September 2015

Cosne sur Loire and La Loire a Velo

Submitted by mag on

Stowing bikes in the castle cellar at CosneThe last canal we explored in the Burgundy region was the Loire Canal near the headwaters of the Loire just north of Nevers, on the west side of the Loire right over the western edge of Burgundy. This was the part of La Loire a Velo we missed last year and includes the famous wine regions of Sancerre and Pouilly Fume.

We stayed in a cute cottage "Gîte Vieux Château jardin suspendu" built right into the castle wall. It was very roomy and had a lovely little “hanging garden” terrace. From this base we explored the beautiful but crumbling towns of La Charite sur Loire and Pouilly Fume which are right along the river and easily accessible by bike. We also explored Sancerre which is a picturesque town high up on a mountain type and not accessible by normal cyclists. Times like these you are really happy to have a vehicle! We were also able to buy a case of their famous Sauvignon Blanc, which we couldn’t have done on bikes.

On our way north from Cosne we stopped at the Pont Canal in Briare, where the Briare Canal actually crosses the Loire to connect to the Loire Canal in a spectacular 19th century engineering feat.

Our cottage in the castle at Cosne sur Loire
Our cottage in the castle at Cosne sur Loire
Our cottage in the castle at Cosne sur Loire
Our cottage in the castle at Cosne sur Loire
Stowing bikes in the castle cellar at Cosne
Stowing bikes in the castle cellar at Cosne
Coffee in our hanging garden at Cosne
Coffee in our hanging garden at Cosne
La  Loire a Velo
Near the start of La Loire a Velo
La  Loire a Velo
La Loire a Velo
La  Loire a Velo
La Loire a Velo
Loire Canal
Loire Canal
Loire Canal
Loire Canal
Vineyards from Sancerre
Vineyards from Sancerre
Vineyards from Sancerre
Vineyards from Sancerre
Viaduct from Sancerre
Viaduct from Sancerre
Viaduct from below
Viaduct from below
French estate near Sancerre
French estate near Sancerre
Charite sur Loire
Charite sur Loire
Charite sur Loire
Charite sur Loire
Charite sur Loire
Charite sur Loire
Charite sur Loire
Charite sur Loire
La Pont Canal at Briare - Canal crossing the Loire
La Pont Canal at Briare - Canal crossing the Loire
La Pont Canal at Briare - Canal crossing the Loire
La Pont Canal at Briare - engineering and art
La Pont Canal at Briare - Canal crossing the Loire
Canal boat crossing over the Loire at Briare
Canal boat crossing over the Loire at Briare
Canal boat high over the Loire at Briare
Canal boat high over the Loire at Briare
Loire far below the canal
Loire far below the canal
Steps down from the Pont Canal at Briare
Steps down from the Pont Canal at Briare

The Nivernais Canal

Submitted by mag on

Dinner in the ChapelAfter Canal du Centre, we headed west, making a stop at Clamecy on the Nivernais Canal near the wild region of the Morvan. We stayed in the Auberge de la Chapelle, an inn built in a converted chapel. We had a really special dinner in the dining room which is the former chapel. We arrived early and spent the afternoon riding north on the beautiful wooded Nirvernais, which connects to the Seine. There were a lot of charter boats on the canal – and one right in the middle of the trail! They were also repairing the bridge that the boat struck.  Somebody's holiday gone wrong. 

Clamecy is a charming, very steep town whose main claim to fame is the fascinating history of the “floating forest”. In the 1500s Paris ran out of wood to burn, and turned to the ancient forests of the Morvan. Each spring a massive movement of logs flowed into Clamecy, where it was lashed into rafts which were guided down the river, arriving in Paris in time for the next winter. Each log was marked with a brand to secure payment. This odd industry thrived for more than 400 years only being replace by coal in the early 1900s.  In the morning we rode south on the canal, where there are lots of artifacts 

