Where we live, we only sing about “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” at Christmas time. However, it appears that Germans actually roast them over open fires and sell them in lots of public places. Well, when in Freiburg, do as the Freiburgers do, so we bought some from a very chatty man. Amazingly to me, he spoke excellent English and wanted to talk a bit. It was shortly before the US 2012 presidential election so he asked which candidate we supported. We told him we planned to vote for President Obama and he was very pleased and opined that 98% of Germans did too.
As for the chestnuts, the taste was a bit bland, but not unpleasant. I think a bit of salt would have improved them a bit. However, it was a very chilly day and I soon found that they worked very well in my coat pockets as hand warmers.
One unusual feature of Freiburg are the Bächle, or mini-canals, running throughout the city. Originally built to deliver water and fight fires, the Bächle are now merely decorative. In some places, they are covered, but they are usually left in the open for children and tourists to enjoy. They are a minor consideration for those pushing strollers, but it is usually easy to avoid getting a wheel caught. We did not get Minifrosch wet, so he is free from the legend that all who fall into a Bächle are destined to marry someone from Freiburg.
The Breisgauer Narrenzunft is actually not one single guild but an association of 35 different carnival guilds in town. Each of the guilds does its own carnival programme but the association keeps them together and organizes some central events - like the big parade on Carnival Monday where all the member guilds and many many guests from all over Baden-Württemberg participate.
The variety of masks and costumes among the member guilds is enormous. I'm presenting some of them in my travelogue pages (work in progress).
List of all member guilds with links to their individual websites
Guggemusik originates in the Swiss carnival but becomes more and more popular in the South West of Germany, too. There are quite a number of these funny bands in the Freiburg parade.
Most bands consist of brass and drums. The rules how to make Guggemusik are easy:
1. The majority of the band plays the same song.
2. Start together and fisnish together. No one cares what happens in between.
3. Make as much noise as you can.
4. No worries. Whether you hit the right notes or not doesn't matter.
5. It's the listeners' problem whether or not they recognize the piece you're playing, not yours.
6. Have fun.
7. HAVE FUN!!!!
A good Guggemusik will torture the ears of any 'serious' musician... but it's just wonderful!!!
There are even Guggemusik competitions: The noisiest band wins!
Photo 1: Guggemusik band "Zarte Säu" ("Tender Sows") from Tiengen. If you want to hear the pirates, there is a video of them with sound. Turn up the volume!!!
Freiburg is one of the centres of alemannic Fastnacht. 35 carnival guilds are located in the city. Each of them is doing its own activities, but on carnival Monday they're all united in the big parade (starting 14.00).
See my travelogue page for more pictures and details.
This large solar-powered building, called the Sonnenschiff or "Sun-Ship", includes shops, offices and penthouses.
Behind it is a "solar community" consisting of "plus-energy houses" that generate their own energy from regenerative sources. The goal of "plus-energy" construction is to cover the total energy requirement of the house in a regenerative way and even to produce a surplus.
Since Freiburg has more hours of sunlight per year than any other German city, the people here have long been active in using solar panels and other alternative energy sources to provide heat and power for their houses.
This particular house, on a street called Eichhalde which is part of the Freiburg Bicycle Loop Trail, is being built with (they say) a "small power plant in your own house", using Stirling technology in combination with solar panels.
I've been abroad to some other European countries, but basically nobody knew about the wine of Baden. Then I told my parents to send me a bottle of Badish wine which I could present to friends in my host countries, and oh wonder, quickly they asked what kind of delicious wine you have there, we want more ... Well, I think Baden's wines have a marketing problem, but I think who tried it once won't forget it.
Recently I read somewhere that wines from Habsburg have the best price/quality relation in Europe. Well, either these words come from a bit patriot or someone who never tasted wine from Baden. How could bad quality soil mediocre climate wine compete with wine who grows under medieval climate on volcanic soil?
Besides wine from Baden never were never part of any "quality faking scancals" like some wines of Austria, Hungary, Italy and France - not to mention those from oversea which are not always controlled due to European standard.
So if you don't travel by car (or have some days to spend in the region) I recommend you to go to Alte Wache - House of Baden's Wine and taste some of it. Anyway you have to make a reservation there before "tasting" your wine, because preparations have to be done. They offer several types of wine tasting (six or nine different wines), as well as some small regional dishes in addition. Wine tasting is possible every day AFTER reservation in advance.
After wine tasting you are also able to buy the wine you liked best (prices from 4 ? to ...). But you can also order online, of course. If I may recommend the "Probierpäckle" (see link" for you to get a first taste of Baden's wine.
If you don't like a formal wine tasting in a group, just go to one of the (small!) wine shops in old town, and ask if you can taste one of their wine. Of course they hope you will buy some of it afterwards ...
