Trip Start May 07, 2012
Trip End Jun 06, 2012

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Flag of Germany  , Baden-Württemberg,
Sunday, June 3, 2012

It’s up and ready on Friday for a tricky days travelling between Chur (Switzerland) and Freiburg (Germany) using five trains and travelling across the Black Forest. Depart Chur at 09:16 for Zurich with nice views of Lake Zurich on the way then three further changes on the way.

We actually got ahead of ourselves a little and by getting an early connection on the second change we had the opportunity for further advances on the third and fourth changes but only had around one minute to make the connection.

As we approached Donaueschingen Station (and knowing the chances were against us making the preferred connection) we noticed a nun on our train, waiting close to the door looking equally anxious. Our transfer chances were likely to be hindered by two heavy cases that we would probably need to lug up and down a series of stairs to make a platform change. Through a combination of eye contact/body language and possible divine intervention the nun leapt from the train on arrival and ‘sprinted’ down the steps and tunnel from platforms 1 to 3 where our next transfer train was waiting and ready to depart. As we struggled down the steps from platform 1 and then up the stairs onto platform 3, we discovered the nun standing half in and half out of the train imploring the driver to wait for us so we could make the connection.

We made it and, safely secured in our first-class compartment, the nun came through to see us and to make sure we were OK.  She also wanted to advise us that we might be in the wrong part of the train as it was first-class! We thanked her but told her we actually had first class tickets and wondered if she would like to join us.  However, apparently even nuns aren’t allowed a free upgrade on Deutsche Bahn. Anyway we had a chat with her and she told us she lived in Freiburg and her convent was next to Freiburg Munster (i.e. Cathedral). She said ‘God bless you’ to us both and returned to second-class leaving us on our own. We don’t know if she makes a ‘habit’ of this (ha, ha, groan!) but what a lovely lady – and unfortunately we did not find out her name…

On the last leg of our journey into Freiburg itself we were once again ‘Billy no mates’ in first-class but enjoyed the company of the drivers son (about 8 years of age) who was helping his dad drive the train and acting as a self-appointed conductor advising people when to get off. His English was non-existent and he didn’t really grasp the concept of us being from the UK but through John’s pigeon German we managed some form of conversation and couldn’t argue with his view that the German football team are better than England. Not much doubt that he wants to do his Dad’s job when he grows up.

The journey across the Black Forest was great but nowhere near the spectacle of the Bernina Express over the Alps. We're just getting greedy.

Into Freiburg just after 2pm. A city in South West Germany (pop. 320,000), it is pretty big but very walkable as most of it is pedestrianised apart from trams. The cobbled streets of the old town are full of beautiful buildings which have all been completely re-structured after we bombed the whole place to bits in 1945 (except the Cathedral, same as Cologne). A wonderfully unique feature of Freiburg is that they have small streams running down the majority of the roads in the old town which carry natural running water. This is exactly how the place has looked for hundreds of years and adds a different dimension to any other city we have seen as the children buy little boats and let them run down these water features. It wouldn’t get past ‘health and safety’ in the UK!

Very pleased with the hotel as for the first time we have a balcony and therefore have the luxury of a few hours rest in the sun between arriving and going out for the evening. Also Janet falls for holiday dog number four, an ageing Jack Russell called  ‘Luca’ who parks himself in reception and gives all the guests a good sniff on arrival. Having researched considerably we were looking forward to dinner at Drexler’s a well regarded restaurant started up by the joint owners of the best wine merchants in Freiburg. We were really pleased with the Drexler food experience and worked our way through the wine and grappa list before taking a deep sleep after a long day.

Now we had been warned about the sound of the nearby Cathedral bells and although we’d heard them make hourly strikes during Saturday we didn’t think much about it. This all changed at 6:50am on Sunday when they let rip in ear shattering fashion and then broke UK legal decibel levels at regular intervals until breakfast at 9am. We assume the sprinting nun must wear earplugs.

The schedule for the next day (Sunday) was to take a trip on Europe’s longest cable car from just outside Freiburg to the top of the Black Forest. The views were said to be spectacular. Unfortunately when we awoke it was pouring with rain and very cloudy so we gave it a couple of hours and as it had slowed to a drizzle we gave it a go, getting a tram and then a bus to the cable car station and then taking it to the top which sits at around 1,300 metres.

Four people can get into one car for the 20 minute journey and it was an interesting journey up to the top (shared with two English guys who were part of a stag trip and  joining the rest of their group on the mountain) albeit we couldn’t see much – in fact couldn’t see bugger all. Once we got there, despite the rain, we walked for about 30 minutes before we reached the observation tower which John in a moment of madness decided to climb. The view from the top, under good conditions, covers the whole of the Black Forest through to the Alps however today it was no more than 20 yards. We decided to retire gracefully in awful conditions and headed to the café for a cappuccino and a nice slice of traditional Black Forest Gateau. We started to feel better immediately and made the return journey – pleased that we had at least experienced the cable car ride.

Back to the hotel and watched the Diamond Jubilee Thames Procession on CNN (hosted by Piers Morgan) which at least made us realise that 1. We were not enduring the worst weather in Europe and 2. It’s great news that Mr P. Morgan has emigrated.

In the evening we decided to be flexible with arrangements and therefore did a mini tour of brew pubs in Freiburg. The evening did not start well. At the first call, at Ganter Brauereiausschank, John’s questioning of the interestingly featured barman (his Mum must love him) on the relative darkness, alcoholic content and derivation of the beers on the menu was greeted with a fairly swift and brusque response along the lines of (in an Anglo/German combination) ‘just bloody choose one and you’ll find out what it tastes like, dumbkopf!!’ It must be said he had the look and manner of someone who enjoys drinking rather than serving!

Of further interest at this bar was an item on the drinks menu that was a wooden tray containing a half-pint of each of the 10 draft beers brewed by the Ganter Brewery. Fair play to the man sitting at the table next to us on his own who ordered one of these and was working his way through the challenge in pretty decent time. We suspect he slept well.

Anyway our next port of call was much friendlier Hausbrauerie Feierling which was just outside the centre, quite modern and more of a community pub with beer brewed literally behind the bar in copper cylinders. The owner and his wife were very welcoming and the food was great. One more on the way home in the Martins Brau bar (copper cylinders again) and the earlier dampness completely forgotten. Another good day and off to France via Switzerland tomorrow. Can’t believe we only have 4 nights left.

We sought zat Freiburg was veally good and zis is despite some decidedly mixed weather. It was lovely to look at and a good atmosphere around the whole place with a very good selection of bars and restaurants and more than worthy of a three night break.
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tina on

Wow what a lovely considerate nun you met and Luca looks so cute! Have a safe trip home you two and see you both real soon x x x

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