Freiburg and the Black Forest

I spent the weekend in Freiburg courtesy of the German-American Lawyers' Association (thanks!) and got to enjoy that delightful city again. The people are friendly and laid-back (Freiburg gets more sun than any other place in Germany), the food is outstanding (Freiburg is right on the border with France), and the small old city is filled with artificial rectilinear 'brooks' (Baechle), about a half-meter wide and deep, through which cool, clear water courses rapidly. Kids float boats down them, people cool their feet on hot summer days, and the sound fills the narrow streets. These little brooks aren't covered, so one of the most amusing pastimes is listening for the agonized shrieks of tourists who, gawking at old buildings, have wrenched their ankle into one of these Baechle. You can't sue, because it's tradition. Besides, the locals say if you trip into one of the Baechle, you'll marry someone from Freiburg. I so far have managed to step over every one of these Baechle.

A hilly chunk of the Black Forest thrusts directly into Freiburg from the East like a giant arrow. This means that you can walk 10 minutes from the city center and literally be inside the Black Forest –especially if you take the mountainside railcar, which lifts you about 300 meters to the main hillside trail. In most other places in the world, this hillside would be covered with the mansions of the rich, but not in Freiburg. I hiked about 4 km into the Black Forest to the forest shrine of St. Odile of Alsace, a small baroque church housing a spring whose water is supposed to heal eye problems. According to this church website, the water has tons of radon in it, but that didn't stop a few pilgrims from washing their eyes with it (!) while I was there. Odile was born blind in the 7th century but her vision was restored through prayer, so one of her typical iconographies is a book with human eyeballs projecting from it, as in this Baroque sculpture from the church. There was also a group of young Germans who recited the Ave Maria in German in a monotone over and over, interspersed with some prayers sung in Latin. I wonder what this devotional exercise is called.

Here is St. Odila with her chalice-book-eyes! The some pictures of Freiburg, greenery and forest views, a panorama of the valley in which Freiburg is locaged, a foxglove plant (which is called Fingerhut — finger-hat! — in German), the interior of the St. Ottilien church. Oh, and a hideous, gigantic Brutalist building (housing a Breuninger department store) excreted like a steaming pile of shit right into the middle of Freiburg's Old City. 

Sculpture of St. Odila in St. Ottilien Church
View of Karlssteg in Stadtgarten
Brutalist Building in the Freiburger Altstadt

View of Path to St. Ottilien
Foxglove Plant on path to St. Ottilien
Panorama of Freiburg from the Burghaldering
Forest Clearing near Freiburg
Stand of Pine Trees on Path to St. Ottilien
View of Passionsweg near St. Ottilien
Interior of St. Ottilian Church

8 thoughts on “Freiburg and the Black Forest

  1. Fingerhut means thimble. What is radon? Nice nature pictures! One should mention that Breuninger sells really nice clothes, to be fair. Thanks for a nice reminder of the hood.


  2. Fingerhut means thimble and foxglove plant. So, actually, you could call it the ‘thimble plant’, but calling the finger-hat is much more amusing.


  3. Jeez, all this brouhaha over a simple language issue. What are you, Lars, some kind of linguistics professor?


  4. Breuninger steht unter Denkmalschutz naturally… Germany will have to deal with it for the next 1000 years… longer than its creators ever planned for it to stay in place ­čśë


  5. Those young people in the church were quite probably reciting a rosary of some kind (the German word is “Rosenkranz”). One repetes the Ave Maria over and over (53 times is the strict minimum), with some other prayers in between (Credo, Pater Noster, Gloria Patri and a few specific ones, the so-called “Mysteries of the Rosary”). As far as I know, it is (or at least it was) a very common practise among hardcore catholics, lots of people do this every day. (Although I’m a bit surprised to hear you can mix German and Latin prayers.)


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