Woody and I are on our way by train to Switzerland. We flew into Frankfurt and immediately took a train from the airport to visit Freiburg, in southwest Germany, where niece Sarah Richen Jordan played professional basketball for the Freiburg Eis Vogel or Ice Birds. We wanted to see the town where she lived, played ball and enjoyed friendships.
Our train ride from Frankfurt to Freiburg, Germany has been smooth, except for a mix-up about which train car held our reserved seats. That was soon worked out by the train staff. Each train car has a number on the outside. We just didn’t know how to spot that number. The train system in Frankfurt, and many places in Germany, has signs at each north or southbound track telling you where train car 38 should be when it stops in the station. Our 38 was intended to be in the middle of the train near the sign D on the platform. Indeed, it was right by the D, but we didn’t know it. So we hopped on the car that might be correct. The train took off. We made a mistake in the car, but not in the train and direction.
So, we ride standing in a full car for a few miles to the Mannheim. By that time, the train staff discovers from our ticket that we should be two cars back, but can’t get there from here because this is really two trains with an engine in between through which we cannot walk. The front half will soon go another way. But there is time to recover from our mistake We exit at Mannheim and walk back two cars. Ta-dah! There are our seats, waiting and welcoming.
Throughout our trip, we find train personnel very helpful. And if the first staffer’s English is not good, and our German too rudimentary, the staffer finds another who might understand our English-Deutch.
“Moment, bitte. Ich suche Amandine fur Englisch.”
Woody and I studied German for several months before this trip, brushing up the ancient studies of high school, and that study already pays off in many places, where people appreciate our efforts. Most Swiss and Germans have learned English, so they save us many mistakes and add useful words to our vocabulary.
We arrive safely in Freiburg, cross the street to the 1996 Konzerthaus, and, next door, our hotel. From our room, we have a view of main street and all the trains coming into town. The area is fresh and busy.
Freiburg has a daily farmers’ market and craft fair each morning in the plaza at the foot of its beautiful gothic Minster. We enjoy lunch and coffee in a restaurant overlooking the action of the market, including the extremely neat clean-up by each farmer after the one o’clock close of the business day. No one seemed to think “Heck I’ll get that piece of garlic when I return in the morning.” No sirree, that garlic and any lettuce bits are cleaned up today. Tomorrow starts fresh.
This cleanliness habit certainly reminds me of many Richen family members. I feel I know that person with the broom and the dust pan.
Freiburg also is our introduction to Europe’s whizzing bicycle culture. A few bike riders will signal their approach with a bell, but, pedestrians must watch out for bicycles. Pedestrians must stay in the two feet on their side of the path. Bikes have the adjacent wider path with the international symbol for bike printed every fifty feet. On major thoroughfares, cars are not close to the bikes until a bicyclist must cross a street or turn across an intersection.
Bike helmets can be seen on one out of fifteen bicyclists, so we hope that they are as safe as they imagine. Must admit that we didn’t see many bike riders over forty. Do they die off or take up other modes of transport? Across from our hotel is a bridge dedicated to bicyclists and pedestrians. At its far end, in the newer part of town, is a bicycle garage. Pay a Euro, park your bike in a locked situation.
In Freiburg, we begin noticing what is available for the homeless, so I begin researching solutions to homelessness as we moved about on our trip. I will write about our discoveries in a future blog as we end our tour.
Several times, we cross a square where there is a lovely fountain that marks the foundation foot print of a synagogue that was burned on Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, the nationwide pogroms against the Jews in November 9-10, 1938. Its moving water is nearly silent. Neither of us takes a photo, but both of us remember its impact. Children are not playing in this fountain, though we understand they sometimes do so. It is a solemn memorial. Nearby, in the same square, is an area where children are kicking a soccer ball.
We enjoy our visit to Freiburg, and know that even though we walked a lot, we have only begun to see this city.