Freiburg Minster Cathedral

Yesterday, we adventured for the first time into the Black Forest or “Swarzwald” as it is known in Germany.  Stuttgart is in the center of the state of ‘Baden-Wurttenburg, with the Black Forest being the southwest quadrant.   Our little village, Schafhausen, is west of Stuttgart and about 15 minutes from the northeastern edge of the Swarzwald.  
We went to the town of Freiburg on the southwestern edge of the Black Forest, very close to the French and Swiss borders.  Freiburg is about 20 minutes to France and about 45 minutes to Switzerland.  Once Olivia gets her passport (and we get ours back), we would be able to go over the borders to the other countries in the area as well 🙂   As a fun side note, there is a ‘Schaffhausen, Switzerland, which is not to be confused with our village of ‘Schafhausen, Germany.’   And all that, ladies and gentlemen, was your European Geography lesson of the day! 😉
We parked out in town and walked in through the main gates.  The city is doing a lot of restoration right now and many buildings had scaffolding around them.  The city gets its name because it was a free market town and its citizens did not want to be ‘owned’ by a noble.  They purchased their independence in 1368.  It has a very fascinating history that you can read about here and research using other sources.  

This is the view from the gates.  The cathedral is in the background with scaffolding over the dome and you can see the light rail tracks that run throughout the city.  There is a water fountain in the direct center with streets splitting to the left and right from the fountain.

We took the street to the right.  It is always amazing to me how narrow the streets are and how small the sidewalks are!

 Jon and Madelyn could barely walk on the sidewalk side by side with the shops having some of their items out for sale.  Luckily, these areas are almost always ‘Pedestrian Only’ with delivery vehicles passing only occasionally.

This was the first town we saw open ditches weaving throughout the city.  It was probably 18 inches across and maybe 4 inches deep.  The shops had little crossings every couple of stores so you didn’t HAVE to jump or step across the water unless you wanted to (or had a 3 year old.)  People had their shoes off and were sitting along the sides, feet dipped in the cool water.  One of the shop owners even has a stool out for when they take a break!

We walked on down until we got to the Cathedral.  It was kinda hard to miss.  There were several other churches in town, but this one, by far, was the most stunning.  It was originally built in 1200 in the Romanesque style, like the cathedral in Speyer we visited a few weekends ago.  Its design changed styles in 1230 to the Gothic style that was just developing, with the cathedral finally being completed in 1513.  To put that in perspective, Columbus didn’t ‘discover America’ until 1492 and Jamestown wasn’t settled until 1607, and the Mayflower didn’t sail until 1620!

This is the courtyard in front of the church.  Like most towns, there is a farmers market every Saturday morning.   The vendors were packing up when we got there around lunch time.

 View from the other side of the courtyard back to the cathedral.

I like Germany and old stuff 🙂 

We walked around the church to see if we could go inside.  We found an entrance that others were coming in and out of and started up the winding stairs.  Whenever you get to go upstairs, you know it is going to be cool 🙂  We climbed a lot of steps…there are 145 of them to the ‘first level,’ as I learned, counting them on my way down.  I thought this was narrow… each step was probably 12-16 inches deep at its deepest and about 24 inches wide.  Going up, I hoped we didn’t meet anyone because it was so tight.  We lucked out and only passed one couple.

We got to the ‘top,’ or what we thought was the top and there was a gift shop-type area and a guy collecting the entrance fees.  We figured we had made it to the ‘top’ of where we could go and walked around.  This was the clock that chimed while we were there.  It was large – 5 feet long and 3 feet high, and controlled the bells above us.   We got to see it spin and hear the bell above mark the quarter hour.

View from the gift shop tower of the town of Freiburg

As we were looking around the store and out the windows, Madelyn wanted to go up these stairs and started to make a scene.  Someone else put their tickets in the bucket (that we hadn’t noticed) and proceeded up.  So Jon fished out the tickets, Madelyn put them in the bucket and we headed up.  These were more narrow than the winding stairs we came up – maybe 20 inches – but a very short walk.

At the top were the actual bells of the bell tower!
Jon and Madelyn looking down through the windows. 

One of the bells from the bell tower at what we thought was the top.  The oldest bell is from 1266!!  Each bell was named and engraved on the wood bar it hung from.  The bell is in the top of the picture.  It is kind of like a Magic Eye… hard to see it at first, and then you are like, ‘Oh.. there it is!” 🙂  The wooden square thing with the bars is dangling another bell below it.

Then, we realized there was another level that was the ACTUAL top.  These were the VERY narrow steps to get there.  They were about 8 inches at the deepest and probably only 18 inches wide.  You did NOT want to pass anyone on these steps.  We did.  It was not fun.

It was scary going up (the stairs were enclosed) and my fear of heights *almost* got the best of me. But, it was totally worth it! This is the inside of the bell tower dome.  It has scaffolding on the outside as well where other repairs are happening, too.
Spires along the top with scaffolding

Looking straight down from the top!!  I had a hard time getting close enough to the edge to look down, let alone with taking this picture!!

After that, we went down ALL the stairs again and walked to see if we could actually go inside. This is the front entry door.

Once inside, we quickly realized that this was one of those experiences where words really can’t describe the magnitude of what you see.

You know it is powerful when even the 3 year old doesn’t say anything.  She let Jon carry her and didn’t talk at all.

 View from the front door down the center aisle.

 Each column had a statue.

There was an actual service taking place while we were there in the very front of the church.  The area was roped off, but the rest of the cathedral could be visited.  I could have spent hours inside, but we felt we should come back a different time to take pictures.  We stayed only in the entryway in awe.

 The tallest spire of the church and the one we climbed to the top.   This spire is the only Gothic church spire in Germany to be completed in the middle ages that still exists today! It has gone through preservations, but has never had to be rebuilt, even when the town was bombed during WWII!  Buildings and houses along the square at the base of the church were damaged or destroyed, but the church spire itself survived.  This was also our view while we enjoyed ice cream and dipped our feet in the water.

Madelyn likes the cathedrals.  She calls them ‘castles’ 🙂 

We have put this on our ‘go back to’ list.  There are a lot of other things to see and do in and around the town.  We had planned to see the silver mines and take the longest cable car ride to the top of the mountain, but alas, time and the day got away from us.  Oh well, guess that means we’ll have to go there again! 🙂