Saturday 5th July
Saturday, and it was our first full day in Freiburg today. If we have one complaint about the Hotel Am Rathaus (right in the centre of old Freiburg), it's that at this time of year, it could really do with a smidgeon of air conditioning: Freiburg is a long way down Germany, barely north of Switzerland, and it can get hot and sticky in high summer. So, we're a little short of sleep.
Our hotel is on the little square outside the town hall (or Rathaus, as English speakers are amused to discover). There's a small festival in that square, with food and beer stalls, and a stage, and at first we think the Weinfest must have spread, but it doesn't appear to be anything to do with it.
We wandered out through the streets of the old town, heading uphill towards the Schlossberg (a steep ridge that intrudes into the city and upon which there was once an impressive fortress). We've never been up it before, and it takes us a while to work out how to get over the busy road that runs along its base, and start up its slopes. But, after failing to get over the bridge that leads into the carpark (we later discover that there is a pedestrian bridge one level higher), we find a bridge just by the Schwarben Tor (I think I have that name right). This leads to a metalled track leading up the forested slope.
This is where the Black Forest meets the Rhine valley.
It's quite a climb up the track. Happily, there's no traffic, though at one point we do encounter a bunch of cyclists just as they're about to hurtle down. But the sun shines in through the trees, and the helicopter buzzes back and forth over the ridge (always the same one, as far as we can tell), and if we weren't in the shade, we'd be getting really hot and sweaty, but we're not, so its just relaxing.
On the upper slope, we're walking a path with nettles crowding both sides. But they're not stingers, thankfully, and the path isn't as steep as the one in Miyajima (hairpins are much easier, even if longer, than a straight path with steps). As we get to the top, we see the Schlossbergturm, a fascinatingly constructed tower of steel and wood that rises above the treetops. Unfortunately for me, I have a fear of heights, and only got two thirds of the way up it, so didn't see the view from the top.
From the top of that ridge, you can see down into another valley containing more of the city.
After a while, we wander down off the ridge. About half way down is a restaurant called Dattler's, where we stop for lunch. Well, the thought of a beer or two after the walk is the most tempting part, but we sit out on the terrace under large parasols and eat a nice three course lunch while enjoying a stunning view out over the Rhine valley towards France. Service is good, the food excellent, and with a view to kill for, one can understand how, despite being a distance outside the city, they have no shortage of custom. It's a wonderful place to sit, sipping beer, and let the stress drain out of you.
And then back down into town. The market that takes place round the Munster is packing up - just too late for us to buy some of the milk from the relevant stall - but there aren't many of the stalls for the wine festival open yet. But it's a glorious day, and we start tasting. The way you do it is to go up to one of the stands, pick a wine, and pay for it. You need something to drink it from, so you also pay for a glass, €1.50, but you can keep it, or hand it back to get your deposit back. The glasses are nicely shaped, and have a distinctive design, though this year they had an extra design on the obverse that you won't see in this picture (which was from two years ago - picture thanks to dduane).
You order the wine in 1 dl units (so a tenth of a litre, or a smallish glass). By ordering two different wines each time, we managed to taste quite a lot of different wines.
And after that, it's a bit of a haze ... though at one stage, we're wandering round the Munster to its other side and end up pausing because there's a damn good band on stage, doing pretty good cover versions of Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, etc. We ask 'ist frei?' to some people on a table where there are a couple of empty seats, they say yes, and we end up chatting. Turns out they're Danes, on their 'last holiday'. And there are three English further up, from the North West, and we're sharing bottles of wine, and the camaraderie is just wonderful.