Saturday, September 28, 2013

Fribourg, Switzerland Part 1

I've mentioned before the advantages of visiting a European city on a Sunday. Stores are closed (even supermarkets!) and normally vibrant city centers are absolutely dead--giving me the opportunity to soak up the old town areas in peace--though a big downside being most pastry shops also being closed. That was the plan when arriving in Fribourg, Switzerland (population 36,000) early on a Sunday morning. Well, you can imagine my disappointment in finding a big food and crafts festival going on over the weekend. Though I see quite a few beer garden tents set-up on the shopping streets it's early in the morning and they haven't opened.
Fribourg lies on the border line separating the French-speaking part of Switzerland from the German-speaking. That explains why the University of Fribourg (10,000 students) is home to Switzerland's only bilingual university. But, what makes Fribourg so special is this tidbit: it is home to one of the largest preserved medieval city centers in Europe.
Fribourg is familiar to me as I cycled through years ago to visit several companies having their headquarters here. Heard of Scott Sports? They are a big maker of bicycles, motorsports gear, sportswear and winter equipment. They've been here since 1978 and I visited them in 2004. Villars chocolate has been manufacturing chocolate in Fribourg since 1901 and though my visit was quite a few years ago (2003) I remember the disappointing reception.
See how quiet this street looks, in a few hours it will be packed with people.
 This vendor is setting up shop.
 Check out the painted saws and paintings on pieces of log.
 These ladies are doing embroidery the old-fashion way--by hand.
 Sample of the women's wares.
That's Fribourg's Cathedral of St. Nicholas behind the couple on the high wire. Fribourg is Switzerland's most Catholic city with 70% of the population Catholic. Built in 1283, the Gothic cathedral's tower was finished in 1490 and rises 250 feet (about 24 stories).
 The city center sits high on a rocky hill overlooking the Sarine river.
I took this photo from the city center (unfortunately it's into the sun). I wanted to give you an idea how high up the town lies.
Fribourg still has more than a mile of medieval ramparts from the 14th century. Ramparts are defensive walls. So, imagine you are back in the 1400's and make your way to Fribourg. This wall, encircling the whole city, would greet you.
Though Fribourg is hilly, the wall continues.
This is from the INSIDE of the rampart (wall). Notice the elevated walkway allowing soldiers to look down on approaching foes.
 See how the tower is fortified on three sides and not on the side facing inside.
 This plaque announces the date of the wall's construction.
I'm on the outskirts of Fribourg and cycling across a very long and high railroad bridge above the Sarine river.
This is the lower part of the railroad bridge reserved for cyclists, walkers and jogger
This is a new--uncompleted bridge that will connect Fribourg to the other side of the steep Sarine river gorge that rises more than 130 feet. Bicycles will  be allowed.
As mentioned, Fribourg is very Catholic and religious symbols can be found everywhere--even in a park.
Typical in Switzerland are fountains--great for filling up water bottles with cold, refreshing water.
 Another fountain.
 This alpine horn blowing serenade is taking place in front of city hall.
 Alpine horn blowing and flag waving are what the locals and tourists like.
Here the crowd is leaving happy--even the nuns. Why? It's not because of the horn blowers but, because FREE samples are being generously given out to onlookers.
Besides free samples of local wines (not very good-----tastes like watered-down Kool-Aid) they are passing out samples of a local treat---some kind of a sweet roll filled with a marmalade (?) containing raisins AND mustard. Verdict? Fantastic as I snag three!
This was taken using my zoom lens. It's up on a hill on the other side of the river gorge. As mentioned, Fribourg is very Catholic and along with Maigrauge Abbey (dating from 1255-you'll see a photo of it in Part II), there're three monasteries around town (all dating from the 1600's)--with one being in the big building in the upper right corner of the photo.

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