As hard as it is to imagine now, the end of July came in as sultry as the beginning had been – temperatures in the 80s, which makes a difference when there is no air conditioning!
The day I dropped Ian and Will off at the airport, I picked up our last guest of the summer: a childhood friend of mine.
Emily and I had both moved away from our hometown in the 9th grade, but we’d kept in touch as the years passed. She had been intending to visit for some time, and we both thought that a visit to Germany would be even more fun that time spent together in the states.
In the first few days of her visit, I took Emily to all the local sights: Cochem, with its beautiful view of the river, Burg Eltz and the castle tour (which by this my third visit I could probably have given myself), Maria Laach and the beautiful Laacher See lake. We had a wonderful Saturday spent with our landlords’ (and now our) friend Ali in Bonn, where the delightful Scottish lady showed us around her home city.
We went back and forth between options for our big weekend trip, but we finally decided upon Freiburg and the Black Forest.
On a rainy morning, we trekked down towards the south of Germany, even popping for a few hours into France. We stopped at a french gas station and got cappuccinos, before continuing our journey. We arrived in Freiburg in the early afternoon, and after navigating the tiny parking garage, were shown up to our spacious AirBnB by our hostess. She left us with the keys and some suggestions for restaurants, and soon we headed out. We refreshed ourselves briefly, then hit the town, ready to do some exploring.
I’ve been in quite a few small German towns since we arrived, but none quite like Freiburg. The historic city center was marked by beautiful sidewalks with neat designs laid in, each supposedly depicting the shops they used to lead into. Along these sidewalks, small canals were built, each still full of clear, running water. It was delightful to watch small children float wooden boats down the canals, and shriek with laughter when the boats bumped into each other or flipped over.
We walked into the beautiful old Freiburg Minster, and were stunned by the incredible stained glass windows. So many of the churches here lost their glass in one (or both) of the World Wars. It was a delight to share these sights with Emily, who understands the glory of quiet and awe-filled moments, like those spent in front of age-old stained glass church windows.
We then walked up to the bluff above the city and looked out from the old ruins onto the valley and the distant darkness of the famed Black Forest. It was a breathtaking view, made more interesting by the boiling storm-clouds and the Gothic church steeple.
We escaped the rain in a little Italian restaurant near the edge of the old town, where we dined on pizza and good house-made Riesling.
The next morning we left early for Triberg – a little resort town in the heart of the Black Forest. The drive there was incredible: past rolling hills with Swiss-like farms tucked into valleys and old tractors trundling down the winding roads. Massive stands of trees, where it was easy to imagine tattooed Germanic heads peeking around trunks of thousand-year old oaks.
We arrived at the parking lot to the Triberg waterfall when it was still early, and hiked down the steep trail to the sound of crashing water. There were few tourists about, and the trail largely belonged to the two of us, and a few squirrels, made bold by the food that tourists fed them.
The trail was lovely – cool and quiet. We arrived down in the town, and wandered into the famed Cuckoo Clock Factory Store, where the constant ticking felt like the inside of a vast machine. There were lots of little shops scattered along the main streets, most selling chocolate or wooden trinkets made from Black Forest trees. We bought chocolate cuckoo-clocks for loved ones, and wrote postcards for friends back home. We ate Italian again – pasta this time, in the basement of a restaurant called “Pinocchio.”
We had a pleasant drive back through the winding forest roads, and then the slow approach of lands that have now become familiar to me: the rolling green hills of the Eifel.
Emily left the next day, and with her departure our season of summer guests was at an end. We had such a lovely time making friends with each one of them, and renewing old ties while strengthening new ones. As it has been said before,
Make new friends but keep the old
the one is silver, the other gold.