Germany off the beaten track

The famous ruins of the Heidelberger Schloss (Heidelberg Castle) overlook the Old Town. © Heidelberg Marketing

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You may not have heard much about Freiburg, but you have surely heard about the fabled Black Forest.

Well, Freiburg just so happens to be the capital of the Black Forest. And, quite fittingly, it is quite a “green” city, in every sense. 

Freiburg amazes me, quite frankly, with its incredibly all-encompassing commitment to sustainability, innovation and green living. This commitment being the very core of the city’s identity. While words like “organic” and “sustainable” are buzz words elsewhere, in Freiburg they are not only the norm, they are the absolute standard. From grocery stores to restaurants and hotels, you’ll notice Freiburg's unwavering environmental commitment to living better.

So I wasn’t too surprised when I learned that in 2010 Freiburg was named “European City of the Year” by The British Academy of Urbanism.
And as a world leader in solar energy production and innovation, Freiburg will be hosting Solar Summit 2013 again on October 23, 2013. It is the sixth year Freiburg has hosted this annual international English language conference, at which experts convene to discuss world trends in the field of solar energy.

What really floored me though was my discovery that the world’s greatest hotel (in my humble opinion) is nearly unknown to those outside of Germany.

I speak of Hotel Victoria.

Hotel Victoria calls itself  “The World’s Most Environmentally Friendly Private Hotel.” The values of the beautiful and friendly Hotel Victoria (also affiliated with the label “Best Western PREMIER”) perfectly reflect those of Freiburg.  But, for me, what was absolutely mind-blowing was just how this hotel maintains such an exceptionally low footprint, without sacrificing an ounce of style.

The answer is that this uber stylish hotel heats itself with recycled wood chips. Yes, really. Wood chips.

The hotel’s lovely owner invited me into the basement to see this state-of-the-art heating system for myself. After the clean burning wood chips generate heat, that is piped through the hotel, there is virtually no waste. The output, a sort of wood ash, is also recyclable and can be sprinkled in the grass or in the garden, as it is apparently good for it! It's a bit too complex to explain the whole process on this blog, but suffice to say it is very impressive. Truly revolutionary. This hotel has meticulously analyzed every aspect of the hotel, to reduce waste as well as electricity and resource consumption. If only more of the world's hotels were so mindful.

Something else about the hotel is its wonderful location. It is so close Freiburg’s central train station that you can walk. And taxi drivers will look at you strangely -- and flat out refuse to burn any fuel to drive you -- if you request to get a ride to the hotel, located less than 500 meter distance down the main street. Once at the hotel, if you wish to get around the city, Freiburg has an abundance of tram and bus options. However, Hotel Victoria also rents a fun electric one-seater car to its guests for short excursions around town!  

By the way, beyond its commitment to green, Freiburg has much to offer the curious traveler. This quaint city on the edge of the Black Forest has enough beauty and history to captivate any traveler for days. But I'll tell you more about this fine city in another post.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are familiar with Best Western in the USA, you should note that in Europe (and especially Germany), the title Best Western PREMIER is a very distinctive label you can trust for top quality, 4**** service, usually in a very classy historical hotel. 

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