Clamecy Cathedral
Clamecy Cathedral
Clamecy Cathedral
Clamecy Cathedral
Clamecy
Clamecy
Clamecy
Clamecy
Auberg du Chapelle in Clamecy
Auberg du Chapelle in Clamecy
Auberg du Chapelle in Clamecy
Auberg du Chapelle in Clamecy
Cycling the Nivernais Canal
Cycling the Nivernais Canal
Cycling the Nivernais Canal
Cycling the Nivernais Canal
Cycling the Nivernais Canal
Cycling the Nivernais Canal
Charter boat on the Nivernais
Charter boat on the Nivernais
Charter boat on the Nivernais
Charter boat on the Nivernais
Hey - there's a boat in my trail!
Hey - there's a boat in my trail!
Not everyone should be allowed to charter a boat
Not everyone should be allowed to charter a boat
Jim's moving into a cave on the Nivernais
Jim's moving into a cave on the Nivernais
Cycling the Nivernais Canal
Cycling the Nivernais Canal
Abandoned canal keepers house on the NIvernais
Abandoned canal keepers house on the NIvernais
Fortress on the Nivernais from the 100 years war
Fortress on the Nivernais from the 100 years war
Fortress on the Nivernais from the 100 years war
Fortress on the Nivernais from the 100 years war
The story of the Floating Forest - 400 years of log transport to Paris
The story of the Floating Forest - 400 years of log transport to Paris
The story of the Floating Forest - 400 years of log transport to Paris
The story of the Floating Forest - 400 years of log transport to Paris
Wier built for the log enterprise
Wier built for the log enterprise
Hand operated bridge over the lock
Hand operated bridge over the lock
Wier built for the log enterprise
Wier built for the log enterprise
Dinner in the Chapel
Dinner in the Chapel
Dinner in the Chapel
Dinner in the Chapel

Canal du Centre (#2 of 4) and Voie de Vignes

Submitted by mag on

Cote D'Or Voie de VignesAs I said, we had 4 canals to explore in the Burgundy region: The Burgundy, the Centre, the Nivernais and the Loire. In the Burgundy region we got the full benefit of having a vehicle - we would never have been able to explore so much of this vast incredible area with only bikes and trains. 

So after Vandenesse, we headed south to get a good look at the Canal du Centre and do some more wine tasting. The weather finally broke and we are back to sunshine and warm-enough days.  We got a great camping cabin at Camping des Sources in Santenay and this formed a perfect base for exploration of the area.  Santanay is one of the prettiest towns anywhere - with flower-lined stone bridges and a huge square with a fountain and right on the interesction of the Voie de Vigne (Vineyard bike bourte) and the Canal du Centre.  

From our base in Santenay we could ride out in every direction - first southeast past Chagny, then the next day North on the Cote D' Cote D'Or Voie de Vignes Trail to Beune where we enjoyed a great lunch and another wine tasting, then south west past xxxx until the trail petered out, then west on an old railtrail up through the vineyards to Nolay.  

Especially on the trail to Changy, again the incredible engineering comes in focus.  Here the canal is high up on the mountain top, passing over deep valleys, rivers, the railroad tracks on its way southeast to meet the Saone and eventually to fulfill the great feat of  connecting the Loire to the Rhone.  The photos can't adequately show how high it really is, because you can't get far enough back to get both the canal and features far below in the same photo.  

Cote D'Or Voie de VignesThe day riding up the Cote D'Or Voie de Vignes trail into Beaune for lunch and another wine tasting was another of our favorites. 

On the last day we got rain again so we drove up to the ancient Celtic and  Roman town of Autun to explore the ruins. 

