Sustainable living in the Black Forest.

The last stop on our road trip around the Black Forest was Freiburg, a medieval university town on the edge of the forest, and one of the greenest cities in the world.

Home of the famous Freiburg Minster, a beautiful cathedral built in the 1200’s, and the only Gothic cathedral completed in the Middle Ages to survive the bombing in the 1940’s. A number of houses around the cathedral were wiped out in the raids in 1944, but the clever church staff had removed all of the windows for safekeeping at the time. The building suffered vibrations, but survived due to the deep anchors for the spires. Afterwards, they popped the windows back in, back to the perfect condition it has now maintained for over 815 years. Each side is surrounded by a market that runs 364 days per year.

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We had sausages of many varieties, hot off the grill. I bought some freshly picked white asparagus to take back to London to make soup – luckily it’s in season!

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We wandered the cobblestone streets, and found a brewery hanging over a stream. Being our last day, we thought it time to adhere to the cliche – pretzels and beer!

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They’ve tapped into natural energy in Freiburg, to the point that they produce more green energy than the whole of Britain; streets are designed to ‘filter’ out cars (meaning, it is way easier to walk or cycle, so many people simply remove cars from their lives); they have passive housing (which means that houses are designed where no active system is needed to keep it at optimal temperature, just a complex system of ducts and ventilation, heated by the energy from the people living in the house). There’s a focus on outdoor living, growing your own food, communal living.

We stayed in a beautiful, massive house on the edge of the woods: a positive energy house, meaning it produced more energy than it used, feeding the excess back to the grid. We couldn’t work out how to drive there, so (points to the car filtration system) we stopped the car outside the suburb and walked in. Children were playing in the streets, teenagers building fires to cook dinner on. With our predisposed ideas of wealth, you could be excused for thinking these people were living in semi-poverty. Playing in the trees instead of with toys, multiple families living in one house. That is, until you see the houses. Beautiful, open, natural houses, each floor at least twice the size of a London flat (and the family we stayed with have five floors). They’ve just chosen to reject some of the more commercial parts of modern life, and return to the basics – in a very classy fashion.

Our host told us about a restaurant on top of the hill, and recommended we walk there. We asked how long the walk was, if we should drive, still not in tune with this new way of thinking. She told us it would take longer to drive than it would to walk.

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So off we set in the orange tinted sunlight, past the organic farms, run cooperatively by the community, the animals, through a field and all of a sudden we were in a vineyard? This place is too much. We kept climbing up the hill, amongst the vines, and all of a sudden we see a building on the top of the hill. All of the seating outdoors, we picked a seat on the edge of the hill, overlooking the city, and ordered – wait for it – SPÄTZLE!!! And of course wine, from the vineyard we had just walked through.

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As the sun set we wandered back down the hill, and off to sleep in our room, 1/2 of which was ceiling high windows looking out onto our wraparound balcony, and further to the woods. We awoke in the morning to an organic breakfast on the balcony, ready for our trip back home.

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