is a metal observational tower which can give you a birds-eye view of the surrounding areas. The main platform is 251 stairs up, but there is also a single person platform that is even higher up… which shakes in the wind like nobody’s business, so I got down form that quickly.

As we descended the tower the heavens truly opened, but we still wanted to take our time exploring the Freiburg-facing side of Schlossberg. We walked around the forest until we made our way down to the Kanonenplatz which, despite being lower down, allows for better views of the city.

List item: Kiss in the rain
Status: Completed

Honestly, the whole thing was kinda romantic. We’ve probably done this before, but this might be the first time that the rain, the view and the situation properly lined up. Maybe it would have been nicer on the Kanonenplatz if it had been sunnier and less misty, but it would not have been as quiet or as atmospheric.

We gradually made our way back down off the hill and it was getting towards dinner time. For the first time in God knows how long, I thought it would be a good idea to have dinner at our hotel. After all the restaurant where we were staying, Hotel Oberkirch, is fairly high on TripAdvisor and the food always smells great as we get back in the evenings.

After our hike I really wanted a particular type of soup you find in Germany – and they had it at the restaurant. I don’t know what it so comforting about beef broth with cut up pancakes in it, but when done well it is hard to beat… which is great when this hotel made one of the best versions of this that I have ever had.

For my main I had something from the seasonal menu, which was themed after chanterelle mushrooms. Honestly I couldn’t see the meat escalope for all the mushrooms, spätzle and sauce – never a bad thing. The chanterelles were so so good and gave a wonderful flavour to everything on the plate. I need to find a recipe for something like this as I could see myself copying this meal for when I eventually cover Germany for my food challenge.

So, with my trip up the Schlossberg I had a preview of the Black Forest today, but tomorrow marks our trip out to see it properly. Lots of walking through the hills and forests tomorrow… so a good sleep and breakfast seems like the best way to prepare for now.

Freiburg & Forests: Day 2 – Europa Park

So yesterday I made a bit of a point around setting foot in four countries in one day. Today I visited a place that has themed areas from all over Europe – the amazing Europa Park. It was a happy coincidence that this trip to Freiburg would allow for this visit – we originally booked this trip as it was on the edge of the Black Forest. I guess things happen for a reason sometimes.

The trip from Freiburg to Europa Park takes less than an hour (depending on your connections), but we still got up before seven so we could get breakfast in the hotel and still be at the park for when it opens at nine. The bus section of the trip was jam-packed with teenage boys, which brought to mind the scene in Pinocchio where they make the trip to Pleasure Island. Thankfully I did not come back as a donkey.

One thing that I want to properly draw notice to is just how lucky I was today with the number of people in the park. I see people on TripAdvisor talking about how they often had to wait at least an hour to get on a bunch of the rides (similar to my time in Tokyo Disneyland). However, in the 9 hours that we spent in the the park, we managed to fit in about 25 rides – the longest wait being just over half an hour with many others being almost immediate.

I won’t go over every ride I went on (otherwise I would be here for hours) but there are a number of highlights that I want to get down for some sort of posterity. The first cluster of highlights happened in the Austrian section of the park, which is where I actually managed to tick off something for my main bucket list.

List item: Ride a record breaking roller coaster
Status: Completed

I think it’s fair to count a first as a record, and in that case the Alpine Express helps me to check this off as it was the first coaster to use virtual reality. It’s set us you would expect, you get in a physical roller coaster with a headset on that plays a 360 video which is synced up to the twists and turns. We picked a video that had you flying around on some sort of glider and, surprisingly, it was incredibly immersive to the point where I thought I’d actually gone upside down. We re-rode the ride straight afterwards without the VR and got a completely different experience with the original runaway train through a goblin mine setting.

The next big highlight was two rides in the Iceland section. Both of them were some of the parks bigger coasters and yet,between them, we only waited for 45 minutes. I also made the potentially stupid move of riding these even though I had pulled my lower back 3 weeks ago and still had residual soreness. Weirdly, this soreness has disappeared after riding Wodan (a gigantic wooden coaster) which was like some sort of miracle.

