We started off this morning with breakfast at the hotel, and then by walking through Freiburg in the gloomy weather to meet our tour guide outside the downtown theatre. Our tour guide took us to the University of Freiburg, where he gave an interesting introductory lecture about the city; its history, the demographics, the infrastructure, etc. It was amazing to see how few Germans own cars. In the <25yrs category, only approximately 3 percent of citizens own a personal vehicle. Stefan, our tour guide, showed us around Freiburg as well. Throughout Freiburg, there are mini canals that line the streets called bächle. These waterways were originally used during medieval times to water the livestock. They operate by gravity alone, which is truly amazing because the water moves fairly quickly. It’s common to see children pulling little sailboats on strings through the channels! There are also little brass plates embedded in the cobblestone streets called stolperstein that commemorate the Jewish residents of Freiburg that lost their lives to the Holocaust. I think this is a great way to remember those innocent people, so that future generations will learn how important it is to treat people fairly and with kindness. It’s also fantastic how quiet Freiburg is. The city planners cleverly constructed buildings that function as sound barriers; we had no idea we were 100 yards from a highway until we climbed the stairs to the top of a building and crossed the bridge over the road. Being in Germany is really eye-opening to the dependency that Americans have on personal vehicles.
After our rainy tour, we hopped on a chartered bus to Schönau (a very odd lunch was provided by a local vendor – a cheese sandwich, a meat sandwich, an apple and a Mars Bar), Germany in the southern state of Bavaria. It was so beautiful traveling into the area. The mountains were covered with trees, cows, waterfalls, and sunshine. Schönau is a small town of only 2500 people, but it is extremely prosperous thanks to the establishment of the local energy provider, EWS Schönau. It was amazing to hear about an example of the successful implementation of the Energiewende movement, a massive grass roots anti-nuclear power movement of the 1970s. Citizen involvement and support is tremendously important to the impact and viability of sustainability in Germany.
After our tour, some friends and I went to a Spanish restaurant! Loving Germany so far; the towns and people are very impressive in terms of their eco-friendliness. Bike tour is on the agenda for tomorrow!