Freiburg, Germany

Our first stop in the Black Forest was actually not in the forest, but in the city of Freiburg im Breisgau, or, just Freiburg. I guess there is another Freiburg in Germany (and a Fribourg in Switzerland), so when programming your GPS, make sure you are clear on just where it is you are headed.

Apparently, Freiburg is the sunniest and warmest place in Germany, and even though a light rain came in a few hours after we arrived, it was still warm, and we managed to continue our walk though the old town.

One of the first things we saw in town were the Bächle, a system of gutters (but not for sewage) with water diverted from the Dreisam River. The water from these were originally used for firefighting or for animals to drink, but the cutest thing we saw were children pulling little boats on a string through the gutters. Then we found the little stall selling these boats. So cute!

The big church in town, the Freiburger Munster, served as a great place to stop in when the rain started, but not before we looked at the outside at the interesting gargoyles. We had read in our guide that there were medieval measuring markers on the outside of the church showing the standard units for trading purposes, but we did not see them, either because we just didn’t, or because part of the church is hidden behind scaffolding (as is at least 20% of Europe at any given time). We were also supposed to see the unusual gargoyles, which we did, but the one of someone’s rear end out of which the rainwater pours is probably hidden. (The Swabian’s Gate, one of two original gates still remaining is completely covered by scaffolding.)

The mosaics on the street are made from split pebbles from the Rhein River indicating what goes on in the building, although this one probably means something different.

IMG_0036Encircling the cathedral is the daily market with your typical produce and flowers. We almost bought the local Lange Rote (long red – which is a wurst), but we headed to the Markthalle for lunch where we had a huge plate of Indian vegetables and rice for about half of what we’d pay in Zürich. After lunch we had to go back to the market and find Stefan’s Käsekuchen (cheese cake) for dessert. We knew it was a great place because of the long line. We were glad we ended up with the smallest size, because it was a good amount for two people. This cheese cake it not like what Americans think of. It’s much softer in the middle and not nearly as sweet, but oooohhh, is it ever creamy.

Everywhere we went we saw Spargel and Erdberre for sale – asparagus and strawberries are in high season, especially the white asparagus.

IMG_0065

When the rain let up, we decided to climb up the Schlossberg. We didn’t go all the way to the top, but we did get a good view of the city.

One day was not enough in the city, even though we came back for lunch on Monday on our way back home. Maybe we’ll feel like returning this summer and taking some hikes nearby.

The Black Forest (Der Schwarzwald)

The first thing to know about the Black Forest is that it is not in Bavaria. I used to think that it was close to Munich, but it is actually quite close to the French and Swiss borders in the state of Baden-Württemburg. Germany’s very famous castle, Neuschwanstein is far from here.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 1.30.38 PMWith all of the very touristy famous places we have been this year, we thought that a quiet weekend in the country would be a lovely change. We found very few foreign tourists wandering around (and no selfie sticks!). It turns out that this area is where many Germans like to visit.

IMG_0122

IMG_0140

A group of German tourists.

Not knowing exactly where to go, H found Black Forest Tours online where you can buy a multipage PDF with many recommendations for self-guided tours. After looking through the possibilities, we bought the Panorama and Cuckoo Clocks Tour. This day tour had more things to do in it that one actually has time for in a day, so we chose what looked most interesting to us (and actually skipped the cuckoo clock stuff since H said that if he had to go to a cuckoo clock museum and/or shop, it might put a major strain on our marriage …).

Because we had the rental car, I started looking for AirBnB accommodations outside of Freiburg and found our favorite place we’ve stayed yet. In the tiny, tiny town of Tutschfelden (pop. 600) we found this top-floor apartment in an old rectory. The owners live downstairs and have renovated the upstairs to look like something out of a magazine. The balcony was fabulous and looked out towards the town church which right now has a pair of storks nesting on the roof. We spent time watching as one or the other would swoop in with a beak full of nest material.

Although we had communicated with the owners in English, when we arrived, we carried on most of our conversation in German. In fact, we were once again so happy to realize that our German is better than we think it is than when we are in Switzerland, where we are never quite sure. At one point we asked someone for a map in English and she was surprised because she told us that our German was good. We felt that most of the people we talked to spoke slowly and clearly, not just for us, but as a general rule.

Trains and Automobiles

In over eight months since we’ve been here, we have gotten used to the freedom of not owning a car. This is easy to do since the Swiss transportation system is fabulous. You can get to the remotest parts of the country on trains, trams, busses, gondolas, funiculars, boats and also by hiking and biking. We have gotten used to not having to pay for repairs, gas, insurance and parking. Oh, yes, I think there is a yearly sticker you have to buy if you want to drive on the Swiss Autobahn. We had an advert in the post box yesterday offering a parking place for 230 CHF / month. I don’t even want to think about the cost of insuring a car. And I especially don’t want to think about driving one in Zürich. I’ve read too many stories about tickets, and the streets bewilder me. Then, to find a parking place in the city would probably have me swearing. We have not been in a traffic jam this year, either.

