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GERMANY Fall 1999

Freiburg and Heidelberg

freiburgAnother wonderful aspect of vacationing in Baden-Baden is its location in southern Germany and proximity to interesting cities and towns not only in Germany, but in France (Strasbourg, Colmar, Mulhouse) and Switzerland (Basel, Zurich). We had originally planned day trips to Strasbourg, Colmar and Freiburg but became so enraptured by Baden-Baden, we made it only to Freiburg.

It was a forty-five minute train ride from Baden-Baden to Freiburg. We walked straight ahead from the train station into the wonderful world of the old town. Thank goodness we did not miss this city. We walked every nook and cranny and just couldn't get enough of it. We plan to return for a longer stay, probably combining it with a trip to nearby Switzerland, Alsace and the Black Forest. The striking architecture, university life, shopping streets and special attractions combine to fill your senses with the active pulse of the city.

The cathedral, with its Gothic steeple and open tracery, is Freiburg's most famous landmark and one of the most beautiful in Christendom. The construction, which took 350 years, was funded from the rich reserves of silver in the area. The huge cathedral with its tremendously high ceiling is bright with colorful light from the splendid windows. Many of the windows were donated by the Freiburg handicraft guilds, their designs depicting their coats of arms. From the architecture to the stonework, sculpture and art, this cathedral is a work to behold.

Lucky for us, a morning market was in progress in MŘnsterplatz around the cathedral with several stands grilling the most tantalizing sausages served with fried onions heaped on top. We walked as we munched these delights noting other buildings around the square such as the Kaufhaus with its vaulted arcade, the 15th century Kornhaus and the baroque Wenzinger-Haus. Nearby is a new synagogue built in a very modern design.

freiburg freiburg

Konvictstrasse is a neat example of old town restoration. New homes utilizing the old facades and some of modern style combine with shops, restaurants and cafes to create a street of considerable charm. Right off the street is a multi-level parking garage, which is disguised by the lovely homes built above. Vehicles enter via a major road around the outside of the old city so the car free pedestrian area is protected while the convenience of being able to easily park is available. The Black Forest is directly opposite the roadside leading to the garage so your day in town can include a walk or hike through the forest.

Augustiner Platz is the meeting place for the youth of the city. Not too far away in Oberlinden, the oldest square in town, is the Roter Baren, the oldest hotel in Germany. Behind the hotel is a canal surrounded by quaint old buildings, a nice spot to sit and relax with your favorite beverage.

The Konzert-Haus Freiburg, the old-old town hall, the old town hall, the new town hall - so much to discover in Freiburg, a sophisticated city and a lovely small town all rolled into one. Freiburg, unique in so many ways, not the least of which is its system of curbside water channels (bachle) through which sparkling clean water courses about the city.

Heidelberg

We had visited Heidelberg very briefly many years ago and had promised ourselves a return visit and now we had the perfect opportunity. The train ride from Baden-Baden took just an hour and since it was a lovely day, we walked the forty minutes to our hotel in the center of the old city, the Gasthaus Backmulde, Schiffgasse 11. The restaurant Backmulde is at the front of the property and you walk through an arched passageway into a large courtyard around which is the hotel building. There's a wooden patio deck beside the main entrance, a nice place for a drink before dinner.

The tiny reception desk is one flight up. (They will gladly carry your baggage if you require assistance.) A bright and cheerful breakfast room is right off the reception area. If you like the color blue, you are in the right place. Blue walls, blue carpet, blue is dominant in the guestrooms - it works. Our room was large, with nice furnishings. Extremely comfortable, firm mattresses and light down comforters ensured a good sleep. The large white tile bathroom was a treat. The Backmulde is an excellent three-star value.

Opting for a light lunch since we were looking forward to our birthday dinner, we stopped at Nordsee, a fast food seafood chain. We had sandwiches, fried fish for Linda and Matjes herring for me. Continuing along Haupstrasse, the main shopping street, Linda spotted an interesting looking sign down at Marzgasse 10 that read Backerei Grimm. So much for that light lunch! To be fair, it was her birthday and mine was the following day so a special treat was in order if indeed the bakery was something out of the ordinary. Good spotting, Linda! This family has been baking extraordinary breads and pastries since 1951. One look at the quality and selection and we knew that choosing just one would be a challenge. Linda is a cheese cake lover, having grown up in N.Y. she was reared on the very best, and she made love to this thick, creamy, luscious version. I didn't even know that she was there because I was in another world enjoying two inches of whipped cream sitting on top of an inch of delicious cooked apples. Both crusts were perfection, everything in the place being prepared with all natural ingredients. Happy birthday!to top of page
Heidelberg describes itself as "The Romantic City On The Neckar". We are believers, which is why we chose to celebrate our birthdays here. Sitting amidst mountains, forests and vineyards with the river in the middle and the castle on high, the city exudes charm. Add the stimulation of the intellectual life of the university (Germany's oldest) with its 34,000 students and proud history and you've got a delightful spot to explore and enjoy.

