Freiburg appeared like a medieval, communism utopia today – we had to resort to walking and bikes: the trams were on strike.

It was eerily quiet and even now, in the middle evening, the familiar zing of metal and tram bell is absent. It’s odd.

I don’t know why there was a strike. I do know it wasn’t limited to Freiburg – the folks in Stuttgart also had to find alternative means of transport – and I know that the general thoughts about it were, “Well, this is a pain in the backside – we’re all having to ride bikes.”

A highly irregular bus was running (which occurred at the frequency one would expect in Canberra, Australia). “Only once an hour?” – the people here found it obscene.

From my limited grasp of this morning’s newspaper, multiple companies provide public transport here, but the largest and most useful one – the one with the trams – was on strike for some reason or another. They would like better hours? More money? Better working conditions? Concerned about safety?

I was told that tram strikes happen perhaps twice a year. Those who have to ride their bikes in to school from what they deem to be an obscene distance – something akin to a flat, five kilometres – throw their bikes at the submerged metal rings that they can lock them too. They step back in disgust as the bike often falls to the ground. It’s described as a Scheisseding – a “shitty thing”. Tram-alternative transport is a semi-regular necessity to them.

The Innenstadt – the inner city – this afternoon had been taken over by madcap bike riders heading down the tram lines that slice through the cobble stones like blunt, bent swords. One woman appeared with a suitcase. Her voice gave her away – she was American. Into a mobile phone she whinged: “There aren’t any damned trams today! How am I going to actually get there?” There were arm movements and exasperated eye rolls.

But it was OK. The lone train to Breisach am Rhein – a place where “Shoot the French” competitions are possible – was running.

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