This past weekend, though, we enjoyed the freedom of driving a car for the first time in over eight months! (Although we first took the train to Basel and then into Lörrach, Germany.) Once across the border, we rented a Skoda Octavia (a diesel car made in the Czech Republic). No need to wait for a train, or a bus, or a tram. We drove through lovely roads in the Schwarzwald (Germany’s Black Forest) and saw scenery we would have missed from the train. With all that space, we could just throw our stuff into the back seat or the very back of the car and not have to keep it so tidy all the time. H drove the Autobahn and lived to tell the tale.

IMG_0143

The Value of a Verein

As a copy editor and proof-reader for the American Women’s Club bi-monthly newsletter, The Round Robin, I decided that it would be a good thing to contribute an article about something I have learned about living in Zürich. Many of the articles in the publication pertain to living in Switzerland, and now that I’ve been here for a little while, I thought I might have something to contribute.

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 7.09.46 PM

So I did a little asking around and started this thread on the English Forum, asking people what they knew about clubs (Vereins). The May/June issue of The Round Robin (hot off the press!) contains this article I wrote about The Value of a Verein.

Spring Holidays

As much as I love the long summer school vacation in the US, I have secretly thought that a shorter summer vacation and more vacations during the year would be better. Kids forget so much in three months that the beginning of the school year must backtrack a month or more to get kids back up to speed. As a parent, the dog days of August got really long, and it seemed time to get those kids back into a routine.

Zürich is right in the middle of spring school holidays which lasts for two weeks. The kids had five days off at Easter and also in the city there was no school on Sechseläuten, and there will be more days off at Ascension (Himmelfahrt) and Whit Monday (Pfingsmontag), but then summer holidays don’t start until mid-July and last only about a month.Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 2.27.42 PM

Kursk at the Cabaret Voltaire

When Lynn was visiting in February, we wandered through the Niederdorf (my favorite part of town) and I showed her the Cabaret Voltaire – the birthplace of Dada in Zürich. I felt a little disheartened to see that someone had painted some graffiti over the name.

IMG_8410This week when I walked by, I saw this sign on the side window and realized that this was not a random act of violence, but something done on purpose by the Cabaret Voltaire.

IMG_9940

It is still not clear to me exactly what Kursk means, but to the best of my translations, it is a group that is going to perform until next month in the space. They liken themselves to a nuclear submarine and performance art.

At least the front has been restored to its original paint job.

IMG_9943

Freitag Fabrik

I had never heard of Freitag bags until recently, but apparently they are very cool. And very Swiss.

IMG_9997

Yesterday I toured the factory in Oerlikon (just outside of Zürich, about 7 minutes by train) with the American Women’s Club. In 1993 Markus and Daniel Freitag were looking for a tough, water resistant messenger bag to wear when they rode their velos (bikes). They noticed the tarps on the trucks driving by their flat, got ahold of one, used a seatbelt from an old car and some velo inner tube to make what they wanted, and a company was born.

IMG_9992

We learned about the sustainability of the making of these bags. First, the use of recycled materials is the most important. The factory is chock-full of old tarps. Finding prized colors (i.e. not gray) is not always easy.

IMG_0002

IMG_0006

Of course the tarps are pretty filthy from being on trucks for 5-8 years, so they need to be washed.

IMG_0010

They use water that they collect on their roof for this. Pretty cool, I think, especially since Zürich gets pretty good rainfall.

At the factory they have a crew of people using templates to cut out pieces of the tarps. The art comes in trying to create an interesting piece (using the patterns and letters from the tarp) and also keeping the waste to a minimum.

IMG_0015

The sewing of the bags is done off-site in Switzerland, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and Tunisia.

The bags are sold in stores and online. The trick to the online store is that since each piece is unique, each one must be photographed individually – from all sides. We watched the photographer at work.

IMG_0021

IMG_0020

One perk for the employees is that there is a Freitag “lending library”. They can check out a bag from this wall and use it for a bit before they return it. Here is our tour guide showing us one bag she likes.

IMG_0018

The company is starting something new with F-abric. They were looking for suitable clothing for their employees to wear, but didn’t find what they were looking for – a sustainable fabric that was tough as well as compostable. The fabric they have created is primarily linen and hemp, all sources being European.

IMG_0025

The tour ended, of course, with time spent at the Factory Store, part of which is an outlet. Many women in the group bought a bag, but I managed to resist, although I thought the tour was particularly interesting.

IMG_9998 IMG_9993