Thursday, January 17, 2013

Freiburg - Germany's sunniest city

Are the people of Freiburg so happy because their town gets more sun than anywhere else in Germany, or have they been rewarded with so much sunshine precisely because they are so good - natured? It's difficult to say. But what is certain is that life is good in Germany's southernmost major town, where every visit is a memorable one. Even on those rare occasions when the sun has decided to take a day off. But Freiburg's friendly locals are not the only drawcard. Other highlights include one of Germany's prettiest old quarter, a wealth of culture and history, lots of cafes and inviting taverns, great food and drink, warm hospitality and scenic surroundings. What's more, the town's overall atmosphere is easygoing, laid back and more carefree than most. It's almost- in a word- Mediterranean. 
Old and new town hall

The best way to experience this is on a stroll through the old town, which always buzzes with life and has the minster's 116 meter high Gothic tower as its dominant feature. Muensterplatz square is the biggest in the town center and hosts a farmers market every day except Sunday. The main sights here are the Historical Merchants' Hall from 1532 with its deep-red facade and colorful corner towers, the Museum of Municipal History in the Haus Zum Schoenen Eck from 1761, and the Alte Wache, now the House of Badensian Wines- certainly not the worst use for this beautiful old guardhouse! Augustinerplatz is the other central square in the old town. Overlooked by an Augustinian Abbey and the ruins of the town wall, this is a popular rendezvous for locals, which probably has something to do with the huge steps that flank one side. The lively atmosphere here is strongly reminiscent of the Spanish Steps in Rome. Rathausplatz, location of the Old and New Town Hall, Gothic St. Martin's Church and a fountain with a statue of the Franciscan monk Berthold Schwarz (supposedly the inventor of gunpowder who lived at the monastery that once stood on the square). Oberlinden and Unterlinden are two rather more peaceful squares, and both have a beautiful old lime tree as their centerpiece. True connoisseurs of Freiburg describe pretty little Adelhauser-Platz, which lies away from the beaten track, as the most beautiful square in town. During the year there are countless festivals and celebrations going on at these marvelous places. 

Beautiful view of Freiburg with the Black Forest in the background

Typical for Freiburg are its Baechle which you will see everywhere while strolling through the historical old quarter. The water splashes and gurgles its way through the narrow streets in these tiny channels running alongside the pavements. Originally, they were probably built to supply water for everyday use and for putting out fires, or as drainage canals. Today they are a quirky attraction popular with locals and visitors alike and a great way to cool off in the Summer. The toy store in the Fischerau, close to Augustinerplatz sells the "Baechleboot", boats with a string attached for the little ones to play with in the Baechle. Superstition has it that if a visitor steps in one by accident, this will not be their last visit to Freiburg!
Baechle in Konviktstrasse

Also, don't miss to look at the ground! Beautiful mosaics out of Rhinestones show what kind of store can be found. For example a pretzel will tell you that there is a bakery, or a pig directs to a butcher. 
Let's talk a little bit about Freiburg's minster. Built between 1200 and 1500, the mighty Minster of our Lady is regarded by art historians around the world as an architectural masterpiece of the Gothic period and a cultural monument of great importance. The 116 meter tower of this impressive red sandstone construction is clearly visible from afar and is often referred to as "the most beautiful spire in Christendom". Inside the church are a number of medieval works of art: altars, stained glass (each was donated by a different craft guild. The deep red color was achieved by suspending solid gold nano-particles instead of red dye) and sculptures, including many images and sculptures of the Virgin Mary to whom the minster is dedicated and the patron saints of the town, George, Lambert and Alexander.

Freiburg's minster