Getting to Know Freiburg

Written by Emma Martin, Sarah Nicholson, & Allison Hahn

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

Today we individually flew into various European airports and our entire group met in Freiburg, Germany at 4:00PM. In order to get to the hotel, we had to take the tram system which is run by the VAG public transit corporation. It was an entirely different experience since we were surrounded by people who did not speak English, and we could not read any German.

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A view from the train station in Freiburg, Germany

Our hotel was located in the Vauban district of Freiburg, Germany. The Vauban district is a family-oriented community which relies on sustainable transportation.  Most residents do not own cars, because they have access to reliable public transportation and they use their bikes to go places because the roads are very safe and bike friendly. The roads in Vauban are safe for cycling because they have bike lanes, narrow car lanes, and some roads are restricted from car users.  With few to no cars on the roads, cyclists can maneuver with ease, children play freely, and pedestrians can walk almost wherever they want.  The Vauban district is an appealing sustainable neighborhood.
Upon arrival at the hotel, we noticed immediately the sustainable features that were obvious in every aspect of the hotel. For example, the room lights would not turn on unless the key card was placed in a power slot on the wall. There was no air conditioning, but the building windows and walls on the outside were covered by greenery which kept the temperatures inside cool. Every toilet had two flushing features, one using less water than the other. In order to reduce wasted energy, the hair dryers would not work without holding down a button therefore conserving the use of electricity.

Our first night at the hotel we had our first lecture, where we were given ground rules and introduced to the city of Freiburg as well as course material.

Monday, June 6th, 2016
We all met in the lobby of the hotel at 8:40AM for a walking tour of Vauban, Weingarten, and Old Town. We explored mixed income housing and mixed use areas. In this tour we learned that 80% of the downtown Freiburg had to be rebuilt due to bombing in World War II, and the rebuilding was styled in the same fashion as medieval times in order to keep the character of the city intact.

When we visited Weingarten we saw a specific social housing high rise in which the city planner had the residents choose their neighbors in order to build a community on each floor. This social housing consisted of both mixed income and cultures as a result of this planning.

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A photo of the sustainable social housing located in Weingarten

Later that day, we had a four-hour lecture by former city planner Wulf Daseking who taught us much about sustainable planning in the various aspects in the surrounding districts. We learned from him that in order to incorporate sustainability into city planning, we must plan with a long-term view, bring coincidence into every system, and stick up for our ideas and fight for the conservation of natural resources. He was very motivating and inspiring and told us that we should aim to be “leaders, not bosses.” He told us that Freiburg is an area of revolutionists, and they take pride in their wide use of solar energy and photovoltaics. He placed a lot of emphasis on getting engaged and being willing to fight for your ideas and values in order to make a difference.

After the lecture, we all went to dinner at Extrablatt and enjoyed getting to know each other in a different atmosphere than the classroom. A few of us were still a little jet lagged, so we tried to catch on up on our sleep afterward and prepare for the upcoming day’s four-hour bike tour.

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The Downtown district of Freiburg

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