There are no water fountains here.
Seriously, the last time I saw one was in the Amsterdam airport. They’re not on the street, they’re not in the university, they’re not near bathrooms… and it’s not like German tap water is unsafe to drink or anything. It even tastes great. So what gives? In Freiburg they’ve literally diverted the Dreisam river into little canals, called Bächle, that run along half the streets in the Altstadt but it’s impossible to get a simple drink of water.

Local superstition is that if you accidentally step in a Bächle, you have to marry a Freiburger and stay here forever.

Carrying a water bottle is therefore a necessity. If you really want to be socks-and-sandals levels of German, you’ll just get a soda bottle or something and reuse it for water endlessly. The first time I refilled mine in a public bathroom sink it felt like a defeat, but now it just feels like a necessity for survival. If anyone stares, I’ll just stare back with the frostiness of a thousand Prussian officers’ tombs.

What makes it harder is that it’s less common to drink while eating food here, and if you go to a restaurant or eatery or something you don’t get free water. There’s also no such thing as free refills for drinks you do order (and pay at least 25% more for a smaller portion than you would get in the US). It’s like Germany’s trying to dehydrate you.

And on the subject of water, I can’t write this post without talking about Germany’s obsession with sparkling water. If you go to a restaurant and order Wasser (water), you’ll get a bottle of that gross carbonated liquid. If, by chance, you want water that you might actually want to drink, you can order stilles Wasser, without carbonation… but it still comes in a fancy bottle and costs €2-3! Ordering tap water is an ordeal, and to my knowledge if you do manage to convince the server to bring you tap water they’ll still charge you as if you had ordered bottled water (though I have not witnessed this personally yet).

Probably the most perplexing part of all of this is that this is in a country that’s very, very environmentally conscious, Freiburg even moreso. There are 4 different types of trash/recycling that you have to sort your waste into: glass, paper, food waste, and packaging (plastics/metals). Plastic bags cost €0.15-0.25 extra and it’s assumed you don’t want one if you don’t ask for it, even if you could not possibly carry everything you’re buying in your hands. There’s even a €0.25 tax on anything that comes in a bottle; once you’ve used the item, you can return the empty bottle to a special machine and get your €0.25 back.

So it makes sense that they would want to reduce the overall usage of plastic bottles, and wasteful bottling enterprises, by making water freely available at fountains, right? Nope! Not even Germans have been able to explain to me how this is supposed to make sense. I really do love this country, but it can be weird as shit sometimes.