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A Saturday in Freiburg

It may be because of Global Warming, but this weekend’s weather has been incredibly nice. It feels like summer again. A half-hour organ concert is offered every Saturday morning in Freiburg’s Münster. The Münster is a massive cathedral set in the center of Freiburg. It was first built in the 1200’s in the romanesque style but its pointed windows reveal the gothic style that later emerged towards the end of its construction. I attended the organ concert this morning and was surprised by the variety of music that was featured. In one song the notes flowed together; the organ reverberated smoothly, and I felt like I was listening to a string quartet. In the next song the chords clashed; the organ pipes blasted out the notes, morphing the sound into that of a trumpet instead of strings. During songs like these I like to gaze up at the intricate religious pictures depicted on the stained glass windows. As the suspenseful music echoes off the high ceilings and through the dark columns of the cathedral it’s fun to pretend that the apocalypse has just begun. 

Meeting at the concert on Saturday mornings has become a bit of a weekly tradition for my friend group. An extensive farmer’s market takes place outside of the Münster everyday, but on Saturdays it’s especially large. After the concert we buy raspberries. As fall has begun, the raspberries have become bitter but I still buy them, stuck in a deep denial that summer is already over.

On this lovely Saturday I climbed the blue bridge I ride across every morning on my commute to class. I did some reading there for my German literature class and ate a purple carrot I’d bought from the Münstermarkt.

Saturdays are good days. I found some tasty, 3 euro vegan waffles last weekend, and a couple of Saturdays ago, when it actually kind of was summer, some friends and I went on a really nice hike. We hiked to a restaurant, (taking a break in a sound-of music-style meadow) to ask for a key to a castle, and then continued on our way up the mountain. We were rewarded with a cute little castle which had an impressive view of the city from the top of it. On the way back we picked apples from the trees that lined the trail. It felt like a fairytale.

Beautiful Waffles

I’m telling you, these hills are alive!

Rapunzel, is that you?

If the butterflies like me, am I a princess yet?

We ended our day at the beer garden by the cute little lake next to my WG. And of course the sunset did not disappoint.

Every City  Should Aspire to be as Cool as Freiburg

I have come to the conclusion that every city  should aspire to be as cool as Freiburg. One of the courses I am most excited about this semester is an economics course entitled “Environmental Policies and Green Business in Freiburg.” In this course we will be going on a field trip every week. Some of these trips will include visiting green businesses in Freiburg, climbing a windmill, and hiking through the Black Forest while learning about the plant and wildlife. I am so excited. 

Since we began the semester with two weeks of intensive German classes, our semester-long courses have only just recently begun. Today my Green Business class met for the second time. The class consisted of a three-hour bike tour past a couple of green businesses (including the biggest solar panel manufacturer in Germany) and through one of Freiburg’s newest neighborhoods, Rieselfeld. Rieselfeld is incredibly environmentally conscious and very socially just. They designed the neighborhood to promote community engagement and sustainable living. Instead of zoning the neighborhood solely for residential living and orienting houses to face the street, the urban planners that created Rieselfeld built multi-use blocks. Each block consists of a mix of apartments, gardens, senior homes, kindergartens, schools, and so on. There is no automobile traffic allowed within these blocks which promote its peaceful atmosphere. Cars remain outside the blocks in close proximity to Rieselfeld’s stores. All streets in Rieselfeld require that vehicles drive 30 kmh, which is about 20 mph. Bicycles often have the right of way. Large, grassy areas are dispersed around the city blocks thereby limiting the amount of asphalt that was used. This greenscape helps keep the neighborhood cooler in the summer months. Each community can do whatever they want within their greenscaped area. Some have built massive playgrounds with climbing walls and other structures for children. One group placed a large outdoor oven in the middle where the community gathers once a week to bake pizza. Rieselfeld has a thermal energy plant which is responsible for its heating systems and electricity. It was very important to Freiburg’s urban planners to accommodate everyone with varying levels of income in the community. To do this they required all landlords to offer a certain percentage of apartments for below market rent. Here is a picture of Rieselfeld from our bike tour.

Compared to the states, I feel like the citizens of Freiburg are more environmentally  conscientious. Trash is always sorted, a significant amount of bikes are used, and the Straßenbahn runs off of biofuel and is a very popular way of getting around. An environmental activist group called “Extinction Rebellion” had a stand in the main square near the IES center for the entire month of September. A friend and I went to a meeting and it was empowering to see how many people attended. I left the meeting with the impression that attendees don’t just care about being environmentally friendly, but they are also scared for the future and ready to take action. 

On Friday, September 20th, one of the largest “Fridays for Future” strikes took place in Freiburg and around the world. Freiburg’s demonstration was particularly large for a city of its size. Masses of people crowded the streets marching with colorful posters demanding action. They were carrying speakers playing music, shouting, chatting, chanting, dancing, and blocking the Straßenbahn thereby causing delays. Bicycles were everywhere. They were stacked against each other along buildings and attached to every single pole and bike rack near the center of the city. I couldn’t help but wonder what a “Fridays for Future” strike of that size would look like in the U.S. Would there be as many bicycles? The two photos below capture the predominant attitude of the event, which is that consumption and ignorance will kill us all. It would be a shame if that happened since Freiburg is such a lovely city.

The sunniest city in Germany

I’ve been in Freiburg for a couple weeks now. I rented a bike and bike everywhere like most of the German students at the university. I live 20 minutes away by bike from the center of Freiburg and from the IES center. Freiburg is an incredibly bike friendly city. There are a plethora of bike paths that are separated from the roads. I feel really safe when biking here. But they also have more rules when it comes to biking. I’ve learned that if there is no bike path, only a walking path I have to get off and walk my bike. The bike to class in the morning is really nice. I feel like it helps me appreciate the city much more than I would if I were sitting on a tram. My favorite part of the ride is this small stretch where the bike path leads between the train tracks and a large park. The path is lined by trees and the sun peaks through them every morning creating large shadows. 

I’m so grateful I didn’t fall off my bike taking this photo

I’m living in a dorm with other German students. It’s called a WG which stands for Wohngemeinschaft. My WG is one of the 21 high-rise buildings within the student village called StuSie. Apparently it’s difficult for students to find a room in a WG since they are cheap and practical everyone wants to live there. I’m really lucky that IES saved me a spot. My building is brand new and really nice. We are so spoiled; our suite even has a dishwasher and a balcony. I have two suitemates so far. One of them is a student who is currently doing a year long internship working with children with disabilities. My other suitemate is studying molecular biology. She has a final exam coming up and is always studying. Both of them are really kind. Besides my difficulty in pronouncing the word Psychologie, conversing in German has gone surprisingly well. My suitemates are very patient when I don’t understand something. Someone asked if I was from France the other day and I was shocked she didn’t immediately hear my American accent. 

Right next to my WG is a cute little lake. It’s the perfect place to run, have a picnic, and do homework. There’s even a beer garden on one side of it. The sunsets at the lake are beautiful. I’ve found myself relaxing by the lake many evenings since I’ve arrived in Freiburg. I thought I was spoiled by Walla Walla sunsets but wow I didn’t know how incredible the sunsets in Freiburg would be. 

Bis Später! You will be hearing from me more frequently in the near future!