And Erasmus Lived Here: On Ghostbusting, And “Best Local Food? At The Top Of The Funicular.”

When Gutenberger go to the town of Freiburg,

it is usually for only one reason:

fall hiking in the gorgeous Black Forest.

And, of course, being Gutenberger,

there had better be good food and drink somewhere along the line.

Not that the Gutenberger aren’t educated,

and cultivated,

and open to new ideas.

(Probably more so than many areas of Germany)

But when fall calls,

a true Gutenberger thinks pine trees,

and mountain springs,

and climbing to the cross on the top of the Matterhorn-like mountain range.


you pick up the heavy jacket,

hiking boots,

fur hat,


and head for an area that,

when you get there you will discover,

is well above 23 degrees Celsius in fall.

(That’s about in the mid seventies,

for those still on Fahrenheit-

yeah, mentally me too,

but you just don’t say such things over here.

And especially not when you are married to a scientist.

Quel blamage.


after stripping off the heavy jacket,

ski boots,

long underwear,

and parking the skis at the hotel,

you look around for what to do

in October.

In Freiburg.

And discover that everyone in sight

is sitting at the market place,

basting in the sunshine,

drinking latte macchiato,

or new wine,

listening to the fantastic traveling musicians,

and, often, reading a guide-book.

With chapters on the beautiful Gothic Freiburg Minster,

the many many religious, art, and technical museums,

the wineries,

and, of course,  the island,

a small medieval artisan’s workshop area in the middle of the Dreisam river,

with small shops that still, today, make ecclesiastic necessities-

hand-woven altar cloths for the churches,

gorgeous candles of real bees-wax,

ecclesiastical robes,

(also open to tourists to visit, especially the candle makers)

So you read, and sip, and then you scoot-

a cathedral, six museums-

the university has its own museum,

the Freiburg Uniseum,

which is truly fascinating.

And then,

it by then being after three pm,

you decide on one last trip-

up the mountain.

By funicular-

a sort of tram hooked,

more or less,

to six cables in the center of two small tracks,

which pulls you

locked in a small gondola,

from the base camp,

in the gorgeous city park,

to the top,

a glass cage hanging on the side of a VERY TALL mountain.-

this is not for the faint-hearted-

at a twenty-two degree to nearly straight up angle.

And if you think I am joking,

ask the “restorators”-

a family who have run a small restaurant on the glass cage’s platform

for many many generations-

previously people were pulled up by hand,

later by horse or donkey.

The view is gorgeous, especially around sunset,

the food spectacular, and only moderately expensive,

and smelling salts and strong schnaps

are always on hand for those who emerge,

green in the face,

swearing they will walk down, thank you very much.

(They never do-

after black forest cake, with monstrous amounts of chocolate butter cream

and the local 80 proof cherry schnaps

not even the locals could make it.)

Oh, and before I go for today-

more about Freiburg tomorrow-

the trip in the gondola brought back an amazing memory of my time here-


before Harald.

In my time in Freiburg, I studied, in addition to German and music,

something called material culture-

a sort of domestic anthropology,

or local ethnology, if you will.

And one of the major products of the Black Forest,

is ghosts.

Which is why, in my time here, as a material culture student,

I was given permission to take courses in a now defunct, unfortunately,

institute for para-psychological phenomena-

(it has now been replaced by a University of Freiburg ghost hotline-

you call the psych department, they advise you about getting rid of cousin Rolf)

But during my time here, it was an actual institute.

At the University.


On top of the mountain.

And several mornings per week,

a group of us bought coffee,

and hot pretzels-

in those days smeared with butter or nut-chocolate cream,

and placed on a wax paper sheet you had to hold like waiters do a full tray-

on the fingertips of your outstretched hand.

Then about fifty of us were shoved,

Japanese subway style,

into the car,

for the funicular trip up the mountain.

And now, coming back to Freiburg,

and climbing into the funicular,

I could suddenly hear the calls of those being packed in with me

in the freezing morning air,

for the ride up the mountain

“Pretzels above your heads”

I wonder what the ghost-buster hotline would think of that.

copyright 2017

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