Three countries in one day... But only one season (winter has truly set in).
Our time in France was over for now, but we will be back in the middle of next year, watch this space. The trains would today take us from Dijon, France to Basel, Switzerland to Freiburg, Germany.
Up around 6.45am, we had our DIY room breakfast, packed up and were on our way to Dijon Gare on the tram way too early for the 10am French TGV train that would take us to Basel, Switzerland. From there we had to change to a German ICE train for the short trip to Freiburg in Germany.
Tram line T1 comes to an abrupt end at Dijon Gare.
Arriving right on time we were again on a TGV train, where Hans listened to music while watching the landscape passing by.
The song "Smalltown Boy" by Bronski Beat is for Hans THE train song as he recalled the song's lyrics and its video clip set on a train platform and aboard a train.
Di was as always deep into another book.
Fog, and cold, and icy outside as the train moved forward, with a speed sometimes exceeding 300km per hour.
After less than 1 and 1/2 hours, we arrived at Basel's Hauptbahnhof.
Geez, Hans was so happy to be able to yet again read and understand signs (in German) as French has been just too difficult for him (or he has been too lazy to make an attempt to learn it...).
Lots of traffic and trains in Basel...a major interchange between at least 4 countries - Italy, France, Switzerland and Germany.
Basel's Hauptbahnhof is an old railway building that has been extended in a very sympathetic manner. We liked these old Swiss holiday images on the wall in the old section.
And you know that you are in Switzerland when you see the same thing expressed in 3 languages (departure), German, French and Italian.
We were a bit perplexed on what this sign stating "France" actually meant. Is there a French border crossing, or control, inside Basel's Hauptbahnhof?
As we had some 40 minutes to kill before our next train was due to depart, and the weather was sunny and warmer in Basel than it was in Dijon, we stepped outside for a short while to have a look around.
Basel's Hauptbahnhof from the outside busy square.
And a selfie on the same square, while old and new style trams came and went, negotiating space with cars, bicycles and pedestrians.
The train trip from Basel to Freiburg was short, just 42 minutes, with only one additional Basel Bad stop along the way. And before 1pm, we had arrived in Freiburg, Germany... Again.
Frequent visitors to this blog may recall that we had lunch in Freiburg between buses when we went from München to Strasbourg 3 weeks or so ago.
A map with the focus on Freiburg's old town shown in the pinkish colour.
We couldn't have chosen accommodation any closer to both Freiburg Hauptbahnhof and its bus terminal. The train that we arrived in is on the left, our hotel is in the building straight ahead and the bus tomorrow will depart from where we are standing. Pretty convienient, hey?
It was too early to get the keys to our room but we checked in, left our luggage with the hotel and went out in search for a lunch bite. And we found just that at NordSee, our favorite fish and seafood place that we frequented several times in Berlin.
Fresh fish, prawns and kartoffeln in various forms, fast, cheap, fresh and very tasty. We gave NordSee our thumbs up yet again. Why oh why are they not in Oz?
Now this is a curiosity of Freiburg - the city has these open streams of water running down its old streets.
The streams came in all shapes and forms, varying from some with no water at all in them to almost canals.
This one is somewhere in between, but with a height difference on either side of the water, you can't help thinking that people must trip over themselves and step into the water on a regular basis, in particular after a few drinks and in the dark.
No Di, it's not going to be warm...
Freiburg's Weihnachtsmarkt was in full swing around the Rathaus although it was only 2pm or so this Thursday afternoon.
Lots of people were already drinking a Glühwein or more, but who can blame them, it was really cold in Freiburg, even in the middle of the day.
We reckoned that Freiburg has had a bit of money in the past and is still doing pretty well. Many old buildings had been lovingly restored and painted and looked just fantastic. Here are 2 of them...
Yes, there were trams in Freiburg as well, so you had to look out for not just the mini canals on the streets, bicycles and general traffic, the trams had an ability to just sneak up on you if you were not paying attention.
The church tower of Münster Unserer Lieben Frau Cathedral looked fantastic in the fog.
And the cathedral looked very imposing up front as well. We had to check out the inside.
