Sunday, January 24, 2016

Freiburg memories: Basler Tor

Basler Tor is a weird place. It is basically a collection of prefab concrete high-rises. Little information is available about its history online, but there is no indication that any historic gate or anything was ever here. Visitors to the city might believe that Basler Tor sounds like one of the remaining historic city gates (the two that survive are Schwabentor and Martinstor), but in fact Basler Tor was quite far out of town in the Middle Ages. I don't believe anything was here before these structures were built. In fact, the photo below – apparently taken when construction had just been completed – seems to indicate that the road to Merzhausen did not even run straight to the train station; there is now a main artery where those cars are parked on the left. The image also seems to have been taken from a balcony on a building preceding the current Victoria complex.

(Note: I had saved this image locally for later use, but I now cannot find it at all on the web in order to source it properly. If anyone knows where this is from, please drop me a comment below.)
It's extremely ugly, but this is where I had my first two apartments (WG-Zimmer) in Freiburg. I rode to work every day from here down the street on the bottom right of the photo. Practically everything has changed. The small buildings on the right have given way to modern office complexes. You can also still see the Renault sign in yellow. The slogan was "Ein Renault vumm Schneider isch √§ Plaisir," which has not been saved for posterity on the Internet.

Quite possibly, travelers between Freiburg and Merzhausen went down Lorettostrasse – and also Reiterstrasse. As this photo shows, there used to be a direct connection between Reiterstrasse and the intersection below; the photo shows the intersection around 1994, with a view of Lorettoberg, from my balcony within Basler Tor. At this point, there was no longer a connection between Reiterstrasse and that intersection. But Merzhauserstrasse had already become a four-lane road where cars are parked above.

Today, Merzhauserstrasse only has two lanes but also a streetcar running down the middle – and the rails are on a grassy area (see this photo). Note that there are no bike lanes in the image above; people had to ride their bikes on the streets and sidewalks without any special area. Now compare that to the photo under the previous link.

My first apartment (WG) in Basler Tor was where the founders of Crash, a local heavy metal bar, first lived. My housemates told me the place used to look even more run down, but it was modest even at the time. I had a tiny room (12 m2, around 120 square feet). In the building next door, I found a 20 m2 room and decided to move. For me, the decision was easy, but the Germans all thought the move was a big deal. The landlord in the old place freaked out and wrote me a nasty letter, saying he would not have rented to me at all if he had known that I was only going to be there for half a year. The other three people in the old flat also reacted with dismay, saying they didn't know I wasn't happy with my room; they seem to take it personally, but for me the room was just too small. And the woman in the new flat – the daughter of some local farmers who had a stand at Cathedral Square – also was quite nervous to be moving in with someone she didn't know. It was all a culture shock for me. And incidentally, after I moved out of my first apartment, a guy moved in who was the DJ from Stuttgart – the one that had played the Brazilian song that Fanta 4, a group of rappers from Stuttgart, used in their famous first hit.

I wasn't very happy in either apartment. In the second one, I didn't really even have a proper bedroom door; my housemate's father had installed a sliding partition between the dining area and the living area to create a separate room out of the latter. But anyone sitting at the dinner table could hear everything going on in my bedroom and vice versa. Apartments were extremely expensive and very hard to find at all at the time, so these were the conditions in my first three years in Freiburg.

I'll close with an image just 100 meters down from Baslertor of a small house and a small vineyard on Lorettoberg. My daughter concurs: nothing here has changed at all over the past two decades.

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