The Freiburg Münster market brings everyone into town.
On a Saturday, this is incredibly visible as tens of thousands of locals flood the Münsterplatz to enjoy the atmosphere and fresh produce on offer. My only problem with this description is that you could use it for any other major market in the world.
(At the market, Freiburg 2019)
To see what makes the 900-year-old market in Freiburg special, it’s best to visit on one of the days when it isn’t so busy. My most recent trip to the market was on a Tuesday in early November. It was one of those afternoons that are pretty high on the European dreary factor: mist, fog and constant drizzle.
At the Münster market, regardless of the weather, it’s always colourful and almost exotic. Purple cauliflower, exquisite pumpkins and the most impressive flowers contrast the dark-tones that characterise the incredible Freiburg Münster which towers over the Altstadt (old city) and Marktplatz (market place).
(The Münster towers over the market – Freiburg 2019)
What I love about the market is that it immediately transports you away from the world of processed food, global standardisation and corporate greed. Instead, a trip to the market is a celebration of community, local suppliers and everything good that comes from the Breisgau region.
Entering from the back of the Münster, this sense of another world is ultra-visible at the Bioland-Schwalbenhof store. There you will find a fresh range of Quark (strained warm-soured milk), Bibeleskäs (a quark/herb mixture), Bergkäse (mountain cheese), Münsterkäse (a speciality of the region) and cheese with Wildblumen (wild flowers).
On the Tuesday I visited, just a little ahead of the dairy store was a real back of the van operation, as a farming family had brought down their supply of potatoes, pumpkin, garlic and feldsalat (somewhere in between spinach and lettuce). That was it, talk about keeping it simple.
(All the colour at the Freiburg market, November 2019)
To the left of the van-stand, it’s possible to get a real sense of the country meeting the city. A bit like the store-owner’s shirt struggling to stretch across his belly, the Bressel Obst und Gemüsehof (fruit and vegetable farm) stand from the Kaiserstühl wine and farm region has a rangy profile.
At one side of the stand, there is a great assortment of Kräzer, Neuer Süßer and Traubensaft – essentially newly picked grapes that had been turned into juice of various alcoholic strength. On the other side of the stand, was a mixture of house-made schnapps, tinned sausages, jam and marmalades. That sat behind the walnut and bauerbrot as people enoyed their glasses of Neuer Süßer for 1.50 Euro a glass.
(All homemade produce at the Bressel stand, November 2019)
I loved the emphasis on bringing fresh and seasonal hand-made and hand-picked food direct to the city. What I also love about the market is how affordable it is to buy and eat healthy. Unlike the farmers markets of hipster inner-cities across the world, there is no premium to eating delicious organic food. In Freiburg, it’s the opposite.
Take a look at the long-line for the apple stand that sits next to the Bressel store and you can see the diversity of market-goers. For only two euros ($3.00AUD) a kilogam, on offer are some of the finest organic apples from the region. In line were a mixture of very sensibly dressed older Germans with their puffers and windbreakers, students and workers on their lunch. All of them making the most of peak harvest time for Äpfeln.
(Waiting for apples at the Freiburg market, November 2019)
There’s a very human element to the Freiburg market. As per the German stereotype, there isn’t much pretence in how business is conducted. The store-owners know it’s a more than fair trade and they know their produce down to the finest details. Take the owner of the apple stand, as an example. After making a throw-away line about apples being in season, he proceeded at length to tell me the ins-and-out of apple acidity and harvest time. It was wonderful.
You can tell that people gain a great deal of satisfaction from being at the market. As I paused to take in the towering Münster, I noticed a grey-haired lady with curly hair (curls are very acceptable in Germany), with a blue jacket, pink floral scarf and very practical boots eating a wurst (sausage) and also just taking in the warmth of the market on this foggy day.
Seeing people with a wurst in their hand is one of the most common sights at the market. When I first arrived in Germany, I was definitely a vegetarian. Even then I loved seeing how people tucked into their snag. It’s a bit like the Australian meat pie but a little more portable. On a Tuesday, they’re still everywhere. People are dragged towards the grill in an almost hypnotic way. The combination of smells and looks of satisfaction is a pretty compelling combination.
(Photo: Serving up a sausage at the Freiburg market, November 2019)
At the Freiburg market there is a grand total of five wurst stands. It’s almost ironic that the German word for queue is snake (Schlange), as it’s a really appropriate word to describe how people are looking to pounce on a meat fix. The lust is so great that on one side of the Münster, there are four stands, all most side by side. Every bit as popular as the other with slightly different options.
There’s the Brunner stand where you’re able to get the classic ‘Lange Rote’ (long red), Merguez, Käsewurst (cheese sausage) or Lange Rindwurst (long beef sausage). Next to it you can find Lichts’ Wurststand, with classic bratwrusts, ‘Bockwurst’ (pork/veal sausage) and the spicy ‘Die Scharfe’ (the spice/chilly). Further on is Hassler’s Wurstand with the Dicke Rote (fat red) and finally Meier’s Wurstand with the ‘Scharfes Bobelle’ (spicy local).
(Time for a wurst – Freiburg market, November 2019)
There’s meat everywhere at the market but it makes so much sense with the incredibly strong connection to the region’s paddocks and farms.
After finishing with a sausage, one of my absolute favourite parts of being at the market is walking away with flowers. November is very much the end of the local flower season but they’re still there in abundance. For five euros, it’s possible to walk away with a stunning bouquet, with colours to match not only the season but also the ganz wunderschön warmth, flare and joy of the market. On a grey day, it’s the best possible pick-me-up.
(Flowers at the Freiburg market, November 2019)