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In the early 1970s, O-levels done, four Welsh 16-year-old prospective A-level geographers travelled to Germany to visit the university towns of Freiburg and Heidelberg, where our ‘fave’ German teacher had studied.
We arrived in Freiburg via Basle with no campsite or hostel booked; this proved to be a common feature of our travels, as was the extreme friendliness and generosity of spirit of every German we met.
Freiburg, in the Black Forest (or Schwarzwald) is small and compact, with a clear old town and new town demarcation. During our stay, a visit to the Münsterplatz near the Cathedral provided much loved sausages for breakfast. The Gothic Cathedral was awe-inspiring and as grand as our need to find somewhere to camp. We visited a beer hall for the requisite beer, sauerkraut and bread to discuss our next four days.
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We talked to a waiter named Klaus from a nearby guesthouse who pointed across the road to the forest (which is known for its scenery, cuckoo clocks and CAKE!). We followed one of the many streams (called bachle) that flow through Freiburg for at least 3kms and found a clearing. My memory is that even on a hot summer’s day the forest was dark and foreboding. We set up camp and washed in a stream.
We headed back to central Freiburg to check out some student pubs – our new friends hid us in the corner and got the drinks – and we soon realised that shops did not close at 6pm like back at home, but bustled into life. One friend came rushing into our bar shouting about a Delikatessenläden! It was a real life Willy Wonka Shop.
In the morning we hiked to the Todtnau waterfalls 20 km southeast. The route was well marked to these beautiful falls, which at 97m are the highest in Germany. It is a climb to avoid unless you are reasonably fit, which we thought we were, but we were still ready to collapse into our tents by 9pm!
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Of course, it was too simple to return by the same route; our detour meant we got lost and had no time to put our tents up, so we hid them under some leaves and branches before hitting Freiburg again. The locals waved, recognising the four wild Welsh boys! We had a late night and after a long search, accepted that we had no idea where our tents were. The one thing that sticks in my mind is waking in the morning to a shaft of light breaking through the thick tree line, highlighting our meagre camp. We lay on the floor in the dappled sunshine eating Black Forest Gateaux for breakfast, laughing to the point of exhaustion. We had no tents and still had at least another 10 days in Germany.
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Thankfully, Klaus came to the rescue, keeping a good distance away as he offered us showers… We stayed in the servants’ quarters for a night and in the morning were presented with a tent from possibly the 1914-18 war; it was rather heavy but we were grateful (and we didn’t mention the war!).
After four eventful days in Freiburg, Heidelberg beckoned.
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Category: Guest Post