Somewhere in between Frankfurt and Freiburg, the 300 kilometer per hour (about 180 miles) ICE train broke through the fog and emerged in glorious sunshine. The majestic silver bullet swept through picturesque green countryside and quaint towns, soon dropping me off at the Bahnhof (train station). My buddies Eric and Patrick met me there. The three of us have engaged in the best sort of travel, acting as guides in our respective cities. Its a great exchange that encourages easy and enjoyable travel. Its great to have friends where you go, and having a somehow who truly knows the destination greatly aids the experience. After our joyous embrace, I spoke my first German within minutes of leaving the train. Starving, Eric and Patrick directed me to the nearest sausage cart. Ein bratwurst mit zwiebel bitte put a freshly grilled sausage in a delicious bun and grilled onions into my welcoming hands. It was hot, flavorful and full of calories, just what I needed. Additionally it was much cheaper than any street food that you can find in Paris.
From there we went to the Münsterplatz, which is the German name for the plaza with a cathedral. The architecture was different from that of Paris, with different colored stone. Actually, many of the buildings were more colorful and ornate than Paris' detailed stonework. The array of colors on small streets gave a very Disneyland feel. There was a Saturday market in front of the cathedral, one of my favorite things to see in Europe. We get so excited about Farmer's Markets in the US, and they are trendy and good to go to, but in Europe they are a way of life and have been for generations.
From there we decided to take advantage of the sun and take a hike up the Schlossberg, a large tree covered hill in the middle of the city that is part of the Black Forest. It made me extraordinarily happy to be able to take such a good hike so easily. The views were stunning, and the hill was accentuated by the autumn colors and fallen leaves. Freiburg has a true fall, unlike Paris. Along the way we found some cool artifacts and a broken bridge that was blocked off and said Achtung (warning). Being reckless, we crossed it without problem. At the top we climbed the Schlossberg tower (the Schloßbergturm) which gave us a panoramic view. It made me realize how accessible Freiburg is, you can go everywhere see everything so easily, from hike in the forest to exploring the city. Its a city life completely different from that of Paris, and fun to live the contrast.
Heading down the hill we stopped at the beer garden, which offered us a pint of delicious beer to go along with the view. The beer was so cheap (half the price of a pint in Paris) and really delicious. Obviously, Germany is known for their beer, but hearing about it isn't everything. It felt especially good to have earned it after a good little hike and to share it with friends.
Later that evening, we went for a Germany meal at a restaurant called Martin's Brau. Eric and Patrick's favorite place is called Feierling but it was too crowded. At the restaurant we got some terrible service but it didn't really matter because the food, beer and company were what really mattered. I had met their friends in Paris, so it was like I was part of the group. I had two big pieces of schnitzel, with spaetzle and a mushroom cream sauce. It was so delicious. From there we went to Feierling to buy beer for the night, which came in the form of a 2L growler, which is an incredible souvenir.
Despite a long night with some drinking, we ensured we woke up with plenty of time to wander around and eat breakfast and get the most out of time together before my train back to Paris. The coffee in Germany sucked, but there pastries were just as good. We sat in a park in front of a different beautiful church (it was sunny and warm again!) and shared our last stories. I bought some Milka chocolate to take back to Paris (it was so much cheaper) and had a long hug with Eric and Patrick before getting back onto the steed of a train. I'll see Eric in London next weekend, but won't see Patrick until September for school next year. Obviously that's sad, but rather than being bummed about the distance, I'm glad we got to hang out so much. Again, there's always a positive way to see things.
The trip left a really good impression of both Germany and train travel on me. It was so easy to get to Freiburg (even with my mishap). And the train was completely pleasant. I'd love for a high speed rail system to traverse the U.S. I never travel at home like I do here, and its often due to the difficulty of affordable, easy travel. Trains are a way of life in Europe, and a great one at that. Additionally, despite not loving the sound of Germany, it was great to be among such lively, jovial people for two days. Add the great food and scenery that the country offers, and it is a must return. Until the next time, keep on adventuring.