We have been to Freiburg a few years ago. When an opportunity arose recently to visit it again, we were looking forward to seeing this lovely university town. The Old Town is not large and perfect for leisurely walks. There is the famous red-stone Muenster, the cathedral which dates back to the 13th century. The university was founded in mid-fifteenth century. The two Town Hall buildings, the old and the new one, both date back to the Middle Ages. The almost twin City Gates add to the charm of the city, and the surrounding mountains provide many picturesque treks. We checked the news on reliable sites like Reuters and the BBC, as well as the city site. They made us feel glum and extra vigilant. A horrifying experience of two women who exited their church to be surrounded by 17 (!) African men; two young women murdered recently; pickpockets everywhere; public toilets are not safe for women anymore… This sounded like a different place altogether.
Indeed, though the town is still picture-pretty and its many attractions are in place, though its many cafes and restaurants are full at meal times, the atmosphere is definitely changed. One of the features of any safe place, especially a university town, is children rushing along the streets after school, gaggles of giggling girls, lots of young people, couples strolling around on a warm evening, and lots of tourists. We saw none of that. Young people either rush quickly to their destination or whoosh by on bicycles. No tourists at all. In the evening the restaurants are full with large groups sitting around the tables but the streets are practically empty of pedestrians. Once dusk falls packs of young men materialize on every corner; they are all well equipped for the weather, wearing good jackets and shoes. The locals steer clear of them. The visitors have no way of knowing which area is unsafe. Is it still possible to be out and about in the evening? Sure, if you move around in large groups, preferably with lots of men guarding a few women.