Enjoy it ...! Freiburg is not like Black Forest a pure beer region, here wine rules as well!
Alte Wache can be found easily on Münsterplatz just right behind the Münster church.
The food market is the thing I probably liked most in Freiburg. Every weekday there is a huge market in front of the cathedral. Fresh and excellent vegetables, fruits, cheese, salami and ham, baguettes ... a paradise for every gourmet.
Straussenwirtschaften/ Straussen are small seasonal restaurants located in agricultural areas in the outskirts of the city. They serve local specialties and are seasonal in the sense that they are only opened during specific times of the year, usually in the early spring/late summer and in the beginning of fall. Therefore, it's very important to check the opening hours! Every year a small brochure comes out; (available at most petrol stations and at the main tourist office) listing the Straussen in the region, which specialties they serve, and their opening hours. Eating at Straussen is very popular among the locals and these places are commonly quite small with only a few seats, thus it can be hard getting a table. Show up early or try to make reservations!
In the brochure there's a map with all the Straussen marked out, but it is not very detailed, and even if you have another map, it can still be tricky to find the way to the Strausse you have picked out, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time to find it. The Straussen can look a little bit different, but at least the ones I've been to were cozy basement Straussen with robust farmer's furniture, located in small picturesque villages. As I mentioned earlier, these restaurants are small, narrow and crowded, thus it gets warm and loud, but that's all part of the charm!
The food is very simple (usually only products from the farm are used) and there are not many dishes to choose from, but most of them taste very good, and they are cheap too! My favorites are the 'Bibelskäse', a kind of fresh soft cheese served on dark bread, and the 'Flammenkuchen' (served on a wooden platter), which is similar to pizza, but the topping consist only of bacon, onion and sour cream.
Last but not least: DON'T try to order a beer; in a genuine Strausse only wine (the house wine) is served! You might want to try the 'Traubensaft' (grape juice) though, it's delicious. Also the 'Apfelsaft' (apple juice) is really good.
Monday to Friday you can go to the Freiburger Muenster at noon to listen 10 minutes to very relaxing and calming organ music, always between 12:05 and 12:15. I think, this is a brilliant idea, one neither has to be religious to participate here. I entered by chance just at that time the cathedral to have a look and was impressed by the wonderful realxing music. Obviously the sound in such a big church is really excelent. I couldn´t see where they were playing as this Muenster has 3(!) really big organs.
The carnaval traditions in the south of Germany are a bit different to the traditions in cities like Cologne, Düsseldorf or Mainz. Here they speak about Fasnacht, the events have more mythic backgrounds meanwhile the e.g. Cologne Carneval has especially political satire.
A lot of little open rain water canals pass through Freiburg centrum. There is an old tradition that says when anyone steps in a Baechle he /she will marry to a person from Freiburg....so be careful....or not, it´s your choice ;-))
Now, this fable doesn't actually take place 'in' Freiburg, but somewhere inbetween on the drive to it along the Straßenbahn 31 from Konstanz.
Legend has it, that a long time ago a Jäger was tracking a particular Stag whereupon they finally found themselves together on the plateau overlooking this gorge in the Schwarzwald. The Stag, anxious to stay clear of the Jäger´s cooking pot, found he had a decision to make if he wanted to ever see his little stags and stagettes again. Realizing he had no other option, the Stag decided to make the impossible, possible: he jumped. That's right, he jumped clear to the other side! As the Stag turned to look at the amazed little man standing alone from whence he leaped, a single solitary tear emerged from his glistening, black eye and as a sign of respect gave a little 'thumbs-up" (which is quite a feat with hooves) and a wink to the Jäger before prancing off into the forest. The Jäger, left behind on the edge of the plateau scratching his head, stood mystified and a little worried for he couldn't believe that a Stag could jump such a distance, and what was he going to tell his wife and 3 hungry Jägerkinder? Surely they wouldn't believe this fantastic tale? So he downed the last of the Edelberry Schnaaps from his flask, bagged a few squirrels, a chipmunk and a moldy potato, and,...well,...nobody really knows the rest. It's rumoured that after the divorce he started his own Oompah band: the infamous 'Jäger und der Berghopper 6' and made it big in the underground alternative Schwäbische Oompah scene,...but that's just an old wive's tale.
So anyway, somebody somewhere sometime decided to commemorate this awesome feat, by erecting a Stainless Steel monument to this proud, noble beast, whereupon even to this very day, young German Olympic Long Jump hopefuls, male and female alike, make their yearly pilgrimage in Spring to this plateau to kiss the metallic hooves of this majestic symbol of courage, strength and plain dumb luck.
CHECK OUT THE EXTERNAL PARKING LOT METERS. This is what we need in North America... Constantly-updated electronic signs that tell you how many parking spaces are left in a particular parking lot. And you wonder why Germans are known for their efficiency?!