Freiburg Impressions

When we visited Freiburg together with my sister and brother in law I definitely wanted to see the minster and the bell tower with the big historic bells (general information about the minster and it’s bells can be found on Wikipedia). I’m not a religious person at all, but I like sacral buildings a lot – for their ambiance, architecture, and the sense of calm they often seem to provide.

Included in our stay was a mandatory “Kurtaxe” (visitor’s tax) – just about $2 per person per day, and it included free usage of public transportation throughout the entire region (buses, trams and trains). Really good! We took the train to Freiburg’s central station, and from there walked through the busy streets to the minster. On the pedestrian area around the church was a big farmer’s market (it was Saturday).

When we entered the nave through the main doors there were surprisingly many visitors. Soon after we entered and walked around a little, muffled voices and all, there was an announcement that the new arch bishop of Freiburg would be introduced shortly, and all visitors not wishing to attend were kindly asked to leave.

We decided to stay because it seemed like an opportunity to hear some good organ music – few music has more impact than a big organ in a big church, in my opinion. The droning of the lower notes has a physical presence, and the complex, rich overtones create surprising and impressive harmonies as they reverberate through the nave.

Unfortunately, the organ music that was played was only to accompany the attending people when they sung chants with the new arch bishop, so when the brief gathering was about to end, we quickly “escaped” and sought the entrance to the minster’s bell tower. It was noon, a new arch bishop had been introduced, and the bells were ringing already as we began the ascend upwards over the incredibly narrow spiral staircase.

After quite some huffing and puffing we reached the platform with the bells – the sound was already incredibly loud here and the inner (wooden) tower was swaying with the movement of the bells (these bell towers most often have an outer hull of stone, and an inner tower of wood – they’re not connected to each other so that the inner, wooden tower can sway with the weight and movement of the bells, while the outer structure remains stable). We paid the small admission fee (2 Euros per person) and continued a couple more steps up, straight to the bell room.

Boy, it was loud in there. I have never ever experienced anything as loud as this. We covered our ears, surrounded by the permanent drone, and felt the impact of the clapper onto the larger bells (the largest of them weighs ~6.8 metric tons!). It was an extraordinary experience.

After descending the stairs back down we found a nice restaurant and enjoyed some Elsässer Flammkuchen (Tarte flambée), one of the traditional dishes of the neighboring Alsace region.

Later on we strolled through the city and it’s narrow alleys with the little signature channels. One might think that in the old time they were gutters, but on the contrary: they provided both a fresh breeze in the alleys on hot summer days, as well as fresh water for livestock. Today, they’re very popular among children, obviously. 🙂

Last not least, some photographic impressions: