Freiburg, Germany: Island of Nature in a Sea of Industry

Leisurely, the  creek is forming its way through dense forests, along long rows of vine and amongst old, Black Forest cottages. Arriving in the small lanes of the city, it has lost none of its freshness and purity. On the hot, windless summer days children take a little hike through the small canals of the creek, while their moms buy the necessary groceries on the market in the chilly shadows of the patriarchal Münster-church.


Life is easy in Freiburg and so are the people living in this region. Situated in the Southwestern corner of Germany, the city is surrounded by beauty. It is enclosed by the Black Forest, the Rhine as well as Switzerland and France.  With its 220.000 inhabitants, Freiburg is home to lovely nature. The inhabitants enjoy a casual savoir vivre in the sunny and warm climate. In addition, the town is also proud of its old traditions. The history of Freiburg reaches back to the year 1091, when a dynasty of princes, the so-called “Zähringer”, built a castle on top of a hill.

Ever since, the city has been growing and expanding, but has never lost any of its uniqueness.

An approximated number of 3 million visitors are surging into the region each year. Still, the tourism does not only occur in summer, but also when snow is covering most of the area. Cross-country and alpine skiing attract people from all around the globe. Preserving nature is a fundamental aspect for the “Schwarzwälder” (as the folks are referred to in German). This is why, politically, the Green Party won the majority in Freiburg and people are vigorously voting for a world without nuclear plants. But this thinking reaches back in time much further. The year was 1975, when plans about building a nuclear plant in the Black Forest were revealed. The residents, for four weeks, were struggling against this decision. In the end, with their slogan “Better active today than radioactive tomorrow” they should win this fight.

Another example are the “Schönauer Stromrebellen” (Power rebels from Schönau). After the accident in Chernobyl, a group of concerned young parents bought the whole power network of the city. Today, they are selling renewable energy in all of Germany. Just recently, one of their leaders has been rewarded with the “Goldman Environmental Prize”, which is the inofficial Green Nobel Prize.

 

So people are also known for their (positive) stubborness. Once they see their territory in danger, they react. Yet, to most people, the treasures of the Black Forest are unknown.

Back in the day, the low mountain range was inhabitated by the Romans and the dense forests served as part of their great wall, the Limes. They only settled on the edges of the wood since they were afraid of the enormous, unoccupied spaces within the forest. Hence, the Latin name “silva nigra”, or “Black Forest”. Nowadays, some parts of the wood have been stubbed, clearing space for small villages. Alongside “cuckoo clocks”, the ancient art of glassblowing can be admired in the shallows of the sylvan.

One of the other proudly produced products of the region is the wine. It is known for its strong character. In addition, the advertised sort “Gutedel” can only be found here. The Black Forest gateau and the gammon are specialties for the region, too.

Yet, to find the heart of the Black Forest, you will have to visit one of the small villages surrounding Freiburg. Roaming around 15 kilometers south of the metropolis, you might find a place called “Bollschweil”. In spite of the challenging pronunciation of its name, the village is very proud of one special spot – the “Bolando”.

Missing a central point in the small town, some villagers decided to take a chance in launching a unique project at federal level. They founded a cooperative. This should serve to reactivate the town’s center in form of a restaurant. For roughly 1300$, it was (and is still) possible to buy a membership in this association and therefore take a stake in financing the execution of this notable project. Amongst the central point for the village, people were investing in being paid back pro rata.

Opening its gates in the beginning of 2010, the Bolando serves regional food along with local wines. Villagers gather here, attend concerts, celebrate birthdays and marriages or rent a room to exhibit their latest artwork. The location of the Bolando, right in front of a favored hiking path, brings together not only the locals. but a lot of open-minded folks. It is a spot for those people, who focus on the bright side of life.

So if you are living in a metropolis and want to escape the rush, stress and the narrowness of life, come to Freiburg and savor the lifestyle, go for a walk along the silent creeks of the Black Forest or plan a bicycle tour through the wealthy countryside.

Be sure, that the people will always receive you well and if you carry the right attitude, the region’s characteristic will infect you for sure.

April 22, 2011