words & photos: Alessia Di Bella
Freiburg im Breisgau derives its name from frei – since the Zähringer, the Freiburg’s first noble family, conferred the German city special rights and ‘freedom’ – and burg, whose meaning is referred to the ancient origins of the word ‘town’. Today the city embodies perfectly a sense of freedom. While exploring the main streets of the city centre, one can see that people are used to walking barfuß – barefoot – also in the Bächle – the typical gutters crossed by the Dreisam River, which flows along the alleys of the old town.
Situated on the edge of the Black Forest and in the south-western part of the Baden-Württemberg, Freiburg is regarded as Germany’s sunniest city. Thanks to its proximity to France, Switzerland, and Italy, in 2021 the green city recorded a remarkable tourist flow: 522,967 visitors within a year. With a population of 227 thousand Freiburg ranks as one of the most liveable cities in Germany. This peculiarity is related to the environmental policies adopted by the city: since the 1970s, Freiburg has been pursuing a policy based on environmental protection and respect for nature. Indeed, at the end of the ‘90s in the southern part of the city was built the eco and bicycle-friendly Vauban’s district.
Nestled between the Dreisam and the Rhine Valley, one of the city’s most picturesque spots and vantage points is the Schlossberg, which creates a perfect symbiosis between nature and history. From here tourists can contemplate the old town, enjoying breath-taking sunsets and sipping beers. No wonder the Zähringer built their first medieval castle right here nearly 1,000 years ago!
Another magical place surrounded by nature is Schauinsland, one of the highest mountains –1,284 m – situated in the Black Forest. Tourists can reach this area catching a bus or tram from the city centre in the direction of Günterstal. A cable car will link the valley station with the summit tower, where tourists can admire the Feldberg – the highest mountain in Baden-Württemberg – and the Alps. Furthermore, this area leads itself to numerous sports activities such as hiking, biking, paragliding and obviously winter sports.
For those tourists interested in hiking, in the heart of the Black Forest, 32 miles from Freiburg, there is a small town overlooking the lake: Titisee-Neustadt. This area is considered a locus amoenus for sports lovers, boat tours, and thermal baths. Moreover, in this earthly paradise visitors can enjoy culinary specialties such as the typical Black Forest cake filled with cream, chocolate flakes, and cherries. Those passionate about amazing handicrafts can find a wide range of choices including cuckoo clocks, and original items coming from this geographical area.
Among the most explored areas in the Upper Black Forest comes off the Ravennaschlucht, a Black Forest gorge visited by tourists and athletes, which takes its name from the Ravenna stream. Along the river, hikers admire both old mills and rope factories, while in the lower area visitors can discover St. Oswald’s Chapel and the Hofgut Sternen Hotel, where Marie Antoinette and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe stayed at the end of the 18th century.