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Quick Bike Ride to France

I’m writing this blog post, before my first day of classes. It’s crazy that it’s been almost three weeks since I arrived to Freiburg but time really has flown by. It’s been difficult to find the time to sit down and write because I’ve consistently had something to do either with orientation or with friends. However, I have really enjoyed how everything has gone so far during my time abroad but now that classes have started, I’m looking forward to things calming down since I’ll have a lot more structure to my daily schedule.

Here’s a list of the major things that I’ve done over the last few weeks. I’ve hiked in the Black Forest near Titisee, biked to Colmar, France, swam in the Opfinger See (highly recommend), and visited Berlin and Prague all in less than 3 weeks. I wish I could write about all of these but I’ll just highlight my trip to Colmar because it’s been the most impactful thing I’ve done so far.

I remember reading a previous IES Abroad student’s blog post about their trip to France and how it was such a great experience for them. Because of this I automatically put biking to France at the top of my study abroad bucket list. After mentioning this to a couple of my friends, they spontaneously said that we should make the trip the following weekend. At that moment it hit me that I had never actually done a long distance bike ride. After researching the city that my friends wanted to visit (Colmar, France) and realizing that it was almost 35 miles away, I was completely ready to fake being sick. However, Saturday morning, my roommate woke me up and I knew there was no way I could skip out on the trip.

About 15 miles into the trip, we crossed the border into France. I fully expected myself to turn around and head back home to Freiburg but up to that point, the bike ride had actually been enjoyable so I knew that I couldn’t turn around even though my legs definitely wanted to. We ended up stopping in Neuf-Brisach, which is a small French fortified town a couple kilometers from the border with Germany. It was interesting to see how even though we were just a couple miles away Germany, the people that we met in the town only spoke French. It ended up being a good thing because I got to learn a few basic French words and had some awesome French bread and cheese while sipping on a cappuccino. While Neuf-Brisach was certainly worth visiting, it was really small and there wasn’t much to do so we continued our trek to Colmar.

We biked for another 20 or so miles and arrived at our hotel in Colmar. The hotel attendant couldn’t really speak English, and we didn’t know any French so we communicated with him in German. It was awesome to speak to a non-native German speaker because his language skills were pretty much on par with ours. After relaxing for about an hour and freshening up we biked into the town. We tried to see as much of Colmar as we could but did not get to see as much as we had hoped because we arrived relatively late and had to stop and grab dinner. We stopped by a pretty touristy restaurant called L’Amandine and had some delicious French food. It was pretty funny to order steak and have no idea how it would be cooked but it turned out perfectly. Our ride back to the hotel took us through a forest in almost complete blackness (our bikes had tiny lights that let us see about 6 feet ahead of us). Riding through the forest felt like we were in a horror movie and it was pretty thrilling. After resting, we got up pretty early and headed back to Freiburg. We stopped in Breisach, a town on the German side of the border, which I would highly recommend visiting.

Biking to Colmar was definitely a life changing experience. Google maps took us through forests, gravel roads, unkempt grass paths, cornfields, highway ditches and so much more. Even though there were points where it hurt to peddle and I didn't think I would make it, I would do it all again in a heartbeat. The entire experience made me push myself a lot further than I thought I was capable of, and for that I will be forever grateful.

In sum, if you live in Freiburg or a small city similar to it you should definitely get a bike. It’s a fairly expensive investment but if you get your bike from Fahrradladen in der Wiehre they'll buy your bike back for 60 percent of the original price.

Looking forward, I’m excited to start getting to know Freiburg a little better, now that the initial excitement of being abroad has started to die down. Soon I’m going to start working with the refugee population in Freiburg and I’m definitely excited to see what the experience will be like. Hopefully now that school is starting, I’ll be able to structure my time a bit better and find time to blog more frequently. The next couple of posts will be on my trip to Berlin and Prague as well as my first impressions of what being in Freiburg has been like.

Till next time,

Esteban