What to See if You Like the Unusual
Freiburg im Breisgau is a beautiful, historical and yet chic modern city located in Southern Germany near both Switzerland and France. While this spot is absolutely hip, artistic, and modern, filled with university students ready to fight for sustainability and the future of the world, it also contains a unique and rich history all its own. And, of course, with that rich history comes a handful of unique traditions, strange monuments, and cool legends. So, naturally, when I visited Freiburg im Breisgau, I learned about all the unique, weird, and cool stories that make Freiburg special. Let’s talk about my favorite legends and aspects of Freiburg im Breisgau that I just can’t wait to share with you!
The Mooning Gargoyle
When you look up from under the towering structure of the Freiburger Münster, you will see a plethora of Gargoyles looming over your head. Most of them are traditionally what you would expect. One, in particular, however, is not. If you look closely, you will find a Gargoyle facing his butt to you, mooning you, if you will. He’s the only one like it, and he is a rather comical sight to behold on such a beautiful structure.
There are multiple stories that go with this strange statue. One states that the stone mason wasn’t paid for his work, so he placed the Gargoyle to moon the City Council building. Another claims that he was in love with a wealthy woman who lived in a home next to the church. When her father declined his marriage proposal, he positioned the gargoyle to moon her home. The other states that it’s the result of pent-up religious frustration after the church denomination was changed (as these areas of Germany were generally protestant yet forced into Catholic rule for a time). Whatever the case, it sure does provide a good laugh for unsuspecting tourists. It’s most definitely worth the look to see the Mooning Gargoyle for yourself.
Freiburg Bächle and Their Legend
Throughout Freiburg, you will find these tiny little canals that bring water from the nearby river down throughout the city. They were incredibly practical when they were built back in the 1200s, yet now, they are more charming and pretty that anything else. You will see merchants selling little boats for children to pull down the canals, you may see a puppy or two splash down them as they go about their walks, and you may even see people stick their feet in them on warm days. These structures were threatened to be removed in the 70s, but people protested, so they stayed. After all, they are a huge part of the personality of Freiburg. What makes them so unique, however, is the rumor that comes with them. It is said that if you aren’t watching where you are going and you fall into one of the little canals, you will marry a person from Freiburg. So, when you visit Freiburg, watch where you’re going! Or, if you’re looking for love, maybe think about stumbling into a canal.
The Hang Man
While touring through Freiburg, it’s likely you’ll find a little alley with vines draped over the top of it as you go through the heart of the town. I stumbled across it and through it many times on my journey. In this alley, you’ll find a green building (which now looks like a store front). This, however, used to be the home of the Hang Man ie the executioner of the town.
Being the executioner, the man who lived there was said to have bad luck. It was said that no one would want to marry him or be friendly with him at all, so he would have to look to a neighboring town to wed or even to find friends. Now, to commemorate him, there is a black cat painted on the building and the mosaic of a black cat in the street in front of his old home. In Freiburg, you will find many mosaics outside the different buildings to commemorate the establishments within. His, however, is the most unique of them all.
One of the strangest and coolest things I saw throughout my travels in Germany was the standards of measurement carved into the sides of the churches, the largest and most prominent of which was in Freiburg. The markets were (and are) conducted right outside the church, so the towns would draw the standard size of the bread on the exterior church walls so you could file a complaint against someone if they tried to sell you bread that was too small. Some of the earliest dates we saw went back to the 13th century! You could purchase a loaf of bread and compare it to the standard on the side of the church. In Freiburg, specifically, it was the loaves of bread that stood out.
If you visit Heidelberg, they had similar measurements but with pretzels! And you can note the imperial symbol, the crown, over the pretzel to see the authenticity of the measurement. It was said if you were proven to be cheated by getting sold something too small, the baker would be punished by being locked in a cage and dunked in the lake.
All in all, Freiburg was a hip, artistic, modern, and yet somehow still classic city in Germany that stole my heart completely. It is a fantastic place to visit. There is so much to see, and when you take your time touring through it, I hope you’ll also check out these strange and unusual accents to the town.