By Joyce Dalton
FREIBURG, Germany -- This medieval town is close to the Black
Forest, the Rhine Valley, vineyards of Baden-Wurttemberg, various
spas and neighboring France and Switzerland. But before exploring
the environs, visitors need time to enjoy Freiburg itself.
With a population approaching 190,000, plus some 30,000
university students, "city" should be the more appropriate term.
"Town," however, better suits the ambience, especially of the
historical center, where leisure clients will spend most of their
Sightseeing typically begins at the cathedral, whose spire has
been extolled as the "most beautiful in Christendom." Construction
began in 1200 and subsequent additions reflect various
architectural periods. The west tower is considered a highlight of
Gothic style. Filigree, stained glass and statues -- especially
gargoyles designed to frighten evil spirits -- add to the
Narrow lanes were meant to keep peddlers and their carts away
from the cathedral. Today, however, flower, fruit and vegetable
stands add literal and figurative local color to the square.
In June, an annual wine festival takes place here. After
purchasing a glass, visitors sample from 110 offerings until that
"special point" is reached, as a guide tactfully phrased it.
Thirsty clients who cannot travel in June will be pleased to know
that Freiburg hosts additional Wine Days during the summer.
Strolling the old section can occupy hours or days. Each turn
leads to another picturesque structure, some medieval, others
dating from the Renaissance. At least a dozen museums tempt the
visitor. The largest is housed in a former monastery; others
display collections of tin figures, dolls, toys and carnival
Freiburg claims to be the sunniest city in Germany as well as
the spot where every second German would most like to live.
Superlatives do not come much higher than that.
As for lodging, the town has some 4,000 beds in all
Farmhouses, their roofs sloping almost to the ground, dot the
rolling countryside on the hour's drive from Freiburg to the Black
Forest's Lake Titisee. Pretty villages, well supplied with
restaurants and souvenir shops, belie the dark and forbidding
forest of childhood fairy tales.
Well-marked hiking and biking trails await the energetic. The
more sedentary can commune with nature from the verandas of
Alpine-style hotels or while sipping sparkling wine aboard
comfortable sightseeing boats.
Although only the most imaginative client might glimpse an elf
shaping a bit of linden wood into a cuckoo clock, all can visit a
workshop for a minilesson in this Black Forest craft. The first
such clock was made in 1640 near the lakeside town of Titisee,
where today the Black Forest Clock Center offers demonstrations of
cuckoo creation plus a display of enough clocks to drive even
The Alemannenhof and Sternen hotels make tasty lunch or dinner
stops for day-trippers and feature attractive accommodations for
overnighters. Located right on the lake, the Alemannenhof is built
in typical Black Forest style, and the facade of the Sternen's
handicraft center boasts a mammoth cuckoo clock. Four pairs of
traditionally clad dancing figures announce the hour. A nearby,
850-year-old wooden chapel invites photos.
Clients who relish immersion in another culture could opt for a
farm stay. In recent years, many area farmers have increased their
income by adding rooms or a small apartment for tourists. Often,
these are in homes dating back several centuries. A recent visit to
one such farm proved that these homes can be charming, often
featuring such authentic touches as ceramic tile stoves and old
pictures. While plying us with six varieties of homemade cheese,
our hostess shared stories of country customs, even opening the
stove to display cherry pit-filled bags waiting to warm chilly
Most Americans do not visit spas to "take the waters." Still, a
few days at one of the thermal spas near Freiburg could leave
clients relaxed and rejuvenated. Baden-Baden, one of the grandes
dames of European spas, lies 69 miles north of Freiburg. Its baths
and casinos were the playground of 19th century nobility. Today's
clientele may be less grand, but an aura of bygone days
Other spas, including Bad Krozingen, Badenweiler and Bad
Bellingen, are situated even closer to Freiburg. Each is identified
with treatment for specific medical problems. "True professional
medical treatment is what we stand for," a spokesperson said.
If all this is not enough, Freiburg and its environs encompass
one of Germany's largest wine-producing regions, so clients can
enjoy wine cellar visits and, of course, wine tastings.