Tag Archives: freiburg

Photo showcase: Cobbles

Cobbles 1

Cobbles 1

Following on from this post a couple of months back, this week I am continuing my occasional series of posting a picture I took some time ago and including a few comments on it.

This picture was taken way back in 2006, when I’d just started getting into photography. If I took the same picture today, I might go for a quirkier composition with the subject more off-centre, or introduce some stronger contrasts in the processing. However, I’m happy with it the way it is overall, with the diagonal slant and the colours that come out in the cobbles. What’s more, it’s a picture that sums up quite a bit about Freiburg.

These cobbled streets are a feature of the entire city centre – you’ll find them in the market place, and many of the streets have these built-in (and also constructed out of cobblestones) water channels – a hazard to tourists but – I am reliably told by M – something that born-and-bred Freiburgers can successfully negotiate without calamity. My entire walk to work is along cobbled streets, including some other quite impressive examples of decorative work and colour. It’s amazing to watch the artisans as they create a new one or replace an old one after street repairs and to explore the older patterns in the pavement that reveal, by means of e.g. a pretzel-shaped design in the cobbles, that today’s anonymous, one-size-fits-all mobile phone shop was once a bakery. There can be a tinge of sadness at this realization, but the pleasure that something historical has been preserved is normally the stronger feeling.

Bikes are another thing you can’t fail to miss in Freiburg, though even locals find it hard at times to avoid (near) collisions and accidents given the challenges posed by narrow cobbled streets, tram-lines, sometimes not-very-visible water channels, exceptions to the one-way system for cyclists, and stand-offs with groups of tourists, delivery trucks, stray (mostly out-of-town) motorists and less roadworthy occasional cyclists in the pedestrian zone (where it is mostly OK to ride a bike, but there needs to be some foresight and care shown by everyone using the area). I always breathe a sigh of relief when I’ve successfully got beyond the urban ring road on my bike and have left behind the juddering, shuddering cobbles, motorized and two-legged (or occasionally four-legged) obstacles and the general noisy, seething mass of moving objects.

Dangers aside, we’re actually jolly lucky to live in a city which is within easy striking distance of an elaborate mesh of purpose-built or dedicated cycle paths, and I rather wish I’d properly discovered the joys of cycling in the area rather earlier. Still, I’m enjoying it now, and long may that last. My only slight qualm is that it’s hard to impossible to take pictures while cycling, but I find solace in the fact that cycling is perhaps healthier than photography. ;)

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Filed under Out & about, Photography

Iron Blogger 2012

Well, with my last update having been over eight months ago, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that I’ve not been doing too well at this blogging lark over the last while. This is, however, about to change (I hope).

Today I saw this announcement by fellow Freiburg blogger Jochen that he was starting an “Iron Blogger” challenge for local bloggers (see his blog entry for how it works). He’d mentioned it a week or two ago on Twitter and I’d already decided that it might be the right thing for me, as a weekly entry on a subject of my choice seems a much more doable project at present than something daily or restricted to a topic or medium I might not always feel very enthusiastic about (e.g. photography or memes).

I know it’ll be a challenge for me all the same, but I’m going to try to get away from the feeling of obligation to write lengthy, complicated and/or erudite stuff, and I hope that this will in fact enable me to say more about a wider range of things that interest me (and, I hope, you).

I’m also optimistic that it’ll bring a few other Freiburg bloggers out of the woodwork – I can think of several who’ve let their blogs lie fallow of late, and several more who I’d love to see taking this up as a new challenge.

So: watch this space, and I’ll be back again very soon…

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Filed under Memes & blogging challenges

Cycles of nature

Mellow fruitfulness

Mellow fruitfulness

A long and rambling account of a bike tour I did – it is mainly intended as a personal log and probably only of interest to anyone else if you like cycling, are a map nerd or are interested in this area and in the very diverse range of flora / seasonal produce it offers.

I’ve been doing a fair bit of cycling lately, partly because I have more time now that term is over, partly because I need and want the exercise, and partly because the weather has been (mostly) really good of late. It’s also wonderful to live in a place where you are out in open countryside within a matter of no more than a quarter of an hour.

There’s a fantastic network of cycle paths and less-travelled routes suitable for bikes in this area. You can get special maps and guides for cyclists, though I have got into the habit of just looking roughly where I want to go beforehand and then watching out for the well-placed signposts, which give distances, meaning you can adopt an ad hoc “yay or nay” approach to whether you want to go via a particular place.

Today I decided I wanted to do something other than the there-and-back type tours I’ve done frequently, opting instead for more of a circular route. I identified a 33km route described in a guidebook and decided to base my tour on that. In the end, it was such fun that I widened the circle and it was about 45km in all, and it took 3 hours from leaving the house to returning. There were short breaks to drink lots of water en route, and a couple of points where I got slightly lost and had to double back.

After negotiating the inner-city ringroad (which has a cycle lane), I got onto the cycle path that runs along the Dreisam river and went north-west-ish to Umkirch. The river is quite straight (due to human intervention) and slightly dull as a result, but it makes for easy progress. Towards Umkirch you hit the maize fields, which accompanied me for quite some distance today. Oh, and there are some rather impressive blackberries for the picking just past the bridge in Lehen on the south side of the river.

After Umkirch I went in a more southerly direction for quite some time, passing through Waltershofen, Opfingen and Tiengen. Opfingen is definitely asparagus country, and it was interesting to see that whereas the asparagus fields are not much to look at during the early summer asparagus season (as most of the growth is underground, white asparagus being the favoured variety here) and are mostly covered in plastic during that time (this extends the harvest, apparently), by August the wonderful feathery leaves have grown to quite some height.