Blue Fire, the other coaster in the Iceland section, is probably the best coaster that I rode whilst in the park. It doesn’t reach the heights of Silver Star (which was previously the tallest coaster in Europe), but it has more interesting twists and loops that help you have those thrilling extended moments of weightlessness.

We did a lot of the smoother rides in the park too. There are so many well themed rides that are fun for the family, but the runaway winner for best theme and experience was the Madame Freudenrich’s Curiosities. It’s an indoor track ride where you see lots of cute dinosaurs wearing kitted items and making cakes. Sounds weird but it is adorable and makes me marvel that Europa Park is able to make these mini-worlds without having the intellectual properties that Disney have to fall back on.

Of course we visited the England zone. There weren’t really many rides here but it was funny to see what stereotypes were used here. Mostly it was London based with the black cabs, double-decker buses and Paddington station, but there were also arcades like you’d find at the seaside.

In terms of best whole world (for rides, decor and available food) the winner for me has to be Greece. It had the best water ride, a cool coaster and a really fun laser shooting game. The place was done up as a mash-up of Ancient Greece and present day Santorini and you could smell that they were cooking gyros.

Speaking of food – we didn’t really have any meals today but just had snacks every now and then. This included a hot dog in England, burger and Olivier salad in Russia and a visit to the Foodloop restaurant in Luxembourg. Food Loop has a bit of a queue to get in, but the gimmick of having your food delivered to your table by mini-roller coaster is worth the wait. We had Mezzo Mix and Black Forest gateau, with the cake being a pleasant surprise.

We finished the day by going on the panorama train for one final look around the park before getting onto the last: Voletarium. We weren’t event going to go on this originally, but our interest was piqued as I bought myself a keychain in the ride’s gift shop. To think I almost missed out on the best experience of the day just goes to show how an amazing day can unexpectedly get even better!

To describe Voletarium is to make it sound a little bit twee. It’s essentially a large indoor cinema were it feels like you are flying through the air and the landscapes that you see. For this ride it is a number of different places in Europe (sadly none in the UK) and you are soaring through the sky between different scenes. Now, I don’t know if it was the music, my love of Europe or some other factor… but it made me cry (in a similar way to the water show in Singapore). I was just so moved and it really was the perfect way to end the day.

As you can gather from this entry, not only am I considering this trip to Europa Park as my best ever day in a theme park – but also in the top ranked of holiday days that I’ve had with my husband. We still have two more days here in Germany, both of which are set to be incredibly different to today. Tomorrow I’ll be seeing more or Freiburg itself – and will also be getting a well earned lie in.

Just as an FYI I’m finishing this post with a list of the rides we managed to fit into our day with a few notes if not already mentioned before. I’m trying to do this in order, but it’s already getting a bit fuzzy:

1) Jungle Rafts – gentle boat ride around some (possibly insensitive) depictions of African culture (Adventure Land)
2) Alpine Coaster with Sky Riders VR Experience (Austria)
3) Alpine Coaster as originally built (Austria)
4) Tirol Log Flume – which goes through the same goblin mining scene as the coaster (Austria)
5) Feria Swing – an inside spinning ride where the controller yelled Spanish exclamations in an extremely strong German accent… which made the whole experience hilarious (Spain)
6) Fjord Rafting – River Rapids ride where I stayed dry… but the man opposite got absolutely soaked (Scandinavia)
7) Blue Fire – best coaster of the park (Iceland)
8) Whale Adventures – water shooting ride (Iceland)
9) Wodin – a huge wooden coaster, possibly the largest I’ve ever been in (Iceland)

