Standing in the main market square of Freiburg, the cathedral looms above me.
The bells are ringing out, filling the air. The chatter of the shoppers at the stalls, buying their fruit and vegetables, is drowned out by the peals.
I look up at the bell tower but there are no signs of where the sound is coming from. The stone turret conceals the source inside the building that has stood for hundreds of years.
Looking up in Freiburg is not the best way to spend your time, though. Instead, it’s looking down which reveals the true character of the city.
It’s on the footpaths and along the roads that you can trace the history and culture of this beautiful German community.
At first appearance, the channels by the side of the road look just like gutters. In fact, they look more like hazards that someone is likely to fall in and sprain an ankle. But actually they are a relic from a past when streams flowed through the streets.
Still today water will flow down them and in summer children play in them, floating little boats, or residents will take off their shoes and let the cool waters run between their toes.
You need to look down to see them.
Stopping outside stores and glancing down reveals another of Freiburg’s little treats – mosaics.
These aren’t purely decorative. These are signposts to what is in store (literally) and what once was. These images, so carefully crafted into the footpaths, are the symbols of shops.
Many, many years ago, this was practical and people would use these images to find their way to the merchants they needed.
Now, it’s a bit of a gimmick, but a delightful one that I’m glad new shop owners have continued.
Look down and guess what these symbols on the streets of Freiburg mean.
The mosaics are made from pebbles from the river Rhine and bring the water to the streets in a different – but just as unique – way as the small canals with their tiny streams.
Freiburg is an old city and a relatively small one with only 230,000 citizens.
But it is known for being a university town and with that comes a youthfulness that plays out in the student crowds who drink in the plazas and the fresh choice of restaurants and bars in the centre of the city.
It’s easy to walk around and feels more metropolitan than some of its counterparts in the Baden-Wurttemberg region.
It probably only takes a day to see the main sites but it is an excellent staging post for trips to the nearby natural wonders, including the Black Forest.
Officially it is the warmest and sunniest city in Germany and also one of the most eco-friendly. Frieburg may be a place where you should look down to appreciate its history but don’t forget to look up to it too.
Time Travel Turtle was a guest of Baden-Wurttemberg and DB Bahn but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.
14 thoughts on “Looking down in Freiburg”
Those mosaics are pretty cool, especially that crest.
Although they’re not gutters I don’t think I could put my feet into those streams to cool off heh.
Ha ha – Just you wait until a hot day when everyone else is doing it. Then you’ll join in with the rest!
I’m glad you liked our little adopted home city. Freiburg is a nice place to visit, and as you said, a great base for exploring the Black Forest. I like those mosaics too, and since they don’t change them every time a store changes, it’s funny to, every once in awhile, come across one that doesn’t match the store it’s in front of. The bachle (there’s an umlaut over that a, I just can’t do it with my computer) have a little story behind them, that supposedly if you fall into one, you will marry a local. I just like watching dogs play in them during the summer. I’m glad you went to the market too, I buy vegetables there about once a week when we’re home. Its reputation as the warmest and sunniest part of Germany has to be taken a bit lightly though, as you’re comparing it with a very cold country. Last year in Freiburg we got snow on Oct 27 and there were flurries the night before Easter, which was the very end of March. But it is a very nice place to live, and a city worth visiting.
Thanks for the extra information. Yeah, I really liked the place and I can see why you’ve made it your home. I can imagine getting very comfortable in Freiburg. I didn’t fall into the bachle, though, so I guess I will have to come back single again next time 🙂
I love discovering creative and interesting visuals, and these mosaics also caught my attention during a visit to Freiburg, http://bit.ly/FreiburgDE. Freiburg’s combination of old and new architecture creates lots of opportunity to look in all directions. The eco-village of Vauban in Freiburg is also very colorful and full of eco-friendly examples of healthy living. http://bit.ly/VaubanDE
I visited Vauban as well and really enjoyed walking around for the afternoon. You’ve got some fantastic shots of it. It was a bit rainy and grey the day I was there – but I still want to learn more about how it all works.
What a gorgeous city! I love the ongoing practice of installing mosaics, though couldn’t help but notice the stunning old church and fabulous produce markets as well!
Yes, ok, fine, the markets and cathedral are beautiful too 🙂 But the mosaics make Freiburg unique and I loved how intricate each of them was.
Something a little bit different, isn’t it? And very cute!
I love the idea of a little foot bath on a lunch break
Ha ha – it’s a really nice idea in summer. I hadn’t thought about didn’t it as a lunch break thing, but it makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it!
When you’re someplace new, you’re so much more likely to look up than down. A great reminder to take a look at what you might be stepping over too. I love those mosaic signs in the cobblestone. I’m not sure I’d want to put my feet in those channels though! And knowing me I’d probably twist my ankle accidentally.
I am sure there are quite a few injuries. They kind of spring up on your in some of the streets. Especially for a visitor, it’s bit unexpected and I almost tumbled into a couple of them.