More maize fields followed: in one there was such a growth of convolvulus tendrils among the corn plants that it looked as though they had these weird white flowers. I also saw some sunflower fields and some extensive cabbage patches, though not nearly as many as I saw on another route a couple of weeks ago. I always wish I’d brought my camera when I go past the sunflowers…

After Tiengen I toyed with the idea of going on to Breisach and maybe over to France, possibly to visit the star-shaped fortifications at Neuf-Brisach, but I’ll do that on another day and via a more direct route. So on I went in the direction of Schallstadt and it was at this point that I took a couple of wrong turns, even going up quite a steep hill unnecessarily (but it reminded me that I have leg muscles, so hey ho!). I passed a number of apple and pear orchards and the fruit was looking juuuust ripe enough to eat (but that would have been naughty!).

Schallstadt proving difficult to locate, it was at this point that I decided to extend the tour and make for Bad Krozingen (via Mengen and Offnadingen), and from there I almost made it to Staufen, the medieval town associated with the Faust legend, but the signposting was a bit weird and I only saw the prominent castle mound of Staufen when I was already on a perpendicular route heading more back in the direction of Freiburg, which to be honest seemed rather more appealing at that point (plus the last time I was in Staufen it was overrun with both tourists and a plague of flying ants, so I wasn’t too awfully disappointed).

It was uphill then to Pfaffenweiler, but I love this area (known as the Markgräflerland) as it is full of vineyards and time-forgotten villages with higgledy-piggledy houses and the odd sleepy hostelry. By now I knew I was about two-thirds of the way through my tour and so I kept up speed even though I was flagging.

I even managed to find Schallstadt on the way back – hurrah! – and although the route wasn’t quite so picturesque after that (mainly being next to a busy road), I was still absolutely staggered by the amount of edible stuff just growing by the wayside. Along this stretch of a few kilometres alone, I could have found enough to make a lifetime’s worth of jam and other preserves: a lot more blackberries; plum, damson and mirabelle trees; blackthorn sporting lots of sloes; heavy sprays of elderberries; and a whole avenue of walnut trees bearing a lot of (still unripe) fruit.

Now I’m not an idiot when it comes to knowing that fruit grows on trees etc., but this bounteousness really was pretty staggering even though I grew up in a rural area. I don’t think I’ve ever seen quite such diversity of food growing – quite a bit of it wild – for a long time.

Re-entry to Freiburg after St Georgen had a certain bathetic irony to it – no longer was I noting this or that fruit tree or crop field, but there, suddenly, were the golden arches of McDonald’s looming in front of me. Needless to say, I did NOT go in!

But I do wish I’d taken along a container to pick some of the wild blackberries and the like…

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Filed under Food, Out & about

Belated update…

Wow, it’s been too long since I updated this. Life has been busy, busy, busy in the last few weeks, mostly in positive and exciting ways (though there’s been a lot of work as well).

Well, the new relationship is progressing and we’ve visited each other in recent weeks and spent some lovely time together, as well as talking a lot in between. I’ve decided to continue my general policy of not naming names here for the time being, but if anyone is still completely in the dark: he’s going on 39, is Welsh and lives in Southampton.

So the logistics of a long-distance relationship are constantly being explored; Skype is a godsend, of course, and at least we don’t have the added complication of considerably different time zones, which I know is something a number of friends have to contend with in their relationships.

Anyway, he came over to visit me for a good long weekend back in mid-July. We had a fairly lazy time of it in the end, not doing too much major touristy stuff but just relaxing, going with the flow and still doing a whole variety of things. Some of the most memorable highlights (well, the ones I feel like talking about here) were: going to a concert of John Dowland and contemporaries given by a group called Les Haulz et les Bas (we’d been talking about some of these very songs only shortly before that); attending the English department’s first graduation ceremony in many moons (which was hilarious as well as very special); meeting my colleagues and students at a party afterwards; spending a raucous evening in the park with friends and several six-packs; cooking, eating and drinking in general; getting all dolled up to go out for a sumptuous dinner at Trattoria Enoteca (caprese / salad, saltimbocca and tiramisu, together with a fine bottle of wine); getting totally and utterly drenched in the rain and not caring in the least; and sharing our favourite pieces of classical music (there were a lot of coincidences there…).

On my brief return visit to Southampton we also packed in a lot of stuff, despite it being only a visit of a couple of days. I was taken to view the Isle of Wight by night (and there was a fantastic orange moon out over the Solent), we had a day out in Oxford, we took a brief tour through some lovely Hampshire villages (thatched cottages – oooh!!), we cooked a meal while listening to the Proms (OK, he cooked, I helped), drank some 1993 Dom Perignon champagne, had a fairly impromptu picnic on the back lawn, ate Marmite on toast for breakfast (this is always a big deal for me, and even more so when there’s someone to share the experience with) and went shopping in Southampton.

We also had a very “interesting” journey from London City Airport (which I can thoroughly recommend as an airport) to Southampton, not just because we passed sights such as the Thames Barrier, Canary Wharf, the Dome (none of which I’d seen before), the London Eye, Parliament, Battersea Power Station, but also because when we were on the train from Waterloo, there was a very strange man sitting opposite. He wasn’t unpleasant at all but was decidedly odd; he had some very misguided ideas about firewall security, used his Macbook as a plate for his sandwich, went on about having been a banker or something in Manhattan, and kept ostentatiously opening his battered briefcase to reveal what could only really have been a collection of bondage gear. After he got off, we had an entertaining time discussing his oddness with a lovely woman from the Isle of Wight, who also studied Music and German (like me) and was a recorder player in times of yore (ditto). She now apparently works for one of the big two American political parties, though she was a bit cagey on that point.

The next few weeks will see me back over there. I’m really looking forward to it…

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Filed under Up close and personal