When we decided to spend the bulk of our time in Freiburg on this sabbatical, a lot of folks – particularly our Ko”lnische relations – asked, “Why there?” Other than its proximity to France and Switzerland, I couldn’t give a lot of reasons. Mostly I had two strong pleasant memories of summer afternoons in Freiburg: one from my student days when I visited from Tu”bingen, and one on our honeymoon. I hadn’t spent tons of time here, so in some ways I think we just got lucky. But here are good reasons to love Baden (the southern half of the state of Baden-Wu”rtemberg, not Baden-Baden, the city).
- It is cyclists’ heaven. There are plenty of sport cyclists around decked out in neon colors, but there are also plenty of people just out doing their shopping, taking their kids to kindergarten, or going to work on sturdy touring bikes. And lots of Omas wearing sensible shoes and semi-formal clothing just out doing their errands.
- Clean energy everywhere! Since this is the sunniest corner of Germany, they are taking advantage and using solar power wherever possible. There are also wind turbines on the mountains and, of course, lots of hydropower. Hotels advertise that they are carbon neutral and the streetcars boast on their walls that they are "prima fuer das Klima"
- Flammkuchen. I think this dish is the primary source of my positive memory 20 years ago: a local specialty cooks good cheese, ham and, yes, sour cream on a thin pizza-like crust. It's one of those dishes that reminds you how close to France you are.
- The Schwaben will never admit it, but I think the Spaetzle is actually better here.
- German beer AND wine. As our hosts here say, the area “breathes French air,” and the wines are good. One of the local Freiburg beers does nothing for me, but there are other Schwarzwald beers that are quite drinkable.
- What’s true in the U.S is also true here: in general, the South is more hospitable. They also have more tourist traps, but we generally know how to avoid those.
- The Ba”chle (see yesterday’s post), and, in addition, fountains everywhere. Because digging deep wells in the city was impractical, Freiburg early on developed a large system of fountains to deliver drinking water all over the city, and the Ba"chle were engineered to deliver water for washing and other uses. We have three little public fountains within just a couple minutes walk from our place here in a very small village. Running water to mess with outside = happy kids.