Canal du Centre
Canal du Centre
Canal du Centre
Canal du Centre
Canal du Centre
Canal du Centre
Canal du Centre passes over the railroad tracks
Canal du Centre passes over the railroad tracks
Canal du Centre passes over the railroad tracks
Canal du Centre passes over the railroad tracks
Canal du Centre high above the valley
Canal du Centre high above the valley
Canal du Centre high above the valley
Canal du Centre high above the valley
Town Lavoir - washing station
Town Lavoir - washing station
Town Lavoir - washing station
Town Lavoir - washing station
Canal du Centre
Canal du Centre
Canal du Centre
Canal du Centre
Cote D'Or Voie de Vignes
Cote D'Or Voie de Vignes
Lavoir on the Cote D'Or Voie de Vignes
Lavoir on the Cote D'Or Voie de Vignes
Cote D'Or Voie de Vignes
Cote D'Or Voie de Vignes
Cote D'Or Voie de Vignes
Cote D'Or Voie de Vignes
Cote D'Or Voie de Vignes
Cote D'Or Voie de Vignes
Cote D'Or Voie de Vignes
Cote D'Or Voie de Vignes
Wine and coffee break in Meursault
Wine and coffee break in Meursault
Lunch in Beaune
Wine tasting at Patriarche in Beaune
Wine tasting at Patriarche in Beaune
Wine tasting at Patriarche in Beaune
Wine tasting at Patriarche in Beaune
Wine tasting at Patriarche in Beaune
Wine tasting at Patriarche in Beaune
Wine tasting at Patriarche in Beaune
Wine tasting at Patriarche in Beaune
Wine tasting at Patriarche in Beaune
Wine tasting at Patriarche in Beaune
Wine tasting at Patriarche in Beaune
Wine tasting at Patriarche in Beaune
Cote D'Or Voie de Vignes
Cote D'Or Voie de Vignes
Cote D'Or Voie de Vignes
Cote D'Or Voie de Vignes
Cote D'Or Voie de Vignes
Cote D'Or Voie de Vignes
Cote D'Or Voie de Vignes
Cote D'Or Voie de Vignes
Cabin in Santenay
Cabin in Santenay
Campground in Santenay
Campground in Santenay
Bridge in Santenay
Bridge in Santenay
Boats on south Centre
Boats on south Centre
Boats on south Centre
Boats on south Centre
Boats on south Centre
Boats on south Centre
Marina and Alena's alternate childhood?
Marina and Alena's alternate childhood?
IDef1X??
IDef1X??
trail disappears on the south Centre
trail disappears on the south Centre
picnic on the south Canal du Centre
picnic on the south Canal du Centre
rail trail to Nolay
rail trail to Nolay
rail trail to Nolay
rail trail to Nolay
rail trail to Nolay
rail trail to Nolay
walkin the dogs in Nolay
walkin the dogs in Nolay
lunch stop in Nolay
lunch stop in Nolay
rail trail to Nolay
rail trail to Nolay
rail trail to Nolay
rail trail to Nolay
Santenay
Santenay
Roman amphitheater in Autun
Roman amphitheater in Autun
Roman amphitheater in Autun
Roman amphitheater in Autun
Celtic temple ruin in Autun
Celtic temple ruin in Autun

More Adventures on the Burgundy Canal and Chateau Neuf

Submitted by mag on

Chateau Neuf dominates the landscapeOne of the features that makes this section of the Burgundy Canal so special is the towering image of Chateau Neuf - a fairy-tale castle and town on a spectacular rising crag that dominates the landscape. (Actually the real 1000-year history reads more like a horror story than a fairy tale, with murder, burning at stake, torture and betrayal, but we are sticking with the fairy-tale.) We had planned to spend a night up there but the hotel canceled our reservation at the last minute... but we did manage to make the climb up there several times (NOT by bike!) and got some good photos and a nice lunch (not as good at R. de L'Auxois though). The town and the castle are truly one of the historic treasures of France, and if we do return to the area we will try again to spend a night up there if only to feel the 1000 year-old ghostly echos that only come out at night.

 

The weather finally shaped up and we had a wonderful ride to Dijon along the L'Ouche. We had a great ride and a lovely lunch at a lock house near Dijon. At the harbor where the canal makes a sharp turn north to follow the L'Ouche, we met an Englishman who owns a huge canal boat named Christina - he said he had been cruising the canals of Europe for 15 years and always had plenty of family and friends visiting. We asked if it didn't seem too big a boat for two people to handle - he said the only time they felt it was too big was times like now - he was just painting it and putting it up for the winter. Sounds like a romantic life except for that detail!

We had a sudden rain shower to cap off our ride, but our last evening was gorgeous and we got to really enjoy the lake.

