Thursday, August 5, 2010
This summer, we are having trouble fitting our more-or-less-weekly day-tripping in between the showers & heatwaves.
But yesterday we popped down to Freiburg, which we have managed to miss for probably 20 years.
Opening our (1976) Michelin Guide to Germany was a salutary experience, as all the right-hand bit (except some of Berlin) was a white blank, like Antarctica.
It didn't actually say "Here be Dragons!" but nearly.
Europe has come a long way since we moved here.
The new Michelin we just bought is (naturally) twice as thick.
I was pretty sure I had seen something about Freiburg, which is remarkably ecology-conscious, introducing limited vehicle access & requiring special windscreen stickers to get in.
But I couldn't find anything about it on either the French or English versions of their Tourist sites.
nor by a lot of Googling.
So it was only half a surprise when, approaching Freiburg, we saw signs about Umwelt Zone & had to divert into & P+R car park.
Not a problem, as we usually do P+R anyway, when it's available.
Strasbourg has an excellent system, where you pay €3.10 which includes parking for all day plus return tram tickets valid for one hour out & one hour back – for everybody in the car.
Very satisfactory when we had an Espace-full.
And still good value for 2.
From Freiburg's P+R car park, we found the station & the big red ticket machine.
Surprised not to find any instructions in French or English, we struggled a bit with the German, as there were several zones & all sorts of tickets.
Expecting to select "2 cheap returns", we were again surprised that the cheap returns start at 4.
When you expect to find something, it takes you a long time to convince yourself you have not just misunderstood the foreign language…
Then surprised we could not select 2 singles – we had to go through the whole procedure for one ticket, then do it all again for the second.
Double-checking the map & the electronic arrivals board & the big label on the front of the tram, we got on the right tram & set off in the right direction.
But after only a minute or so, the tram stopped & we were surprised to see the driver leave & lock the cab and disappear!
Even more surprised when the tram set off in the other direction.
At the next stop, we got off (with a lot of puzzled-looking others), reconsulted the maps, the arrivals board, the sign on the tram, and tried again.
OK this time.
After that false start, Freiburg old town was extremely attractive & well worth a visit.
Google Freiburg – Images for a quick impression.
You get a plunging panoramic view from the Cathedral tower (over 200 steps & narrow for passing) & a broader one from the swaying tower on the Schlossberg.
Unique features include the little streams/drains/gullies along most of the streets, offering good paddling for kids of all ages.
Decorated cobble-stone pavements.
And the many hot-sausage stalls parked incongruously next to the cathedral…
Back home with the keyword "Umweltzone", I soon found plenty of information on them in Freiburg & elsewhere.
I even found there is a lot about them on Freiburg's Tourist-Office Website – but only the German-language one, as far as I can see.
The clearest English site is for Berlin:
And they have a very good site where I managed to buy stickers for 2 French cars, in English, for only €6 each, including postage.
So we should be better prepared next time.
Parting thot: "A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in." - Robert Orben