So, why am I starting the first page of this trip while sitting on a seat at Frankfurt railway station at 2 am in the morning? Perhaps, because, with our night train delayed by four hours due to the record heatwave hovering over Europe, you look for things to pass the time - more of that later.

We arrived in Freiburg a week ago, at the same time as the heatwave, and it marked our stay. While a bit of a shock after arriving from the middle of a southern hemisphere winter, it was a joy to catch up with our daughter and her family after a six month separation. She, her husband and three children are living in Vauban, a green enclave (both physically and politically) in the city of Freiburg, until the middle of 2020.

As the heat slowly set in and headed up to all time record levels of 40 C, life revolved around morning trips to the swimming pool with the grandchildren, lazing in the cool of the house in the afternoon and getting out for evening walks on the Schoenberg, a rolling hill of green fields, forested groves and 1200-year old vineyards. The views in the evening light over Freiburg were superb.

An evening stroll in the foothills around Vauban

View over Freiburg

Vineyards were first planted here 1200 years ago

The grassy slopes of the Schoenberg

Freiburg will be our base for this European / Moroccan adventure - a place to return for a dose of family life in between travels. Thus, we headed off after a week for our first adventure - a week-long bike ride along the Danube River from Vienna to Budapest. Our plan was to catch the intercity train from Freiburg to Frankfurt and then the overnight train from Frankfurt to Vienna. However, the heatwave had other ideas, disrupting the rail system all over Europe. Our intercity train was cancelled, but luckily we could get another an hour later, which would still arrive in time to catch the overnight train. Plenty of time, as it turned out when we reached the platform in Frankfurt to be greeted by an electronic signboard telling of a 4 hour delay. Our overnight train would be leaving at 4am and our only spot was to lie on a wooden bench with the temperatures still around 30 - just imagine how it will be when climate change really kicks in and starts affecting infrastructure in a major way!

Canoeing the Altrhein River (18 km)

While we were in Freiburg, our granchildrens' other grandmother, Ursula, celbrated her birthday. To mark the occasion, our daughter decided we should all do a canoe trip down the Altrhein, which is only 40 minutes away. As it flowed northwards from the Swiss border, the Rhine River formed a series of meanders and braided river courses. From 1817 on, a massive canal was built to ensure a deep and wide course for the barges and river transport, which left several tranquil, tree-lined side-arms, well-suited to a day's paddling. These are known as the Altrhein.

Canoeing the Altrhein

Thus, five adults and three children set off in three rented canoes to enjoy a day on the river beneath a weak European sun. It was a far cry from the busy working river, less than a kilometre to the east - as we shared the river with numerous waterbirds and an otter and even had a couple of small rapids to run. It was an excellent day, with a cake to share at the end ....... Happy birthday, Ursula!

Riverside lunchstop

Left bank, France.... right bank, Germany

The clouds roll in

Swans gliding by

A small rapid

Stillness of a calm reach

A Walk in the Black Forest (8 km)

One of the many nice things about Freiburg is that it lies at the foot of the Black Forest, a hilly region of dark pine forest, lakes, tradition farmlands and buildings, and small towns and villages. It is criss-crossed with walking trails and only a half-hour train ride from Freiburg Bahnhof. Our six-year old grand-daughter, Lina, had recently been there for a school excursion and wanted to take all her grandparents on that walk.

Thus, the fair Nello, Ursula and I found ourselves on the train heading up to Hinterzarten with Lina on a sunny early autumn day to walk to the Matthisleweiher, a small lake deep in the pine forest. Of course, I forgot my camera, so have used a few photos from Wiki Commons, which showed the lake and the landscape through which we walked.

View over Hinterzarten

The tree-lined shores of Matthisleweiher

Path through the forest

After a short stroll from the station through the streets of Hinterzarten, we entered the pine forest to sidle our way around slopes and undulate our way over ridges, before descending to the Matthisleweiher. Technically it is a bog lake, but that word downplays the beautiful setting of this clear body of water, fringed by pines and scattered deciduous trees.

It was a great place for a slow lunch on a rocky promontory at lake's edge, before heading back on a different route - first through the forest and then through the beautifully green rolling pastures, dotted with traditional wooden buildings. A final descent took us back to Hinterzarten for hot coffees and hot chocolates on a sunny Kaffeehaus deck.

Stroll across the green pastures

A nice rocky spot for lunch

Traditional farm building

It was a great day, and we all slept well on the train-ride back to Freiburg. Thank you, Lina, for sharing your special part of the Schwarzwald with us.