Di bought a small candle for us that we lit up inside the church to wish all our friends and family a great Christmas. We seemed to have followed the lead of a lot of other visitors.
Outside the Münster Cathedral, there were food markets packing up for the day and we noticed these boards across the mini canals on the Münsterplatz, presumably so that market vendors and visitors would not trip over while selling and buying goods there.
And just around the corner, this duck display outside a tourist shop caught our eyes. Great people puller.
We stepped inside the shop and while admiring the cuckoo clocks, we were not prepared to pass 1,500€ or more to get one of these top of the range clocks.
Instead, we bought two yellow, plastic and very German small ducks for fun to have in our bathroom in Manly (despite not having a bathtub).
Now, this is just sad. You see these beautiful old buildings and yet again that junk food chain managed to get their name somewhere which in our view should never have been allowed. Why do they permit this? The money on offer must have been fantastic.
After an afternoon coffee and cake in a place called "Stadtcafe", we wandered back to our hotel called Intercityhotel Freiburg, got our keys and luggage back and had a break in our room as the cold quickly wears you down outside.
Breakfast buffet is included in the room price at Intercityhotel, but wifi is not. 5€ for 30 minutes or 14.50€ for a full day makes internet access here the most expensive that we have had on our trip so far over 11 months. Needless to say, we waited until we found a Starbucks or McDonalds and used their free wifi instead.
We were also investigating whether Intercity hotel had a gym (it didn't). Instead, as exercise was very important to them, they recommended that you take the stairs rather than the lift every so often (yep, it was in their hotel booklet). The low cost solution?
6pm seemed the right time to head out again to the Weihnachtsmarkt in search of dinner and Glühwein. Good decision - the markets were in full swing and looked great.
Just in case that all the other big signs did not point you in the right direction, Santa helped out (and Di). Mind you, the Christmas markets were a bit spread out within the old town of Freiburg, across several streets and Platz's in the area.
These wurst guys were the most popular eatery that we saw and we just had to try them out...and a local speciality, a Frieburger Rote made sense. One to share as our entree. Delicious. Ahhhhhhhh...wurst. We love the German wursts and they are such good value.
Then onto our next course...we tried Kartoffelpuffen (potato pancakes) with Apple sauce.
Di's grandmother used to make these so they had to be tried for comparison. Good flavour but a little greasy was Di's verdict.
Hans tucked in and he was not alone. The potato pancakes were another popular choice with the locals.
Glühwein was perfect to follow up with and we joined the crowd. This was a quality Glühwein, hot and tasty, and went down well - cheers to a selfie.
Our main meal? More wurst of course. We went back to the favourite wurst stall and tried their Polish Paprika Wurst. One each this time - and we voted it the best wurst we've had all trip. Very tasty, spicy and habit forming.
It struck us that these Weihnachtsmarkts were very popular tonight, you can see the crowd in the photo below. Then we noticed that really it was just the stalls selling food and drink that were popular and lots of punters seemed to be wearing red and white football scarves...hmmm maybe there was a game on and locals were "priming" themselves.
However, it was largely an enthusiastic and friendly crowd against the setting on a very old town. People were out to have a good time.
The crowd made sense once we saw a sign advertising the local football team SC Freiburg, playing against Sevilla in the Europa League tonight.
For us it was time to have a cuppa, get out of the cold and do some blogging so we found a Starbucks in the train station next door and settled in there for a while. Good quality tea, slow wifi, but at least it was working and it was free.
Just after 9pm we returned to our room and watched the fussball game as the hotel provided Sky television.
The game was really on B-level but it was OK to watch for a while.
The German commentator made us laugh as he was very biased. When the Sevilla team scored the first goal, he kept describing it as lucky but from when we saw it was well set up and executed...and Sevilla are at the top of this group, while SC Freiburg is third. And yes, the commentator continued to use the word glücklich when he described Sevilla's performance. Still, the team with all the luck managed to win away by 2-0 as well as having a ball bounce off the upright. Go figure.
An unexpectedly big day traveling and then in Freiburg, a town we liked very much. Gute Nacht.