The center of the old town is a pedestrian zone and it's a pleasure to enjoy discovering all the nooks and crannies in an environment such as this. Haupstrasse runs through the center of the entire length of the old city. It is the shopping and geographical heart of the city. prison graffitiA walking tour starts at the Lion's Fountain in the Universitats Platz in front of the old university. It's really a must to visit the old lecture hall, a stunning woodwork masterpiece that resembles a court room or parliamentary chamber, which is now used for concerts and special occasions; and the old student prison on the street behind, Augustinerstrasse. Between 1778 and 1914 students (all male at that time) were locked up for misbehavior and after three days of internment were feted at champagne celebrations. It seems they worked hard to be bad.While being imprisoned they managed to cover every square inch of walls, floors and ceiling with memorable graffiti. It's a fun visit.

The lower old town between Haupstrasse and the river along Unterestrasse is a restored section of town of smart looking homes, enchanting courtyards, unusual specialty shops, neighborhood restaurants, bakeries and cafes that are favorites of the locals and tourists that find there way there. Unterestrasse runs into the Fischmarket and the pretty baroque Traitter House. Delightful little shop-lined Steingasse leads to the oft photographed Bridge Gate with its portcullis and twin towers. A walk on the bridge gives spectacular views of the river route and the castle on high. There is a constant clicking of cameras.

We elected to take the cable car up to the castle and to walk down. As you cross the moat and pass through the 24-inch thick walls of the powerful archway, you enter a huge courtyard surrounded by what remains of the facades of the palaces. castleCombined with the fortifications and domestic quarters in various styles from gothic to high renaissance, you realize there's a great deal of history here. Various festivals take place in the courtyard during July and August, including a presentation of The Student Prince. Weddings are frequently held in the church and the Royal Hall is used for conventions and large gatherings. A wine cellar in the basements contains huge, old wood barrels and there are wine tastings offered and of course you can purchase the local wines. Also in the cellar is a unique German apothecary museum. Gazing down on the rooftops of the old town and the Neckar River gives an excellent perspective of the landscape.

Across the river the Heiligenberg green mountain beckons. We understand that Philosopher's Walk through Heilingenberg is an excellent off the beaten tourist track experience.

Fortunately, we had made reservations at the Backmulde Restaurant because when we arrived, there was a full house. Dark woods and beams with low lighting create a warm, comfortable environment. Local red wine, Waldulmer Spatbur Jun Der, was recommended and proved to be a delicious start to an excellently served, incredibly superb birthday meal. Both of us started with soup. Linda's was mushroom soup with veal dumplings and mine, pumpkin with pieces of salmon, seasoned with coriander. Linda chose roasted medium rare lamb served with artichoke chips and pan-fried potatoes. Dorado is a tender, tasty fish and this whole one was roasted to perfection accompanied by sauteed peppers and zucchini and small roasted potatoes. Perfecto! Both the Hotel Backmulde and its restaurant are wonderful choices.

We enjoyed a terrific, long sleep well into the morning. Everything about breakfast just reinforced our delight with the Backmulde. Total first class taste and quality, from the light, airy, pretty breakfast room to the beautiful floral design china, to the eggs cooked to order, gorgeous tomatoes and tasty mozzarella in olive oil and basil, real hearty rolls and fresh juice and fruit.

Just out of the old city at the west base of the Konigstuhl mountain is a lovely residential area called Weststadt. The tree-lined streets are filled with beautiful, large old homes, which create a very livable neighborhood. We discovered this area while looking for and finding the new synagogue, which is a smart modern building. Unfortunately, it was closed this day.

The train from Heidelberg to Frankfurt airport takes one hour. We arrived with plenty of time to have the final traditional German meal of sausage, mashed potatoes, sauerkraut and beer at an airport restaurant, Kafer's. Our next stop would be Thessaloniki, Greece and a complete change of culture and cuisine.

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