Chateau Neuf dominates the landscape
Chateau Neuf dominates the landscape
Chateau Neuf dominates the landscape
Chateau Neuf dominates the landscape
Chateau Neuf
Our cup runneth over
Soldiering on in Chateau Neuf
Soldiering on in Chateau Neuf
Soldiering on in Chateau Neuf
Soldiering on in Chateau Neuf
Chateau Neuf
Chateau Neuf
Chateau Neuf
Chateau Neuf - Fairy-tale?
Chateau Neuf
or Horror Story?
Chateau Neuf
or Horror Story?
Chateau Neuf
Chateau Neuf
Chateau Neuf
Chateau Neuf
Lunch in Chateau Neuf
Lunch in Chateau Neuf
15 years cruising the canals of Europe in Christina
15 years cruising the canals of Europe in Christina
15 years cruising the canals of Europe in Christina
15 years cruising the canals of Europe in Christina
Canal Boat on the L'Ouche
Canal Boat on the L'Ouche
Canal Boat on the canal L'Ouche
Canal Boat on the canal L'Ouche
Lunch at a Lock House on the Burgundy Canal
Lunch at a Lock House on the Burgundy Canal
Beware of the geese!
Beware of the geese!
Mistletoe taking over the trees
Mistletoe taking over the trees
Jim banks 1000 K-credits under the mistletoe
Jim banks 1000 K-credits under the mistletoe
Evening on Lac du Panthier
Evening on Lac du Panthier
Evening on Lac du Panthier
Evening on Lac du Panthier
Evening on Lac du Panthier
Evening on Lac du Panthier

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.

 

Amazing to think of the engineering technology and the financial commitment of this feat in the early 1800s. The tunnel has been functioning for nearly 200 years, but the canal was never really profitable due to the speed and size constraints. (this was, of course, well after George Washington & Co learned the hard lesson of the C&O canal but before the French learned the even harder lesson at the Panama Canal). Our amazement at the entire Burgundy Canal network has left us with the urge to seriously study the history of canals. Some amazing stories buried in the facts and events. Anyway it seem clear that the French pioneered many of the canal engineering techniques, especially the vast system of feeder lakes that keep the incredible high canals flowing along. (more on this when we get to the Central Canal system). 

Canal Boat on the Burgundy CanalWe met the people on the Savoir Vivre canal boat (last couple pics) - Americans on a one-week tour - savoring life very slowly.... They seemed to be having a good time and said the food was great! We debated whether we would enjoy such a trip (when we get old of course!) After passing and re-passing the same boat numerous times and thinking about a week to go from Pouilly en Auxois to Dijon... we thought it might feel a little slow. But maybe... who knows what we'll feel like next year?

The photos tell the story of the lovely current-day result of their efforts - one of the most charming and delightful rides anywhere in the world.

Sorry for the photo overload... do you know you can advance to the next pic by clicking on the picture? You only need to use the arrows if you want to back up.

Scenic trail on the Canal du Bourgogne
Scenic trail on the Canal du Bourgogne
Lock House  on the Canal du Bourgogne
Lock House on the Canal du Bourgogne
Tunnel Entrance of Canal du Bourgogne
Tunnel Entrance of Canal du Bourgogne
Tunnel Entrance of Burgundy Canal
Tunnel Entrance of Burgundy Canal
Long way down to Tunnel Entrance of Burgundy Canal
Long way down to Tunnel Entrance of Burgundy Canal
Jim braves steep steps to
Jim braves steep steps to Tunnel Entrance of Burgundy Canal
Tunnel Entrance of Burgundy Canal
Can you see him down there?
Can you see him down there?
Can you see him down there?
not goin' in there...tunnel du Bourgogne
not goin' in there... no way
Tunnel Entrance of Burgundy Canal
Tunnel Entrance of Burgundy Canal
Riding on top of the tunnel
Riding on top of the tunnel
Air wells Tunnel du Canal du Bourgogne
Air wells Tunnel du Canal du Bourgogne
Air wells Tunnel du Canal du Bourgogne
Air wells Tunnel du Canal du Bourgogne
The East end of the tunnel
The East end of the tunnel
Rain shelter at Pouilly en Auxois
Rain shelter at Pouilly en Auxois
Rain shelter at Pouilly en Auxois
Rain shelter at Pouilly en Auxois
working the locks on the Burgundy Canal
working the locks on the Burgundy Canal
Canal Boat on the Burgundy Canal
Canal Boat on the Burgundy Canal

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 Nivernais (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.

Boef Bourginogne at Restaurant de L'AxiosWe also discovered a really notable restaurant in the Town of Vandenesse the Restaurant de L'Auxois, where I was able to discover first hand the way Boeuf Bourguignon  is meant to taste and to be presented.  With a fine Cotes D'Or pinot noir - one of the best meals I've had - ever.  Later on, on a cold rainy day, I attempted a facsimile in our camping cabin - and entire bottle of wine reduced.  Actually not bad - I plan to perfect the recipe once we get home. 

