Saturday, January 23, 2016

Freiburg memories: Schlossberg, Gerberau, and Fischerau

In my first semester as an exchange student in Freiburg, I continued taking Dutch classes. My Dutch teacher was a guy my age, and he told me I should meet his wife, who was also from the States. I went over to their place in Gerberau, a street in the pedestrian zone of downtown Freiburg, and we took a trip through the black forest in their Volkswagen golf. They had to park their car more than five minutes away, which I found to be absolutely bizarre at the time.

They were a funny couple. He (a non-smoker) would hide her cigarettes. She would then say "two weeks" – meaning that was how long he wasn't gonna get any. I also remember learning the word "tranchieren" at their place, so we must have carved a turkey there for Thanksgiving or Christmas once. The Dutchman also used to boycott shops when the service was bad, which was practically everywhere. (When I recently reminded him of this, he couldn't remember.)

Their apartment was really cool. It had a hatch that opened up to the roof, where we sometimes hung out. When I showed this picture, taken from their roof, to my daughter, she could not believe her eyes – no wind turbines, no hiking tower. In fact, the entire Schlossberg arena was developed for hikers sometime in the late 1990s. There used to be a citadel up top, which the French razed when occupying the city centuries ago. Now, you can at least view the foundations and get an idea of how big it was. But when I arrived in Freiburg, none of that had really been developed as a park.

In the second picture, you get a glimpse of Gerberau. I believe one of those buildings has the following written on it still:

Wenn dieses Haus so lange steht,
bis aller Neid und Haß vergeht,
dann bleibt's fürwahr so lange stehn,
bis diese Welt wird untergehn.

Yet another rather unlikable saying: "if this building is still standing when envy and hate are gone, it will probably have remained standing until the end of the world." Not exactly something I would put on my building, but successful Germans tend to be rather paranoid about everyone else being "envious" even today. It's their way of not wanting to share.

This street was historically the first one outside the city wall. Called Tanners Road, it was where leather and textile were processed. As a result, the water (which is no longer visible under the street) was dirty. (Ironically, my friends lived above an Asian carpet shop – one of the few stores on that street that is still there today.) This is what it looks like today.

And this is Fischerau, one street removed. Here, the water was still clean, so you could eat the fish. Fish Road is now home to numerous specialty shops, such as a Japanese furniture store and a honey shop. You can easily imagine what Gerberau might look like today if it had water running down it. Fischerau is Freiberg's Little Venice. I make sure to take everyone down this street when they visit Freiburg.

And by the way, I am still in contact with my old Dutch teacher and his wife. As chance would have it, we will all three be moving away from Freiburg in 2017 – me, for good and them probably until they retire.

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