Friday, July 6th
Following yesterday’s visit to an eco-farm and bike tour throughout the city of Freiburg, Friday offered a slower, more leisurely pace to the day’s activities, which proved to be a fitting end to the whirlwind of experiences from over the last three weeks. The group chatted over a breakfast of cereals, yogurts, croissants, and juices, collectively remembering all of the once-in-a-lifetime memories that were made zigzagging across the European continent. After checking into a new hotel that would ease tomorrow’s departures to separate train stations, bus stops, and airports, we began our last day together and headed toward the Schauinsland Mountain.
A tram and bus ride later, we arrive at the base of the mountain, aptly named ‘Lower Station’. An understated one-story building, which acts as the entrance checkpoint for transportation to the summit, was dwarfed by the landmark — that for the first time since arriving in Germany had come into full view. The mountain rose high above the bustling metropolis; at approximately 1,284 meters above sea level, its peak is known to be the highest point in the Freiburg region. With ride tickets in hand, the group passes through the metal turnstiles and shuffle into the waiting cable cars. Once the doors clicked close, the cabin moved forward slowly, and then, moments later, began to ascend the mountainside.
The cabin itself had benches on either side that could fit three people comfortably, and a wide space in the center; it offered sufficient room for wheel chairs, individually regulated entry (and exit) times, and other ‘accessible’ cabin adaptions, and according to informational postings, was well-suited for passengers with limited mobility. It also had wide panoramic windows that offered a break-taking view of Freiburg and the wider Rhine Valley region. Smoothly floating past, and later above, trees, we could see white wind turbines nearby and distant clusters of cities in the cloudless afternoon horizon; the cable car ride itself traveled 3.6 kilometers in approximately twenty minutes. In its daily trips year-round, the entire cable loop system emits nearly sixty times less CO2 .
than a car would for the same trek up the landmark mountain. In fact, it has been running on 100% green energy since 2009, despite being not only the first, but the longest loop cable car system in the world.
At the ‘Upper Station,’ two small restaurants, a cáfe, and a beverage kiosk are conveniently located for the arriving cyclists, hikers, and cable car riders. But for four hundred meters more, a small wooden sign invites sightseers to journey to a more impressive view of the city. The footpath takes the group slightly higher up the Schauinsland mountain; its gravel floor is mostly shaded by the high forest canopy and bordered alongside by colorful clusters of native foliage. The ascent through the Black Forest was approximately thirty minutes long, and contained several ‘checkpoints’ that offered a bench and an increasingly more dramatic outlook of the sprawling landscape below.
Once the tall forest line had broken, a small meadow and a tall timber frame tower come into view, prominently marking the mountain’s famed summit. The Schauinsland Tower at the center is also known as the Eugen Keidel Tower, and stands approximately thirty-one meters high. Its 360 degree panoramic view from atop Freiburg’s landmark mountain is the highest point for as far as the eye can see. Hues of blue color the afternoon sky and gradients of green mark the forests and farm fields below. Winding dirt roads pattern the landscape and disappear into the hazy horizon. And the same pair of white wind turbines – now much smaller – mark the route of the cable car system.
The direct bus and tram connections to the mountain, the “barrier free” cable car cabin, and the cable car loop up the mountain can illustrate the overlapping economical, social, and environmental spheres of sustainability. The infrastructure that made possible for our group to travel from the Freiburg city center to the peak of the Schauinsland Mountain in and of itself directly aligns with the sustainable transport focus of this study abroad program.