Posts Tagged ‘Freiburg im Breisgau’


1000 Years of Zähringen (Satis Shroff)


The ruins of Zähringen’s castle lies on a hillock overlooking the Vale of Dreisam. And the hamlet of Zähringen is a part of Freiburg. Zähringen is 1000 years old, reason enough to celebrate a festival with the inauguration of the Zähringer fountain, which is a tall monolith with a scarlet heart on the top, a work of art. Like all such celebrations, the 1000 years of Zähringen began with a mass at the St. Blasius church, followed by a cultural program with the cooperation of the Zähringer towns.


Zähringen’s history which dates back to a document entitled ‘castrum Zaringen,’ was founded in 1128 at the end of the 11th century, on the fundament of a once Allemanic building. The event was the heir, who came had Swabian blood in his veins, Berthold II, who received the town from the Count of Rheinfelden. Bertold II is seen as the founder of Zähringen, and in the year 1100 he was bestowed the title of ‘dux de Zaringen.’ A dux or duke is called ‘Herzog’ in German and thus the Zahringer. Became nobility in the German Empire, although the nobility lasted only a short while—till the death of Bertold V. The castle of Zähringen became their main residence and had been raised to the rank of a Reichsburg (Empire Castle).


At the beginning of the 12th century, the dukes changed their main residence to Freiburg and left the old castle in the care of the Vögten.


The year 1278 brought the first destruction of Zähringen castle at the hands of the Freiburger. The old castle was renovated from 1281 onwards. In 1327 Zähringen became the property of the Freiburger Patrizier Snewlin-Bernlapp. (Today there’s Bernlapp apothecary and a street carrying his name in downtown Zähringen, right near the tram station).


The castle was besieged and destroyed again during the Peasants’ War (Bauernkrieg) in the year 1525. The Thirty Year War brought a complete destruction of the castle. The castle ruin changed hands from the Abbot of St. Peter, and finally became the property of Baden in 1805.


Today, the castle ruin of Zähringen dates back to the late 13th century and the castle wall ring and the fundaments of the olde castle are still intact. The castle ruin has become an attraction for visitors who like nordic walking and hiking, school-kids and senior generations, although it doesn’t have the same allure as the ruins of Staufen, Schiltach, the ruins of Rötteln, Schloss Ortenberg at Ortenau or Hornberg-upon- Neckar.


Ach, Zähringen (Satis Shroff)


Zähringen lies to the north of Freiburg,

A castle ruin, which is a tourist attraction.

In the early days they used to dig for silver ores below the castle.

The ores that were dug were brought to the ‘Poche’,

Where they separated the silver from the ore

By melting them at high temperatures in the charcoal-kilns.


At the moment it smells of smoked-fish.

The adjacent barn has been rented to a German,

Who wears his spectacles on the tip of his nose,

He lisps and tells stories of the old times in Zähringen.

He smokes trout from the Black Forest thrice a year.

I think he sells them, otherwise he wouldn’t smoke so many fishes.

He always hands me a freshly smoked trout

Wrapped on a piece of German newspaper.

I thank him and hand him a bottle of Weissherbst from our cellar.


When I sit and read a book on the terrace,

Frau Keller greets me with a friendly ‘Hallochen!’ from the street.

She has short, silvery hair and has a warm smile across her face.

She’s an ethnic German from Romania.

I like her soft-spoken East Bloc accent.

Her friendliness is disarming even though she has a lot of pain.


In the afternoon I hear soft piano melodies,

When my son Julian does his music exercises.

The tones of the piano mingle with bird-cries,

And suddenly one hears the loud noise of a lorry,

Transporting either furniture or building materials,

Up and down the Pochgasse.

A lot of expensive villas are cropping up.


The Zähringer, as people living in Zähringen are wont to be called,

Are an active folk when it comes to organising things.

Every autumn there’s a Hock around the St. Blasius church,

A get together, with Blasmusik, children’s cries of joy,

The smell of waffel, noodle soup, roasted pork, sausages,

Fried potatoes and pizza lies in the air.


The ancestors of the people in Zähringer were charcoal-burners,

Who lived behind the castle.

One day the coal-burner discovered melted silver under his oven.

In those days there used to live a king, who’d fled to Kaisersstuhl.

He lived with his family in poverty.

The coal-burner went and gave the silver he’d found to the king.

The king was so impressed that he gave his daughter

In marriage to the coal-burner,

As well as the land surrounding Freiburg.

The king named him the Herzog von Zähringen.

The Zähringer duke founded Freiburg and other castles.


There’s a tunnel at the end of the Pochgasse.

The cars drive below and the ICE and Swiss trains above.

Young and elderly Germans come by and ask only one question:

Wo, bitte, geht’s zum Zähringerburg?“

Where’s the road to the Zähringen castle-ruins?


The castle was built in 1091 by Herzog Bertold V.

It was destroyed by war and fire.

What has remained is an 18 meter high tower,

With a commanding view of Freiburg.



Gasse: small lane

Köhler: charcoal-burner

Köhlerei: charcoal works

Weissherbst: a German wine

Burg: castle

Meiler: charcoal-kiln

Blaskapelle: brass-band

spanferkel: porkling

Herzog: Duke of Zähringen



Meanwhile, as they say ins stories, the charcoal-burner became so powerful that he turned into a tyrant. One day the charcoal-burner or Kohler as we say in German, commanded his cook to fry a boy and serve it for dinner. The cook complied fearing for his own life. When the duke saw what the cook had done at his command, he repented the barbarious act and promised to mend his ways by building two monasteries—St.Peter and St. Ruprecht in the Black Forest.


However, it must be mentioned that there are different versions to the castle of Zähringen. In the verses of Schuzler 1846 (page 353-355), the Kohler finds gold instead of silver, and it’s not a king with whom he bargains but the emperor, who comes personally clothed as a monk and seeks refuge at the charcoal-burner’s home, who in turn offers the emperor his gold as a sign of loyalty. The emperor accepts the gold and gives him his own daughter’s hand to show his thankfulness, and also gives him the acres of Breisgau as his dukedom.


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