Freiburg & the Black Forest

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Good morning¹ to you too, Freiburg! Remember us? No? Well, we remember you quite well. We remember waking up early and sneaking out of Fiona’s aunt’s apartment to get some breakfast. We remember finding one of your many little bakeries, and then realizing that neither of us knew a word of German when we tried to order. (That’s not true– we knew the word hamburger, but that’s it)

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Featuring: the best damned pain au chocolat (in the background) we had in our taste of Europe. That’s right– it ain’t in France.
We took a picture of the shop sign, so know you know where it is.

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Along the way we found this in a doorway. “To give away.” A whiff of Hemingway, anyone?

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My first introduction to the concept of trams… and consequently, three-signal crosswalks.
Freiburg is known for being one of the greenest cities in Europe, and you can see this in their public transit system, which is called the VAG (I know), and the healthy bike population.

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We walked through winding streets which slowly turned from pavement to cobblestone as we neared the heart of the old town, until we reached Munster Cathedral.

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Had lunch in the square outside. There was an open-air market selling wursts and wooden carved toys. It was all very German.

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The most popular merch were these little wooden boats with a string attached. I later found out that there were these small waterways unique to Freiburg, which were called bächle. You’ll just see them on the side of the street in the old city centre. Apparently, they used to serve as a medieval fire brigade, but today they are enjoyed by tourists and children for recreational toy-boat sailing.
Oh and by dogs too.

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Also, we were told that if a foreigner stepped into the bächle by accident, he or she would marry a Freiburg. Which was not bad at all, considering the good-looking men in that town… It’s so weird, Fiona and I kept falling into the bächle, we’re so clumsy!

A little later on in the day, we set out for a little church in the Black Forest. We had nothing but this piece of paper with Fiona’s aunt’s directions written on it.

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Again, let me remind you that we didn’t know a word of German. OK, that’s a lie, again. By that afternoon we knew how to say good morning, yes, no, danke, but not much else. We took a tram to a train station in the middle of nowhere…

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Got on another bus, and when we got off it, we were looking at this:

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We felt like Hansel and Gretel.

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And talk about the candy house. You go, Rococo.

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The Abbey of St. Peter on the top of a hill overlooking the lush green countryside. At 4 p.m., we were pretty much the only two people in the church marvelling at the baroque opulence. Compared to all the other cathedrals we’ve seen in our tour, this was by far the most lighthearted. You’ll see what I mean when I show you Strasbourg Cathedral, the 14th century Gothic gargantuan which made us feel like we were already descending into hell.

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Of course we had to find a nearby restaurant and order Black Forest Cake.
You have not lived until you’ve had a real Black Forest Cake. I’m saying this as a person who was never particularly fond of cakes of the Black Forest persuasion. But this was a cake like no other cake of the Black Forest persuasion that I’m used to. I’m used to seeing the much darker variety, covered with dark chocolate flakes. But this– this is all about the cherries in between the layers of cream and can we just talk about the amount of alcohol in this cake?
No, no we can’t. Because it’s sinful. Moving on.

And this is us, picking our way out of the enchanted forest, one breadcrumb at a time:

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¹ circa late August 2013…

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just a wee service interruption notice…

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I can confirm that life in Glasgow is fabulous, and that this is still very much the case 2 months into my semester here. Could be why I haven’t been updating my blog much, and y’all still think I’m in Germany or something. Huh. That’ll be fixed soon, but I do want to round up my tour of the Continent, for continuity’s if not for some good ol’ old times’ sake.

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Let’s be Frank, furt-er first part of the trip…

… we weren’t so impressed. You guessed it; we were in Frankfurt. But that’s not what we weren’t impressed with. Let’s not forget the 10 hour plane ride that took us there from Vancouver.

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On second thought, let’s forget all about it.
It wasn’t all bad, though. Air Transat may have terribly cramped seats and pasty-looking food, but for a budget airline they had quite a good selection of movies and shows to keep me entertained on the little TV screen in front of me. I watched a cute French movie about speed typewriting, which stayed on my mind when Fiona and I were taking the train out of Frankfurt much later– we passed a decrepit old house with its facade missing, so that it looked like a rusty antique Remington typewriter.
I wish I had a photo of it. But here’s some pictures of the two trains we took.

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It was raining in Frankfurt when we arrived, but luckily we did not have to venture out into the weather much. We simply went underground, got our 4-day Eurail pass (for unlimited train travel between France and Germany) officially stamped and ready to go, and hopped on the first S-Bahn train out of the airport and into the Frankfurt main station. The pass could be used on pretty much every mode of public transportation in Germany so the ease of not having to make train reservations made it quite worth it, in my opinion… at least for the German part of our trip. The Eurail isn’t as useful in France, where it cannot be used for the bus or the metro, and all TGV trains require reservations (with a small fee).

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The next train was the nicest of the countless trains we’d take over the course of our 11 days abroad: the German ICE train, which had better seats than Air Transat. Too bad the trip from Frankfurt to our next destination was only 2 hours. It was the best long-commute sleep that I’d get on this trip. I drooled with reckless abandon.

I can’t say much about Frankfurt because all we did in the couple of hours we were there were momentary, fleeting, and “in transit.” But even without speaking a drop of German we came away with the impression that everything was satisfactory, and that everything would be ok.

Dramatic foreshadowing of things to come? Oh boy. You have no idea.

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Merrily, merrily.

Best Summer Evere

My friend Fiona and I are finally doing it– this thing that you talk about with all of your good friends at some point in your relationships (“We should totally go to Europe together!”) that you never quite get around to pulling together.

Either because the timing’s not right, or the dream team is short on funds, or you’ve reevaluated and decided that your friendship can’t stand the test– halfway through the trip, you’ll get sick of that face you once knew, one of you will have a foreign fling, leading to the breaking of the fellowship.

Fiona’s my Sam Gamgee. It’ll be fine.

Look at him. How can you get sick of that adorable dolt face?

What if she’s actually this guy

What if I keep making LOTR references for the all my blog posts.  Come back, readers!

We’ve booked our flights, hotels, connecting trains and superbuses. I’ve sent off a box of winter survival gear to my dorm in Scotland. Now all that’s left to do is anticipate and wait. Less than 4 days now…

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