top five friday: the bear necessities

I didn’t bring too much here to Germany… enough to fill one suitcase, one backpack, and a little extra. There are some things, though, that I just had to bring.

  1. Pictures of friends: If you’ve ever been in my dorm room in Austin, this probably doesn’t surprise you. My favorite people’s faces make my room a little less depressing. After I put them all up in what I thought was a clever and fun design, I realized that it looked a little like an angry cat face, and so I also put up some prayer cards. Now the wall is full of my best friends on earth AND in heaven! Sweet! And also it doesn’t look like an angry cat face.
  2. My UBI rock: This is one of two UBI rocks I got from my two summers at Covecrest, a Life Teen summer camp in Tiger, Georgia and a place that is very close to my heart. The inscription, UBI, stands for “U are the best, B Happy, I love you.” Two special people I associate this rock with are my BFF Laura, who also went to Covecrest the second year I went (which is when we became BFFs), and my friend Andrea, because I gave her my second UBI rock when I was her angel for Longhorn Awakening 48. It can also be used as a paperweight so, you know… score!
  3. Verses auf Leben und Tod: This is kind of cheating because I bought it once I got here, but it turns out that it’s pretty hard to find German novels in America. This one’s pretty good so far. It was originally written in Hebrew and then translated to German, and it’s about the life and experiences of an author. My goal is to finish it by the time classes start… we’ll see.
  4. My Cubs blanket: When I was packing, I wasn’t certain that they would have a blanket here for me. (In retrospect, that was kind of a dumb thing for me to worry about.) But I sure am glad I brought my Cubbies blanket with me! I got it for Christmas from my Aunt Pam a few years ago. You know how some blankets are soft at first and then they pill and get less soft? That never happened with this one because it’s magical. Also, I hope it will help me feel connected to the baseball season this year even though I’m not able to follow my boys this year.
  5. Purple Teddy: Since he turned 18 recently, I decided that it was time for Purple Teddy to see the world. Besides, he would have been pretty upset with me if I’d left him at home to hang out with my cats while I was in Europe. I actually brought him with me instead of bringing my traveler’s pillow. Totally worth it. 

top five friday

Hello friends! Happy Friday!!! You know what they say about Fridays… you gotta get down. Also, they are fun fun fun fun. Also, everybody’s looking forward to the weekend. (Why yes, I did just make a Rebecca Black reference. Or three. Go ahead, judge me.)

Anyway, I’ve been thinking… it’s time to kick off Top Five Friday, which will hopefully become a regular installment! “Top Five” because I like alliteration, although I don’t want to copy my dear friend Kayla’s Top Ten Tuesday, partly because I don’t think I can come up with ten things about any given topic (:

So I’ve been in Freiburg for just over a week, and I’ve lived here for just under a week. I figure that by now I have just enough authority to rank my five favorite things about the city, so here goes!

5. The public transportation: This might seem like a strange thing to include in my list. But the public transit here is pretty nifty. As far as I can tell, the greater Freiburg area (if such a thing exists…) is roughly the same size as the greater Austin area. But Freiburg is a whole heckuva lot easier to navigate than Austin, because of the Straßenbahn system. There are 5 different lines that all convene at the Hauptbahnhof (train station) and then branch off in their respective directions. I take Line 1 from my dorm to the city center. Now, I have a confession to make. I am a Schwarzfahrer. I don’t pay for public transit. Eeeeek!!!! I know, I am a terrible person. But don’t judge me too harshly! Very soon, I will do one of two things: a) buy a semester pass, whereby becoming a legitimate public transit user, or b) buy a bike, whereby conforming to the Freiburg way of life. (See #2.)

4. The architecture: Freiburg is an eclectic mix of new and old. Many of the streets and sidewalks, especially in the city center and the Altstadt, are cobbled. The most recognizable landmarks are the Münster (the cathedral, which is currently being renovated) and the Rathaus (city hall), both of which are pretty old, like, hundreds of years old. I love being part of the city’s history just by living here. But there are also modern buildings, gleaming glass windows, wind energy generators in the hills, and lots of solar panels. It’s kind of cool having one foot in the past and one in the future.

3. The history: There are just all kinds of things to learn. For one, the Battle of Britain in WWII was started after a German air strike aiming for France accidentally hit Freiburg. Germany’s leaders blamed it on England and the airstrikes of London began. Interesting, huh? One really cool segment of Freiburg history is the Bächler system, these little… streams? ditches? gutters? I don’t know what to call them exactly.

You can kind of tell that these girls were pulling little sailboats in the Bächler...

But they’re filled with clean, running water and they line all of the sidewalks and roads here. They were originally built to prevent fires… in the case of a fire, the Bächler can be dammed up, flooding the streets and putting out a fire before it can cause much damage. And it works! There hasn’t been a major fire here since the Bächler were built. Just don’t fall into the Bächler.. that means you’re destined to marry a Freiburger. And also that you will have wet shoes.

2. The great outdoors: Freiburg is a very outdoorsy city. Situated in the Schwarzwald (black forest) it is surrounded by beautiful tree-covered hills and kind of has no say in the matter. But Freiburgers are outside!! All the time! There are trails all over the place, and people use ‘em, man! The best are the older men and women who walk around with a walking stick in each hand. I kind of want to buy some. (Walking sticks, not elderly people.) This is also a huge biking city. Almost every walking path is either also a bike path or is right next to a bike path. Downtown, there are more bikes on the roads than cars. It’s a very useful way to get around. As for me, the debate still continues… Straßenbahn or Fahrrad?? Stay tuned.

1. The (street) cuisine: Of course I have to mention the food, because oh my goodness is it delicious! Now, Badisch cuisine is pretty true to “stereotypical” German food… sausage, potatoes, Schnitzel, Spätzle, etc. And beer. Even though Freiburg is more in the wine country. It’s all SO GOOD. But the best thing about food in Freiburg definitely has to be the street culinary culture. Every day on the Münsterplatz, there is an outdoor market and it is the best thing ever. There are farmers selling homegrown produce and flowers, there are merchants selling spices and teas, and most deliciously there are vendors cooking up sausage! The “lange Rote” sausage is a Freiburg classic. It’s served on a roll and you order it “mit oder ohne” (with or without) onions. It is DEEEEELICIOUS. Also, Germany has a really large Turkish population due to the Gästarbeiter initiative that was started after WWII. So there are lots of Turkish places that sell fast, easy, delicious food as well, the most common being Döner: a pita with seasoned Kalbfleisch (beef) or Hähnfleisch (chicken), veggies, a sour cream-type sauce, and lots of spices. And finally, for some reason or another, there are an abundance of Eiscafés (ice cream places) in Freiburg. Which is perfectly fine by me. The ice cream is delicious. And fairly cheap… one kügel (scoop) for 80 cents! There is a particularly good place right across from one of the Straßenbahn stops that I frequent, and I’ll admit that I get probably stop there once a day. The most interesting flavor I’ve had so far is called “Sommer in der Stadt” (summer in the city): lemon ice cream with strawberry sauce and basil leaves. So good. (I realize how much I just wrote about food. But keep in mind that I am also exercising a lot… see #2.)

So there you have it! I realize that there is a lot of writing here for a Top Five list, but hey, I never claimed to be a concise individual.