A Belated Goodbye to Freiburg!

[An installment of the new series: Priya catches up on blogging!]

“Time goes by fast!” The thought passed through my head repeatedly as my bus pulled out of Freiburg’s central station, and I looked out the window at the familiar sights rolling by for the last time. It was September 3, the end of my six weeks in Freiburg. You’d think six weeks is too short a time to get attached to a place, but let me tell you — it’s definitely not. I fell in love with the cozy city, surrounded by the beautiful Black Forest and full of wonderful people such as Sebastian, Theresa, Timo, Kadda, and (remotely) my sublessor Kathrin, who all made me feel welcome and at home.

So what exactly did I do in Freiburg between my last “life update” and the end of my time there? First of all, I met with a number of people working in the Smart Grid or renewable energy realms: technical researchers, social scientists, representatives from energy utilities, consultants, representatives from Smart Grid technology companies, and people who fit more than one of these categories. (Some of the resultant interview writeups are posted, and some are forthcoming.) As part of this process, I spent time reading papers and articles online to learn more about my interviewees’ work and Smart Grids/renewable energy in Germany.

Of course, I also made plenty of time to have fun! I toured the surrounding area, had some visitors, and admittedly watched a little too much Netflix (I’m working on it). There were moments big and small of many varieties — funny, lonely, happy, and sad —  and I’ll (hopefully) get better at sharing more of these moments as I start to blog more consistently during the rest of my Watson year. For the end of my time in Freiburg, though, I’ll simply share some highlights.

“Visitors” and casual meetings

Na’ama Schweitzer: Na’ama is a Pomona alum ’13 who studied Environmental Analysis (science track). She’d been doing water research in Essen, Germany for about 10 months and spent some time traveling in Europe before heading back to the US. One of her destinations was Freiburg (from August 20-22), so Jennifer Schmidt introduced us via Facebook. We had fun! I was impressed by her German-speaking abilities; she seemed relatively fluent, despite having only started learning when she got to Germany. Together, we ate at Kartoffelhaus and Eiscafe Portofino (a famous potato dish restaurant and a famous gelato place, respectively), ate tofu sausages at the Münstermarkt, biked along the Dreisam River (with bikes rented from Na’ama’s campsite), visited the Mundenhof (a free petting zoo/zoo), hiked from Hinterzarten to Titisee, and had an “Inselhof” at Freiburg’s beloved Hausbrauerei Feierling . Along the way, we had a number of interesting conversations about topics such as social justice, differences between German and American politics/culture, and the HMC and Pomona environmental clubs.

Rebecca Coombs: Rebecca is a fellow Udall Scholar, and I learned through the Udall mailing list that she’d be near Freiburg for a program on the Future of Food Sustainability. Jennifer had also mentioned that Rebecca was studying how communities fund renewable energy (through the DAAD Scholarship), so I reached out and we met up at a café one evening. We exchanged some information and insights, and in particular she mentioned that I might be interested in checking out BürgerEnergie Berlin (a Berlin energy cooperative) and Wolfhagen (a community that recently launched an initiative to use 100% renewable energy).

Jack Ma: Jack is a good friend from college who decided to visit me “on the way” to doing the Tour du Mont Blanc. Since he knew that I have somewhat of a limit on how much time I can spend with friends/family while abroad, he orchestrated his visit to be almost exactly 24 hours long — which was really sweet of him. When I met him at the train station, he immediately observed that my accent had changed and that I’d gotten quieter, which I (of course) hadn’t noticed myself. Together, we went to the Green Therm Cool Center (which, disappointingly, was closed when we got there), Seepark and the (outside of the) Ökostation, and the Schloßberg hill (in the middle of Freiburg) to see the sun set over the city. Timo, Jack, and I also spent some time chatting at the apartment, which was nice.

Pictures and Accompanying Stories

After my meeting with Prof. Franz-Josef Brüggemeier on August 18, I hiked up the Schloßberg (hill in the middle of Freiburg) to go to the Schloßbergturm (its lookout tower). I was wearing my ballet slippers, which exacerbated a skinned heel I obtained before the Watson, so trekking up was a bit of a slog. And then when I got to the top of the hill, it turned out that the tower was closed indefinitely! While the pre-Watson stressed and sleep deprived version of me would have been at least a little annoyed, my happy and well-rested Watson self wasn’t at all. Instead, my trek kind of felt like an adventure… and real adventures sometimes end in failure. I still got some good views while hiking up the hill, and I ate an Afghani samosa for lunch after hiking down, so it was all-in-all a good day.


Na’ama and I found this awesome knitted handrail sleeve on a pedestrian bridge across the Dreisam. (Photos courtesy of Na’ama.)

