This is part of our 2017 TalesOnRail Artist in Residence series, where we took two writers — one American and one Australian — through Germany and Switzerland by train. Follow along with our web series on Facebook or YouTube — new episodes air every week.
Freiburg! Many of you probably haven’t even heard of this little city in Germany — it’s overshadowed by its more famous neighbors like Munich (hello Oktoberfest), Berlin (hello hipster art scene), and Cologne (hello beautiful cathedral).
So why did we choose Freiburg, a little city in the middle of the Black Forest region? Initially we were drawn by its location, but we were soon absolutely smitten by the charm of its architecture, residents, cafes, little shops, and traditions.
How to Get to Freiburg by Train
We used our German Rail Passes to travel to Freiburg via the national DB trains. Freiburg is just over 2 hours from Frankfurt, about 1 hour from Karlsruhe, and about 1.5 hours from Mannheim, to give you an idea. You can book tickets on our website in advance. If you are traveling with a German Rail Pass, you will only need a seat reservation supplement if you take a high-speed train, otherwise you can just board with your rail pass and take any open seat.
What’s the Bollenhut?
The first Freiburg tradition that we learned about was the hat. The hat (Bollenhut) is the most striking part of the traditional garb worn in the Black Forest region in earlier times (and still sometimes for special occasions nowadays). It’s composed of giant pompoms that are either red (if a woman is single) or black (if a woman is married). Though it looks light, it’s actually quite heavy, as the base of it is made of plaster! Our tour guide let us all try hers on… personally, we think the guys really pulled it off.
What To Do in Freiburg
We had some free time to wander around Freiburg, and we were struck by how many cute little shops and restaurants there were. Though it is technically a city and has an impressive population (thanks mainly to the university), the cobblestone streets, medieval cathedral, and town square market made it feel like a small town. The market surrounded the cathedral, which looked like it came straight off the film set for a medieval movie. There were stands of fruit and vegetables and freshly baked bread, a surprising amount of flowers and plants considering that we were visiting towards the end of autumn, and cute hand-made souvenirs (the region is known for intricately carved wooden products, cuckoo clocks, and those famous, giant beer steins).
We enjoyed lunch at the local brewery — Hausbrauerei Feierling. The indoor seating is cozy and lively, and when the weather is nice, there is a huge outdoor patio that is a super fun place to socialize. This brewery has been in the Feierling family for 140 years and is located in the center of the old town, so it’s truly a Freiburg institution. According to their site, “the specialty ‘inselhopf’ is a fresh full beer that is served naturally cloudy and brewed with ecological raw materials.”
For more tips and inspiration, check out our #TalesOnRail episode all about Freiburg!