FREIBURG, Feb. 5. –


When school finished up at lunch time, I have the opportunity to see a bit of Freiburg by bike. Today I headed out and followed my nose – which, if you’re interested, felt like it might freeze – and, in classic Jasper Lindell Style, got a bit lost.

I am still struggling with the keeping to the right business that is required over here if you want to prevent yourself from being killed. My struggle prevents me from turning left. I make only right turns at the moment.

It was when I saw the milk factory that I realised. This was a local sort of a place. Not much distance to travel. Freiburg is a green city because it isn’t plagued by the Australian dream of owning one’s own house in a big suburb as far away from the city as possible. Here they’re doing it properly: everyone lives near everything. Bicycles are the order of the day. Schools are where the kids are. There are post offices on residential street corners, opposite banks. The milk factory is where the people are going to be pouring it on their cereal.

After a series of right turns I found myself in fairy tale land. The houses are straight from the engraving illustrations of leather bound collections of fairy tales. OK, so the young man wearing a US basketball cap smoking a cigarette ruins the image, but this doesn’t take away from another wonder: there are proper ducks here! Proper, real ducks. Yes, I have seen a duck before: a brown thing that goes about its boring business and has the tendency to inconveniently cross the road. Here, though, there are the good looking dugs, with the green heads and sizeable bodies. And I haven’t seen one cross a road yet! Yes, it’s the real thing.

Then I ended up at Freiburg Hauptbahnof – Freiburg Central Station – which was good, because this is the place where you can acquire for yourself a newspaper in English. I left with a smile on my face and today’s copy of The Guardian – the early edition that come from London that morning.

Following fairy tale land and the train station, I found myself at the tram stop called Pressehaus – English: Press House – and I wondered why it was called that as I struggled with a map (remember, I got lost). Then I looked up. That it explains it, I thought. A big white building with an illustrious sign, reading: Badische Zeitung. This is a newspaper that sells stack loads and has three sections a day in Berliner format – if I could read it it would make The Canberra Times look like a diminished shadow of its former self. The tram stop’s name was justified. The milk was near the people, and so was the paper.

And there are bikes everywhere here. Everyone’s riding them, without helmets, mind. But there are paths on the roads – every road. There are more bloody cyclists than people driving cars.

This environmental goodness is possible because there isn’t a cultural stigma of living right next to someone on a thin little street with a bakery that has been there for three hundred years. Making a city a “green” one isn’t just a matter of chucking money at it and providing bikes for all. You have to make sure the distance to go places is bike-able, too.



Have you ever tried learning Russian in German? I have. At times I wasn’t quite sure which language was being spoken.

The teacher looks like he has aged and his receded without his realising it. His eyes are those of an excited young university student; the rest of him is the older fellow who talks politics when visiting people for dinner. He his excited about his subject matter; his unwilling disciples are not.

The lesson was a solution of foreign words and I lacked the equipment to distil either substance to be able to refine it to the wine of understanding and knowledge.

At times the teacher looked like he was surprised why his students don’t hang on his every word. His lips pursed in determination: he is determined for a student who is not.

But it doesn’t really bother me. I haven’t learnt anything.



The Geologie teacher looks like the actor they asked to play Norman Bates’s mother in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho before she died for the role.

She mightn’t be quite as old as the rocks which were discussed today, but she is as static. I have written somewhere that learning from teachers who are talking a language that is not your own requires the teacher to be expressive with their hand gestures. Bates’s mother was not expressive. She could quite easily be replaced with a tape recorder and a cardboard cut-out. We’d learn the same amount: nil.

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately, I'm reading this next to a baby who is trying to go to sleep and has to suffer the sudden jolting of my uncontrolled giggles every now and then. Therefore he's not asleep