Visit Switzerland, Germany, and France (In One Week)

Freiburg, Germany
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Freiburg and the surrounding Black Forest, Germany
Freiburg and the surrounding Black Forest (Blick von Herdern/FWTM-Raach)

Freiburg, Germany
Wind turbines whirled in the Black Forest and rooftop solar panels devoured afternoon rays outside my train when it rattled into Freiburg from Basel. The eco-friendly theme continued as I walked to my hotel through the car-free city center, past a digital display showing how much electricity was being harvested at that moment by city hall's solar panels. Freiburg is one of Germany's greenest cities.

Going with that theme, I set out to find a bike. At the first bike shop, the spokes-guy apologized that they didn't rent them but showed me on a trail map where to ride anyway. "See, it's all bike paths, dirt roads and trails in every direction but west," he beamed. He added proudly that Freiburg is one of Germany's most bicycle-friendly cities, with 300 miles of bike lanes for 220,000 residents—and more bikes than cars.

When I found a rental shop (Mobile), $12 got me a bike, lock, and helmet for four hours. I followed the city's popular canal path, threading beneath countless bridges before spilling into farmlands. That night I rewarded myself with a hearty pasta meal for $10 near the University of Freiburg, where posters announced an "Out of Afghanistan" rally.

I peeked inside Freiburg's architecturally eclectic cathedral the next morning, but the daily farmers' market just outside on the square demanded my attention. On sale were the best and wurst (bratwurst and currywurst, that is) of sausages and regional produce such as heidelberries and andenberries. More juicy finds followed: small parks, huge sheets of blechkuchen (rectangular pastries), and cobblestone alleys so narrow I could simultaneously touch the medieval buildings on both sides. Accompanying my walk was the soothing music of moving water from Freiburg's unique network of curbside mini-canals, called Bachle, originally installed to fight fires and feed livestock.

That afternoon I explored the trails of hilly Schlossberg Park right above town, where the Black Forest begins. They soon filled with hikers, runners and dogs as the sun reclined through broad-leafed trees. I wound up at the park's Biergarten Kastaniengarten, accessed from city streets by an elevator imbedded in the hillside. The waiter, a college student, brought a rotisserie chicken and an absurdly tall glass of German beer to my picnic table overlooking Freiburg. At that moment, I thought, ‘I should move here.' But France beckoned.

WHERE TO STAY
Hotel Schwarzwalder Hof is a small, classy historic hotel near the cathedral on a cobblestone alley.

WHAT TO EAT
Biergarten Kastaniengarten offers German fare (most involving pork) and beer in Schlossberg Park.


Published: 10 Jan 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in Freiburg

$187
Average/night*
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#1
Victoria
$125
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#2
InterCityHotel Freiburg
$117
Average/night*
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#3
Novotel Freiburg am Konzerthaus
$97
Average/night*
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#4
Mercure Hotel Freiburg Am Muenster

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