10) Euro-Mir – a spinning coaster themed around space station Mir, but is also unapologetically nineties with its blacklights and techno music. Really fun, even if going backwards down a coaster is moderately terrifying. (Russia)
11) Snowflake Sleigh Ride – gentle indoors ride where you’re sat in really cute sleighs (Russia)
12) Cassandra’s Curse – my first revolving room ride. Cool and trippy (Greece)
13) Poseidon – a water coaster where I got absolutely soaked. Totally worth it (Greece)
14) Pegasus – a coaster that I hoped would help to dry me off. It didn’t. (Greece)
15) Atlantis Adventure – laser shooting ride with a lot of cool sea creatures. Absolutely thrashed my husband with my score (Greece)
16) Monorail (between Luxembourg and Iceland)
17) Puppet Boat Ride – gentle cruise around a bunch of puppets depicting folk tales (Germany)
18) Elf Ride – another cruise ride where my main memory is signs of crying flowers saying “Let Us Live” as a way to stop people picking them (Germany)
19) Ghost Castle – similar idea to the Disney haunted mansion, but actually pretty gruesome in places (Italy)
20) Picollo Mondo – cute gondolier ride where animatronic animals take on different Italian stereotypes (Italy)

21) Swiss Bob Run – bobsleigh coaster where you do the whole thing when lying down (Switzerland)
22) Silver Star – previously tallest coaster in Europe, had one hell of an initial drop (France)
23) Madame Freudenrich Curiosities – super cute indoor ride with dinosaurs, cake and laundry (France)
24 Panorama Train – for a final look around the park via a train with not a lot of leg room for someone who is 6 foot 3 (Germany-England-Spain-Russia)
25) Voletarium – breathtaking indoor cinema flight ride (Germany)

Freiburg & Forests: Day 1 – 4 Countries in 1 Day

There’s something cool about being able to say “I’ve set foot in four countries in one day”. To be honest, outside of actively seeking something like this, I couldn’t think how it would happen. Yet today, as part of my journey between my London home and my hotel room in Freiburg, I managed to set foot in the UK, France, Switzerland and Germany.

It’s things like this, which came about because Basel airport seems to straddle the French-Swiss border, that really makes me love Europe. I mean, where else could an airport have a small customs gate in the middle of a departures lounge that helps you easily pass between two nations?

Given that we didn’t actually make it to Freiburg until just gone four in the afternoon, this is going to be one of my shorter travel posts. However there are some first impressions that I want to get down.

Firstly, the view I have from my hotel has to be up there with Vilnius, New York, Hiroshima and Cairns. We are overlooking the Minster (the section not currently clad in scaffolding) and therefore had front row seats to it being illuminated by the massive thunderstorm that struck Freiburg this evening. For a solid hour the rain was torrential and there was lightning every 30-60 seconds. I was clutching my glass of Mezzo Mix and staring out the window the same way a young child does in front of a toy shop at Christmas.

Our first walk around the city centre (which we will properly explore on Day 3) was lovely – even as the storm winds picked up and we started making our way back to the hotel. You can tell that this is an old town because of the architecture and the cool cobble art on the streets (where, for some shops, they have had their trade incorporated into the cobblestones – like an orange and glass for a juice shop).

You can also tell that this town has a very youthful spirit, thanks in part to the nearby university which has really made local businesses spring up to appeal to the clientele. This weird dichotomy of an old city with a young university population really reminds me of three years living in York. As much as I love London I do sometimes wonder how it would have been if I had stayed in my university town and made a life there…

Anyway. Being me, the final first thought is food. Already I am wanting to eat pretty much everything I come across. Tonight I let the hub pick a place – and not just because I felt bad for how much I’ve been continuing to rib him for a card the hotel left us a welcoming ‘Mr and Mrs [my last name]’.

I really could have had anything on the menu, but since I had a lot of schnitzel in Kraków I went for a cutlet in cream sauce, spatzel and a (gorgeous) side salad. There will be plenty of time for sausages and schnitzel during the rest of this trip.

That’s it for day one. The thunderstorm has sadly stopped and we have an early start time tomorrow as we’re off to visit Europa Park! In the rain! Wish me luck!