Walking in the hills of Freiburg there was a sense of what this flat open valley city values most in life. Trees aren’t cut down so tourists can put pretty pictures in their albums, instead innocuous towers are built in strategic places so the albums will in the end be complete. The needle covered narrow pathways lead us scissor-like through the undulations preventing erosion and allowing access for all abilities. There are chairs so the softer walker can rest often, and no bins so people learn to carry, free of throw-outs.
Germany’s hottest city doesn’t want to get any hotter, so they tread lightly in this eco- friendly wonderland, and we were curious to discover more. We caught tram 1 (all trams free for tourists) to a lake park where people walk and swim and may discover the large centre for environmental education where anyone who cares, and there’s a lot, can keep up to date with extensive ongoing plans.
Tram 3 took us quietly to the Dreisam river along which 15,000 bikes often travel daily, where residents’ cars barely moved during our one hour walk back between the cycleway and the river. Tram 5 dropped us at the nearly totally glass energy enhanced, study-friendly university library, and a fascinating ‘2 tram’ wide street entertained us with its quaint shops and tiled footpaths. Intricate designs highlighted the shop’s main business eg. a tiled ice-cream – a gelato shop.
Germany’s highest solar power station was next to our hotel; a smart hotel close by provided its own energy needs; while on a smaller scale, the hotel cleaner enquires as to whether you want your room vacuumed; and you never get a bag in the supermarket or a clothing shop; while narrow brightly tiled slow and shallow drains take minor bits and pieces away to more appropriate venues. These same waterways provide a drink for your dog, a plaything for children and a cooling foot bath for anyone.
It was fun strolling through so many car-free streets, with parking lots for bikes providing the would-be car driver with a guaranteed bay, stress free riding, while the city retains it’s high oxygen levels. There is so much more going on here in this seemingly happy and friendly city but if you are interested, google is even more flattering. There are no politics involved because these people know what needs to be done and are doing it.
Through parts of the Black Forest and along Bodensee, the stretch of water that is shared by Germany and Switzerland, we continue close to the Swiss border to another bike paradise, Konstanz. There are plazas of bikes that all seem to be holding each other upright, as though one push would be a catastrophe.
One homeless singer used a group of bikes as a type of stage prop, another – with some spare cardboard – as a scattered storm shelter, while others were propped against shop fronts and architectural delights. Many of these delights were decorated with a large variety of intricate Tromp L’oeils that would be the envy of their ancestral home, France.
The flower island of Mainau, connected to the mainland by a small bridge was no ‘trick of the eye’, but it was a trick of design. Old tree stumps had been fully clothed with flowers to form colourful animals. Tired tree trunks, their hollows brought to life with a background photograph, at the forefront was a local bird, all of it protected from the elements with glass. Huge ancient trees and quiet ponds completed a wonderful picture.
Pictures, or rather, paintings, characterised the walls of our unique and intimate family hotel that was more like a friend’s gallery than a small hotel. Carmen, a Romanian/German artist, was the creator, as she was also of the 1st floor outdoor setting of three wrought iron tables and chairs amongst a festival of flowers. It was easy to meet Carmen the owner (and husband Johann) but hard to leave, as she warmly embraced us and said goodbye in a few of her many languages.
One of those languages is Swiss-German which we’ll hear a lot of tonight – in Zurich.