Further adventures of the Sissy Pants Riders on the Burgundy Canal

Submitted by mag on

Tunnel Entrance of Canal du BourgogneOur iron-butt mountainbiker friends think people who prefer improved trails are "Sissy Pants Riders".... maybe we should change our domain name to sissypantsriders.com! We loved the beautiful, flat, interesting Burgundy Canal trail so much we spent 6 days here - dodging the rain, stopping for photos every 5 minutes, talking to folks on the canal boats (they were the only English speakers around), and happily making our way from one restaurant or wine stop to the next. It's hard to imagine a more idyllic place for us Sissy Pants types.

A highlight of the visit and high point of the Burgundy canal (literally) is Pouilly en Auxois (pwee nokes to us English speaker barbarians) where the canal was forced underground into a tunnel for over 2 miles! The trail runs right along the top of the tunnel, with "wells" for air circulation the only indication of what's going on below. The tunnel is the exact size of the canal boats, so those crazy enough to brave the tunnel are surrounded by mossy black walls the entire slow way through. Many of the tour boats start on the East (Dijon) end of the tunnel because the passage not everyone's idea of a good time.

The Picturesque Burgundy Canal - #1 of 4 we explored.

Submitted by mag on

Dinner on the porch at Lac Du Panthier ... cold but sunnyThe thing that drew us to the Burgundy region of France was not the wines but the canals! The wine was just a nice lagniappe. Burgundy is notable as the region where the watersheds for the three great rivers of France - the Seine, the Loire and the Rhone - all come within digging range of each other. Since these three rivers link the great open waters (the Atlantic, the Med, the North Sea), connecting them was a no-brainer and the French responded to this rare situation by building an incredible system of interlinked canals that tied all the rivers together so that cargo could get from virtually anywhere in France to virtually anywhere else by water. And where there are canals, there are trails - hence the emergence of Burgundy as one of the premier cycling regions of France.  

The namesake and still the most picturesque of the canals is the Burgundy Canal (Canal de Bourgogne) that links the Nirvais (which connects to the Seine) with the Saone (which connects to the Rhone which leads to the Med and to north-bound canals that connect to the Rhine) by means of a spectacular 2 mile long tunnel at Pouilly en Auxois.   There is a lovely cycle train running the entire length of the canal, so this was our first destination.  We drove to the town of Vandenesse - a charming village near the great turn where the canal makes a sharp turn to follow the Ouche River which runs North to  Dijon.  We were lucky to get a very comfortable camping cabin at Lac Du Panthier - one of the great reservoirs that feed the canals.  These cabins are always fully booked until mid-september when the Europeans go back to work,  so this is a great time to explore this area. We were also lucky to be in a comfy cabin because the sunny weather that had blessed the first 6 weeks of our tour, had finally deserted us, testing our optimism with nearly a week of dreary rain.

We were camped right on the edge of the vast Lac du Panthier, one of the massive reservoirs constructed in the mid-1800s to feed the canals.  Standing on the edge feels like looking down into the pyramids turned inside out.  All the great reservoirs are down about 40 feet or more... we don't know if this is due to chronic water shortage or just a seasonal phenomenonl. 

Lock on the Burgundy CanalBut even so, the sun usually showed its face for a few hours each day and since we were almost right on the trail, we were able to dash out and take full advantage of the break in weather.  This is by far the prettiest, most charming and most interesting of the Burgundy canals.  The locks are about one per km, very narrow and deep and lovingly maintained.  Although now the lock tenders cover several locks and run between them on motorcycles, many of the lockhouses are still is use as homes, restaurants or gites (holiday rentals).  If you can only do one segment of the Canals of France, the section between Pouilly en Auxois (we called it PweeNoekswah which is as close as we can get to the French Pronunciation) and Dijon is the one to visit.

Burg Wildenstein - Reality, myth, legend and imagination

Submitted by mag on

Burg Wildenstein Today was really a highlight of the whole adventure and reminded us of the reason we embark on these crazy adventures on our own. You would never have a day like this on a tour.  The fortress castle of Burg Wildenstein is a world class adventure all its own. 

We can say "We took our bikes up to Burg Wildenstein" - and it's true - we did

Spectacular Danube Gorge

Submitted by mag on

Burg Wildenstein towers above the DonauToday was one of our most gorgeous days of cycling EVER! Perfect weather, crisp and clear and just right to showcase the beautiful white cliffs and crags. From Findingen we entered the impressive Danube gorge where somehow the small meandering stream has managed to cut a half-mile deep gash in the limestone, resulting in towering vertical crags.

The trail was a bit rough but amazingly scenic. We were forced to stop every km for photos. It seemed like hours before we finally came to the Jagerhaus (one of the gasthauses I had considered - only accessible by trail). If we ever come through here again it is a definite stopover.

The trail follows right along the stream nearly all the way, with fantastic views nearly straight up to the vertical cliffs and crags, many crowned with castles, towers, mansions or ruins. Near Beuron we could see the famous and fabulous Burg Wildenstein, now a hostel where we have a reservation for tomorrow.

The Disappearing Danube

Submitted by mag on

The Donau VersickerungAfter all the time spent on the massive immense waters of the Daunbe, the upper Danube was quite a switch!  Near the headwaters it's just a small creek and in fact at one point it dives underground and disappears!.  

We drove from Munich to Sigmaringen near the source of the Danube. On the way we stopped at Riedingen, hoping for a nice lunch but although there were a few restaurants open, no one was serving anything resembling food. A pretty town but not especially friendly. We stopped at the famous “hanging gardens” which had a nice view but the gardens had pretty much gone to seed. Our hotel in Sigmaringen was the Pfefferle, where we got a nice little ferienwonung (apartment).

