Of all the places we have visited, Freiburg has proven the most difficult to sum up. I am a bit behind with my posts (seeing as I am writing this whilst sitting in sunny Croatia), so I have been trying to summarise each destination in a single post. It is not that we did a lot in Freiburg. Actually it is the complete opposite. I find it hard to write about because how I felt while I was there and how I feel thinking back on it now are pretty different. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but in some ways I think it was what I needed.
The truth is I was in a bad/weird mood for a good portion of our time there. We were nearing the end of the first phase of our trip. The pace was about to pick up, culminating in two weeks of travelling around Croatia. Dev and I were both looking forward to a few days of complete vacation mode. I initially decided to stop in Freiburg to break up the journey from France to Switzerland. I had heard the city was worth checking out, so it seemed like a nice halfway point.
Back in Brugge, we decided it was a good idea to limit the number of places we were going to stay in so that we didn’t have to move our stuff around as much. Most of the destinations we crossed off the list could be made into day trips anyway, so I wasn’t going to be missing out on any of the sites I wanted to see. In the reshuffling, I booked us in for a few extra days than necessary in Freiburg so we could have some prime relaxation time. We were both looking forward to a few days of sleeping late and marathoning TV shows in bed. Three months of continuous travel is a long time, and nothing would be worse than burning ourselves out. However, things started to get complicated once we left Strasbourg.
There was no direct train to Freiburg, so we had to switch trains halfway through our journey. We had switched trains plenty of times at this point, so we weren’t stressed. Things were absolutely fine until a last-minute platform change had us running around Offenburg station frantically looking for our connection. Thanks to the sweltering heat, we boarded our train sweaty and grumpy. Upon arrival in Freiburg, we were too tired to walk the 30 minutes to the hostel, so we splurged and took a cab. Comfy beds and lazy bliss were so close. At least, that was what we thought. As it turns out, our hostel had no wi-fi. The only internet available was on the four computers in the lobby. Not quite what we were expecting.
Now let’s be real. Not having wi-fi is not the worst thing in the world. Sometimes it is nice to distance yourself from the craziness of the real world. But my beautiful dream of a lazy few days in bed was gone. The whole reason we decided to stick around here for a few extra days was so that we could fit in a bit of hermit-ing. I knew Dev was feeling the same, and I felt bad that I hadn’t been able to provide what I promised. After a long day of travel, it was enough to put me in a bad mood.
We dropped off our stuff and headed to a café to try to relax for what was left of the afternoon. I may have been in a bad mood, but I was determined to try and stay positive. Thirsty beyond belief, we ordered water as soon as we sat down at a table. Now hydrated, I ordered a milkshake in which to drown my grumpiness. It was warm and watery. Then it turned out that the two little bottles of water cost twelve euros. How is water that expensive, Germany?!? I had to use my card because I didn’t have enough cash.
By that point, I was really tired. Things weren’t going well, and I was ready for the day to be over. We trudged back to our hostel and decided to go to the pizzeria across the street for dinner. We sat at a table outside, dejected. The guy who ran the place, from this point on referred to as Pizza Man, walked over and asked us ‘if everything was alright’. I wanted to melt into a puddle and cry ‘NO, EVERYTHING IS NOT ALRIGHT!’, but instead I meekly smiled and took the menus he offered.
And lo, in a jungle of no wi-fi and expensive water, here was our beacon of hope. Four-euro pizzas. That’s right, folks. One pizza was only four euros. Our budget was saved from the depths of Bottled-Watergate 2016. A woman at the next table struck up a conversation with us about Canada and how she spent some time there. It seemed like everyone at this restaurant knew each other as the group of locals around her table steadily grew.
Things looked a little brighter. As we headed back to the hostel, I decided that if I wanted to have a relaxing three days in Freiburg, then I was going to have it. We decided to do what any rational person that requires wi-fi would do: camp out in Starbucks all day and have our vacation. So we did. And it was great. I had time to work on my blog posts that I hadn’t been keeping up with, we watched our TV shows, and I had plenty of time to think.
Despite doing what I had wanted to do from the get-go, I felt guilty. I wasn’t really going out and exploring Freiburg as much as I had in other places. We did spend one afternoon seeing the major sites, but I was perfectly happy to hang out in a café all day. I was struggling with my motivation for travelling. I love to travel, and this entire trip has been one of the greatest experiences I have had. I want to see the world. Maybe I want to be an actual travel blogger one day. Yet there I was, in a new city in Germany sitting in a Starbucks not making an effort to take advantage of this great opportunity. I thought that I should be jumping at every opportunity and seeing as much as possible in the time that I had, but I really just wanted a few days of doing nothing. I needed time to recharge.
When I arrived in Freiburg, I was in a bad mood. During my stay, I felt guilty about being happy doing nothing. Looking back on it now, I actually really enjoyed my time there. That surprised me. I didn’t realize how much I missed just being able to relax and hang out. I got to work on my blog, journal, and plan the rest of the trip. I decided to cut down the amount of places we would be staying in for the rest of the trip. Most of the places I crossed off the list can still be turned into day trips, so I won’t be missing out on any of the locations I really wanted to see. We will just have to move house less often.
And, to be honest, you can learn a lot about a place by camping out in the window seat of a café. You can see countless people all going in different directions. I saw the same Gautmann Raumausstattung van every day. There was always the same driver parked in the same spot napping in the back seat. Freiburg is a weird place. Very alternative with lots of dreadlocks and gauges, but the city looks so traditional. It is an odd marriage, but that makes it special. And we can’t forget the real MVP – Pizza Man.
This trip isn’t just about covering ground and running, running, running. It is about experiencing these new places and being happy. And if spending three days camped out in Starbucks makes me happy, then so be it. Instead of trying to meet some expectation of what I think a trip should be, I should focus on what experience I want. Maybe one day I will be flying around the world by the seat of my pants. But for now, it is one cup of tea at a time.