Medieval history and modern architecture in Freiburg
The first two nights of our family road trip started in the Bavarian region of Germany at the Hotel Dorint an den Therman, a spa resort near Freiburg which provided us with comfortable, modern accommodation and an excellent base to explore the walking and cycling trails through the Black Forest and Freiburg medieval history nearby.
Hotel in the Black Forest
My sister and I had initial plans to take advantage of the adjacent health spa, which will have to wait until next time, as there was so much else to see and do.
Arriving from Munich the previous afternoon, we had enjoyed a meander through the adjacent forest, before an excellent German meal, washed down with local “Weis Wein”.
Awaking refreshed the next morning, after a sumptuous buffet breakfast the family minibus travelled to the nearby medieval village of Freiburg.
After navigating on the wrong side of the road through roadworks, foreign signs and “helpful comments” from the peanut gallery (back two rows of the bus), Philip successfully found a parking spot within easy distance of a city tram, which proved an easy means of heading into the city centre.
Exploring Freiburg Medieval history
The sleek, modern architecture of this university city is starkly contrasted with the frescoed buildings of the 11th century medieval town centre. If it is modern architecture you are interested, you can stop reading now, because it was the history we had come to experience.
Here we spent a Sunday morning meandering along the narrow, deserted cobblestone streets enjoying the magnificent old town buildings, passing through Martins Tor, one of two remaining medieval city gates, which have survived both wars and surrounding development in modern history.
If you wish to soak in the history without hordes of tourists, Sunday is definitely the day to visit, however all the shops are closed. We were quite content to enjoy a window shop as we explored the streets and alleyways.
Crystal clear water streams through the “Bachle” gutters which run along the cobbled footpaths, providing welcome relief to the scorching heat reflected from the stone buildings.
Originally constructed as early as the 11th century, the gutters formed a water and irrigation supply, and were used to fight fires.
Today children and tourists splash through the cooling water. It is local superstition that if you accidentally step in the Bächle, you will marry a Freiburger, so I guess we’ll be heading back to Freiburg in the next 20 years or so for my nephew’s wedding.
We then headed several km UP the mountain to Schlossberg, the 11th century castle ruins and a panoramic lookout over the city.
An inclinator car took us to the top. Sort of. But the remaining steep uphill hike to the top was well worth the effort for the breathtaking panoramic views across the Vosges mountain range, with the Swiss Alps on one side and the French Alps on the other,
The village of Freiburg is nestled below amid the hills of the Black Forest, with the iconic Munster spire towering over the village.
It was on this site that the dukes of Swabian nobility built their first fortified castle nearly 1,000 years ago, giving the Schlossberg its name (in German, ‘Schloss’ means castle and ‘Berg’ means mountain or hilltop).
The castle was then successively taken over by the counts of Freiburg, the Hapsburgs and then the French occupiers, who in the 17th century incorporated the medieval castle into the city’s fortifications. Today, the Schlossberg boasts ample evidence of its eventful past, such as the ruins of Baroque walls, the Bismarck Tower built in 1906 and the Cannon Square.
Making our way to the bottom, we found our way a village square. Tired, hot and thirsty,we more than happy to join the locals in the traditional summer Sunday afternoon activity….eating ice cream sundaes.
We then strolled through the magnificent Gothic 12th century Freiburg Munster (Cathedral). Construction took over 300 years. Most of the builders never saw the finished project simply trusting that the Cathedral would be completed as they had imagined.
The 116-metre west tower, built in an open lattice structure is a landmark on the Freiburg skyline today.
The three ton 750-year-old Hosanna bell is one of Germany’s oldest Angelus bells, which are rung before the traditional Roman Catholic Angelus prayer service. The Hosanna’s ring is unmistakable: melancholic, loud and clear.
Miraculously, Freiburg’s Cathedral was spared in the bombings during the war and now bears witness to over 800 years of Freiburg’s history.
Returning to our hotel, we enjoyed a final stroll through the Black Forest and our last German fare before heading over the border to France in the morning.
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