Located near the borders of France and Switzerland at the foot of the Black Forest with the Dreisam River running through it, Freiburg is uniquely placed for perennial sunshine and summer adventures (read: HOT). Unlike most cities, Freiburg’s public transport is connected to its more rural areas, and as a result it is not uncommon to find yourself crossing a field in a tram.
Our destination in particular was the Schauinslandbahn, the gondola that takes Freiburgers (love that the term translates into ‘free burgers’) to the top of Schauinsland mountain in the Black Forest. From there, it is an easy walk downhill through alpine scenes and quaint mountain villages you would have only previously seen on boxes of Swiss Miss hot cocoa and Milka chocolate bars.
The gondola ride takes 20 minutes to reach the top, which gives you plenty of time to appreciate the mountain views.
At the summit of the Schauinsland, there are a number of trails that zig-zag back down towards the gondola, as well as a mining museum and various restaurants and pubs. We opted for the blue route, which takes hikers via Eckhof, which sells handmade ice cream halfway along the trail. As you can tell, we take hiking very seriously.
With small villages nestled in valleys and scatterings of wildflowers, birds and other critters, it is easy to imagine the tales from the Grimm Brothers in the Black Forest. Even more so, when you hear the tinkling bells of these fellas around the corner:
Eventually the trail reached the small village of Eckhof and we quickly strode towards the sign, wondering whether triple-scoop cones was really too greedy or not….only to discover it was shut on Sundays and Mondays.
Fortunately we were placated with feeding the shop’s billy goats in the shade, even if they were a little gruff with us.
Part of the fun of hiking through the Black Forest, in addition to its beautiful nature, is the sense that time stands still there. Many of the villages look unchanged from when they first originated hundreds of years ago, and traditional trades such as farming is still practiced throughout the region. The abundance of trails in the area means it is easy to have a piece of the Black Forest to yourself, and feel as though you’re discovering it for the first time.
Soon we had arrived into the village of Hofen, which is only a few minutes’ walk from the bus back down towards Freiburg. With no ice-cream sampled on our hike, we decided to do as the Freiburgers would do, and head to a beer garden for some cold litres and traditional german food:
Spaghetti sausage salad, anyone?
The Schauinslandbahn can be reached via tram and bus from central Freiburg. The gondola costs EUR 9 for a one-way ticket.
Hikers are advised that while there are multiple restaurants and pubs located in the Black Forest, it is advised to bring water and snacks with you in the event of super-hot weather, and to enjoy the stunning picnic areas available throughout the region.