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Animals at the Mundenhof, Freiburg’s free petting zoo/zoo. On the left are two-humped camels, and on the right is a Nandu/Rhea.

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Pictures from the Hinterzarten to Titisee to Hinterzarten “hike” I did with Na’ama. The top two pictures feature a lake in Hinterzarten with some adorable ducks and a rather bent tree. Our hike largely intersected with my earlier Titisee explorations, so see my previous post for pictures of that area. The bottom left picture is of Spätzle (German noodles) from the same Titisee restaurant where I first tried Flammkuchen. While we were at the restaurant, a man in old-time fancy clothing stood up, made a loud announcement in German, and then walked around collecting money. As we gleaned from his explanation to a British family afterwards, he was in the middle of a traditional three-year “exile” from his community of craftspeople, during which he would travel to learn practices and trade secrets from craftspeople in other communities. So cool! The bottom right picture features a pen of animals that Na’ama and I happened upon on the way back from Titisee to Hinterzarten. We never quite figured out what the animals were. (Deer? Goats? Both?)

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Pictures from my visit to Seepark with Jack. Seepark is an urban green space with a beautiful lake (bottom left), located in Freiburg. It also — to my delight — had a viewing tower (right)! The top picture features Jack and a panoramic view from the tower, and the bottom middle picture is a view from the tower in which solar panels are visible on some roofs.

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Sunset on the Schloßberg. The Schloßberg has a 180-plus-degree viewing area, and it was beautiful to see night on one side of the hill while still seeing day on the other side. (Bottom middle photo courtesy of Jack.)


Jack took a random photo of me. I include it only because I realized it’s the only picture I have of the Freiburg apartment! (Photo courtesy of Jack.)

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Jack and I once decided to take “recursive selfies” during a college Combinatorics class, so we decided to try it again in the Freiburg Münster. (Left photo courtesy of Jack.)

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Some random photos from a morning in Freiburg city center with Jack. The top two pictures are from Freiburg’s Münstermarkt. (If you look in the background of the picture of Jack, you can see the Schloßbergturm.) The bottom two are from a main street in Freiburg, featuring little kids, a musical performer surrounded by a crowd, the Bächle, and a Bächleboot (“gutter boat”). The rightmost picture features a trash can fire we saw some firefighters putting out. We’d smelled the smoke and were glad to discover that it wasn’t a building! (Top left and bottom middle photos courtesy of Jack.)

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I spent a day in Stuttgart, the capital of Baden-Württemberg, to conduct two interviews. The left photo features the building of EnBW, one of Germany’s “Big 4” utilities, which I walked by on my way to the first interview. After the second interview, I hung out near the city center for a little while. The top middle picture is a view of Stuttgart from its Kunstmuseum (though exhibitions were closed, I was still allowed to climb the stairs). The bottom middle picture features a citizens’ demonstration I witnessed. (Unfortunately, I couldn’t understand the speeches, which were in German.) I then hung out in the Schlossgarten to people-watch and read some papers, as shown in the rightmost photo.

Small moments:
  • One weekend, I went to a tiny farmers’ market at Fabrik, a building/association that houses cultural and ecological companies. One booth was selling locally-made cheese, and the seller was explaining the different cheeses to me in English. Another buyer came up to the booth in the meantime, and I told him he could go ahead since it would still take me some time to decide. He then started to talk to the vendor in English (since he’d been hearing us speak English), blinked, did a double-take, and switched over to German. Oops. The cheese seller also told me that he hopes to motorbike across the US some day. I hope he gets the chance!
  • I was reading Sebastian’s blog (a post about migrant housing in Freiburg), and he had a clause in there that made me chuckle: “die üblichen Freiburger Sorgen: Lärm, Dreck, Lärm, Vermüllung, Lärm, genug Spielplätze, zuviel Verkehr, Lärm, Licht, Lärm” (which Google Translate told me means: “the usual Freiburger worry: noise, dirt, noise, littering, noise, enough playgrounds, too much traffic, noise, light, noise”). The statement reminded me of the dynamics and concerns of some upper-class towns in the US…
  • Saying goodbye to your friends is hard, even if you’ve only known them for a few weeks. I said bye to Sebastian when he left for Erasmus about halfway through my stay, and to Theresa and Timo the day before I left. I enjoyed talking and hanging out with these folks, and I’ll miss them!

One thought on “A Belated Goodbye to Freiburg!

  1. This world has many beautiful people. I believe that all people in this world are good. It is only petty politics which make things ugly. It was interesting to read this narration. Bless U. Enjoy your work.


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