We were sorry to leave Simonswald, and fought pelting rain to get packed up and off the pitch. Other campers were sensibly battening down for the day and cheerily buying huge slices of a blueberry gateau that Rudolf had miraculously conjured up from somewhere. We however were on a timetable to reach the Swiss border and had a couple more stops planned along the way.
We spent a free night on a busy aire at Emmendingen from where we got the train into Freiburg, a highlight on the southern route through the Black Forest.
Freiburg is Germany’s warmest city and probably its greenest. Traffic is banned from the centre and even to camp a few kms outside of it would mean purchasing an eco-tax or ‘umvelt zone’ pass.
As it enjoys more than 2000 annual hours of sunshine the city powers itself by solar panels which generate nearly as much energy as the whole of the UK.
Modernity aside the main attraction is the medieval centre with its twisting alley ways, gabled town houses, cobbled streets, colourful roof tiles and imposing gothic architecture. Blessedly, the sun shone for our visit after a soggy night at the aire.
We drank coffee in Rathaus Platz watching the busy flow of tourists, well-heeled locals and grungy students pass by the medieval fountain and dodge falling chestnuts from laden trees.
The historic merchants’ hall is now a luxury hotel and still boasts a striking red and arcaded façade topped with polychrome tile turrets.
Chic boutiques and designer stores sit elegantly along the wisteria-draped Konviktstrasse. We glimpsed the prices of clothing which seemed to all start at around 170euros per article.
A meander out of one of the many historic gates and into the modern shopping district produced more typical household names of ‘Muller’ a high street health and beauty shop, ‘Edeka’ and ‘Rewe’ express supermarkets, ‘bucher’ book shop, ethnic clothes and crafts and of course McDonalds.
Here too were many of the town’s students enjoying the sun, buying hippy clothing, lounging on the grassy squares and smoking roll ups.
We particularly enjoyed the Markt Platz which today was humming with French and Italian stalls selling crafts and fresh produce alongside the many local Wurst sellers pitched up in smoky kiosks and filling the air with the lunchtime aroma of fried onions and sausages.
Had we been able to camp locally it would have been a treat to visit the Jazzhaus, a former wine cellar and now major venue for jazz, rock and world music. Acts booked to appear soon include Genesis, James Blunt and Europe – an eclectic mix.
Our busy commuter train returned us to Emmendingen where returning office workers were filling up the street cafes and bars. We meandered along the town walls to a cheerful and welcoming bar run by young Turkish girls and enjoyed a ‘Radler’- a light German beer with lemon served very cold -whilst watching towering slices of creamy gateaux and accompanying schnapps chasers being tucked into at neighbouring tables. An interesting view of the daily routine of some of the local workforce!