This is an account of my trip through Europe from 01-14 October 2008. Below is the map of my journey over two weeks:
The first few days and my time in Paris were all travelled via train, with the middle week of my journey in a hire car. I had a beautiful silver C-Class turbo diesel Mercedes-Benz, with the very essential satellite navigation option. This let me set the next stop in my journey and then wander off the beaten track if I desired, safe in the knowledge that I could still find my way back to where I was going.
So I arrived in Frankfurt first for a quick stopover on the way to Zurich. I was flying Lufthansa, so I tried to speak German the whole time with the attendants, instead of English. Once in Switzerland I passed through customs and headed to the train stations. My journey was under way! As I was unable to get my tickets for the train before I got there (that’s a whole ‘nother story!), I had to get them piecemeal for each leg there in Zurich. It actually worked out cheaper anyway, so I wasn’t complaining. I found my train and headed to my first stop: Freiberg. The train ride consisted of some very beautiful scenery as we shot through the countryside at almost 200km/h.
After getting off the train in a very cool and fresh Freiberg, I made my way towards the Youth Hostel that I would be spending my first night in Germany in. It was a good half hour walk through narrow cobbled streets that were bustling with people. The smells of local bakeries (Bakerei) assaulted my nose with the scent of fresh bread. Things were already looking good compared to the food I had just been eating for the last four months. A few blocks from my final destination I spotted a set of stairs leading to a group of town houses. I ascended them, keen to see the view of the streets I had just traversed. The picture you see here is my view back the way I had just come.
I left my bags at the Hostel and began wandering the streets with my camera. I had three goals that afternoon for my first day in Germany:
1. Take photos. Lots of photos,
2. Find a bar and get a beer, and
3. Get something to eat.
The photos were easy. Every where I looked was new and exciting, with beautiful architecture all around me. This was one of the first hotels I found, but it wasn’t to my liking being more like a cafe. I did like how it looked though and snapped a shot. There were few cars, but a lot of people and trams. It seemed like the roads were more for pedestrian use than vehicular.
It was simply amazing to listen to the noise around me, everyone speaking German. It required me to really concentrate to try and make out actual conversations. But I had to find a bar, the desire for beer was strong!
I continued through the streets, wandering down random streets, amazed at how hard it was to find somewhere for a beer. Then I stumbled quite by accident on a little bar down a side street. When I say little, I mean little. It had the bar inside, room for about 4 small tables, and that was it. I said to the bar maids in a quick fluster, “I need a beer, any beer, it’s been 4 months, just make it cold”. The only reply I got was “wie bitte?”, meaning pardon me. I’d obviously spoken too fast, or they didn’t understand English. It turned out to be both, so I simply said “ein bier bitte”, and was promptly served a tall glass of pilzner beer.
I spent all afternoon here drinking and chatting with the locals. A guy called Henry was able to help with any shortcomings I or others had with the languages. I spent a good deal of time talking to him, answering questions about Australia. Later that evening I staggered back to the hostel; tired, drunk, and ready for bed.
After a good night’s sleep (albeit with loud Americans making their presence felt every now and then, I headed off to a bakery I’d passed earlier the previous day. I sat down to a croissant and coffee: my first breakfast in Europe (and certainly not my last croissant!).
I’d so far managed to use German when ordering, and soon began to understand when they asked if I wanted take-away or wanted to sit down. I looked over the map to see where I’d wander to first, and of course I couldn’t resist the cathedral in the middle of town. So I finished breakfast and headed out into Freiberg for my first full day.
These markets were on everyday, and gathered around a massive cathedral in the town square of Freiberg. Unfortunately for me the cathedral was closed to the public for renovations, but I still had an impressive view of it from the outside. The markets themselves had vendors selling plants, vegetables, crafts, flowers, chocolates, and anything else you might imagine. The smells and atmosphere in this area were simply amazing!
The second day was spent touring around Freiburg properly. I had a map, and agenda, and I was going to stick to it. I knew it would be a long, but rewarding, day ahead. I started wandering along some of the streets I’d travelled the previous day, taking photos of anything that took my interest. I photographed anything from entrance ways to man hole covers! It’s strange the little things that fascinate you when you’re in a foreign country.
In the distance I spotted church spires rising above the trees. It meant walking all the way back to the train station I had originally arrived at to get a decent view, so off I went. I passed over a busy bridge crossing the tracks, which was also a combination of footpath, road and rail track itself. It was busy and bustling, but I managed to find a spot (in the middle of the tracks no less!) where I could photograph the church without ugly black cables that powered the trains getting in the way.
It was then time to about face and head back the way I came to the start of my Freiburg tour. I’ll mention a number of these little tours throughout Germany that I managed to get from a book leant to me by one of my American colleagues. This particular tour started at the Freiburg Hauptbahnhof (main train station) that I’d arrived at the previous day. I would be walking back down the street Rathausgasse again to the Rathausplatz (Town Hall square) which contained two town halls. This lead me past a street beggar, who I kindly gave whatever spare change I had in my pocket. To my surprise, as I walked past he called after me, so I turned to see what was up. He actually, and this I couldn’t believe, gave me back the less valuable coins I had handed him. So it’s not only toll booths that don’t accept the lowest denominations, but German beggars as well. That was the last time I gave anyone money that asked for it in Germany. But I digress. The square awaited! I arrived in Rathausplatz to be greeted by Franciscan friar Berthold Swarz, the supposed inventor of gun powder in 1353. He was in the centre of a charming old square bordered on the west by both the new and old town halls.
The area was bustling with people, with little cafes on the southern side, and a magnificent church on the northern side, (New Town Hall) on the left and the Altes Rathause (Old Town Hall) on the right stood side by side in the Rathausplatz. The Neues Rathaus was created by linking together two 16th-century houses.