I knew it wouldn’t be the same, and I didn’t even want it to be. The first time I was in this medieval town was late September 1978, when I joined a few dozen classmates to spend a year abroad. Since then, I’ve returned to Fribourg a half-dozen times, so I’ve witnessed the evolution of this town.
Still, memory is a funny thing. Walking down the Rue de Romont, I can see in my mind’s eye the tea-rooms and cafes. A lot has changed.
My favorite place on a Sunday morning, for a cafe crème and mille feuille has closed. Le Chasseur, famous for all-you-could-eat raclette, is gone. But there’s a McDonald’s and a Burger King. Indian, Japanese, Thai restaurants abound, a reflection of a more diverse population and the tastes of Fribourg’s newer generation.
I lived on the Boulevard de Pérolles, number 13, in a tiny closet of a room tout en haut. Most of the shops I remember from my daily walks are gone, with a couple of exceptions. The Rex cinema and tea-room are still there, the tea-room a throwback to a different time. And it still fills up at lunchtime.
I tried to retrace my steps to the Cafe Chemin de Fer, the gathering place for American students. It was popular because the owners, Marcel and Marie, welcomed us, as rowdy as we were. I turned down the Rue de Locarno, but couldn’t remember the way. How could that be? I should’ve known the route with a blindfold over my eyes. Well, forty-plus years later….
Anyway, I figured it out. Now, I knew the old cafe was gone. I’d heard there was an Indian restaurant there in its place.
Look at that! I’ll have to go there tomorrow for lunch.
Anyway, the Perriard and Le Chasseur may be gone, the Cardinal Brewery is gone, cars can no longer drive over the Zähringen bridge and there’s a new, modern bridge on the landscape. There are more cars, roundabouts, and still more building. But the cathedral stands, the Schweizerhalle is still operating, and Fribourgeois still wait on the curb for the walk signal, even when there are no cars in sight.