From Sigmaringen we took a train to Geissingen to start our journey down the Upper Donau. We left most of our stuff in the car at the train station. After the standard “second breakfast” in Geissingen, we set off. We are really glad we didn’t miss this part of the Danube. Although the river itself isn’t much and actually completely dives underground at some points, the scenery, towns and castles are truly spectacular.

Leaving Geissingen the trail was well marked and maintained, but after only a few km we encountered our first Umleitung, which then took off straight up a mountain… we decided to take an obvious shortcut closer to the river valley, which soon deteriorated so we found ourselves in yet another cow pasture… we should count up the mileage we’re forged on through muddy cow pastures on this trip!

Just past Immendingen we encountered the Versickerung,

Back "Home" in Munich

Submitted by mag on

Ein Prosit at the Chinesischer TurmWe rented a lovely ground floor apartment in Munich in a nice area just across the EnglisherGarten and the Isar River from our old apartment in Schwabing where we lived from 1979 – 1981. The apartment wasn’t ready for us until 3, so we parked near Marienplatz and had a good lunch Augustiner Brau Pub – one of our old favorites. We picked up some groceries and spent a quiet evening enjoying the spacious apartment – complete with southern patio.

On Friday we spent a leisurely morning enjoying the quiet of the apartment. It is so pleasant and relaxing we decided to stay and extra day. Later we took a delightful long ride down the Isar River and around the beautiful Englisher Garten. It was cloudy in the morning and the garden was nearly deserted – but the sun came out just in time for lunch and like the touch of a magic wand the beer garden sprang to life! Within an hour the beer garden was packed with noisy crowds, just like old times. Good to know some things never change. We had a traditional beer garden lunch at the Chinesischer Turm – complete with masses of beer, brat hanchen, schweinehaxen and pretzels, and Oompah Band up in the tower. 

Linz to Ulm

Submitted by mag on

Leaving Inzell for LinzBob and Patty got a fancy hotel on the north side of the river. They have decided to take a train to Budapest to get on a Viking Cruise back to Nurenburg. (Here's hoping all went well with the immigrant situation at the train station in Budapest!)

Regensburg, Meeting Old Friends and on to Staubing

Submitted by mag on

Time to moveWe arrived in Regensburg around noon, had a quick lunch, checked into our apartment right near the main square. Our apartment was ultra-modern with every convenience crammed into a tiny space. The plan was to meet up with our friends Bob and Patty tomorrow.This is the third year we've met up with them for part of our journey.

Market Crashes and Wedding Crashers

Submitted by mag on

Maggie's retirement home after the market crashMarina at the "Sailing Lake"After Donauworth the trail suddenly leaves the river and begins climbing steep hills. These are the kind of hills that even with fulll power and lowest gear, fully loaded you're lucky to crawl up at 10 km - but you can fly down as fast as you can stand! We were also concerned about the market which is in freefall so I was happy to find a potential retirement home alongside the trail.  

As a result of all this, we were pretty tired by the time we reached Newburg - and there we encountered one more steep climb up to the walled well-preserved town. This area is quaint and interesting, but pretty tricky for the bikes with steep hills and really bumpy slick cobbles.

On to Donauworth - day of detours and dubious shortcuts with a perfect finish

Submitted by mag on

Happy diners at Cafe Raffeallo DonauworthEiscafe in HochstadtAfter our lavish frustuck we headed out, marveling at the wonderful trial and the elaborate signage system. We were happily following the signs, when a man in a car stopped and started gesturing and speaking rapid German. We explained for the hundredth time “Danke aber wer sprechen nur ein bisschen Deutsch” and continued on. A few minutes later he came back and with gestures told us we needed to go back and turn another way – sure enough when we went back we saw the Umleitung sign we had missed and started off on a dirt road through a cornfield. This worked out fine and soon enough we found ourselves in the pleasant town square of Hochstadt where we treated ourselves to a luscious Eiscafe.

After Hochstadt the signs and maps told us the way to Donauworth was along the left bank… but Google said the right bank was shorter… Jim enjoyed discussing the matter with the corn… big ears/no backtalk. After some debate Jim, Google and the corn won out The path looked OK at first but rapidly degraded until it climbed up a steep levy to a hunter blind it petered out entirely. By this time we were committed as it was a long way back to the bridge, so continued on through the farmers’ fields for quite some time.

Ulm to Lauingen

Submitted by mag on

Orange Hotel UlmWell, it looks like we paid our dues to the weather gods - the weather has finally broken – no rain in the forecast and increasing temps a few degrees every day. We saddled up, bid farewell to Orange and set out down toward the river and across the bridge to the north side, where we picked up a beautiful section of the Donauradweg on a paved trail right along the river. This was about the last paved trail along the river we’ve seen – from there on it’s been mostly crushed limestone – some very smooth and some very rough.

Soon after we left Ulm it became obvious we were in Bayern - blue and white checks everywhere and people on the trail say Gruss Gott instead of Guten Tag.

Orange Hotel - Ulm

Submitted by mag on

Dinner in OrangeWe were worried about where to leave the car for the 3 weeks we will be cycling the Danube. We think we hit on the perfect solution – the Orange Hotel in Neu-Ulm. The Orange Hotel is one of those hotels we call “Human Filing Cabinets” that the French are so good at.

Van Gogh Country

Submitted by mag on

Starry Night TrailFrom Houten we hopped down to the Nuenen/Eindhoven area – Nuenen is famous as being where Van Gogh lived in his early years while developing his style – and for the new Van Gogh Starry night bike trail. Eindhoven is famous as the home of Philips and also as one of the top 5 most bikable cities in the world.


Subscribe to Trails and Greenways RSS