 

If you decide to explore this section, I definitely recommend campground at Lac Du Panthier and the  Restaurant de L'Auxois at Vandenesse.  If you can get up to the top of the crag, you should definitely plan a meal and if possible an overnight at Chateau Neuf, one of the most spectacular and picturesque castles and walled cities in France.  We did manage a few meals there, but our hotel reservation was canceled by the hotel, so we didn't get to stay over night.  

 

Our comfy cabin at Lac Du Panthier
Our comfy cabin at Lac Du Panthier
Our comfy cabin at Lac Du Panthier
Our comfy cabin at Lac Du Panthier
Restaurant de L'Auxois at Vandenesse
Restaurant de L'Auxois at Vandenesse
Restaurant de L'Auxois at Vandenesse
Restaurant de L'Auxois at Vandenesse
Bouef Bourguinon at Restaurant de L'Auxois
Bouef Bourguinon at Restaurant de L'Auxois
Bouef Bourguinon at Restaurant de L'Auxois
Bouef Bourguinon at Restaurant de L'Auxois
Later on a cold rainy day
Later on a cold rainy day
I tried it in our camping cabin
I tried it in our camping cabin
not bad - needs more wine and better beef!
not bad - needs more wine and better beef!
Harbor at Vandenesse on the Canal de Bourgogne
Harbor at Vandenesse on the Canal de Bourgogne
Lock on the Burgundy Canal
Lock on the Burgundy Canal
Lock house on Burgundy Canal
Lock house on Burgundy Canal
Fishing on the Burgundy Canal
Fishing on the Burgundy Canal
Yes they DO catch BIG FISH on the Burgundy Canal
Yes they DO catch BIG FISH on the Burgundy Canal
Lockhouse on Burgundy Canal
Lockhouse on Burgundy Canal
Boats in harbor at Vandenesse on the Burgundy Canal
Boats in harbor at Vandenesse on the Burgundy Canal
Lac du Panthier Campground on the Burgundy Canal
Lac du Panthier Campground on the Burgundy Canal
Dinner on the porch at Lac Du Panthier ... cold but sunny
Dinner on the porch at Lac Du Panthier ... cold but sunny
Dinner on the porch at Lac Du Panthier ... cold but sunny
Dinner on the porch at Lac Du Panthier ... cold but sunny
Lac du Panthier - Reservoir for the Burgundy Canal - water way low
Lac du Panthier - Reservoir for the Burgundy Canal - water way low
Lac du Panthier - Reservoir for the Burgundy Canal - water way low
Lac du Panthier - Reservoir for the Burgundy Canal - water way low

Cote D'Or - Heart of Burgundy Wine Region

Submitted by mag on

A  Grand Cru - the top tier of Burgundy vinyardsFrom Burg Wildenstein on the Danube we had a long drive with a heart-stopping descent on the East side o the Black Forest into Freiburg and from there a rather tame drive to the Burgundy Cotes D'Or region of France. The first 2 nights were spent in a small wine village north of Beaune (Bone). We lost our brilliant streak of clear weather and hit a spell of cold rain in France - a good time to spend down in the dank moldy wine cellars! 

The wines of Burgundy are known the world over and the French wring every drop of mystique, prestige and pomp from their reputation. We went to a couple of guided wine tastings and managed to learn a little about wine in spite of ourselves. The vineyards in Burgundy are extensive and climb the mountains and hills in all directions. But the vineyards are not vertical and spectacular like in the Mosel - they are more rolling and peppered with the great wine chateaux like Pommard and Montrachet.  We were disappointed to learn that the harvest was already complete - earliest on record due to the hottest sunniest summer on record.  Apparently it was saving all its cold rain for us!

The soil is all well drained, and ranges from a chalky rocky soil resulting in "mineral" taste vs. a "Fruity" flavor from richer soil. Confusingly, all the red grapes in the Burgundy Region are Pinot Noir and all the white grapes are Chardonnay (except for a small amount of Beaujolais and Pouilly Fusse is the southern region near Macon). The vineyards are rated into 4 categories with the tippy top 5% being Grand Cru and the next about 10% being Premier Cru (the rest are Village and Regional). We asked (being Americans and engineers convinced that logic should apply to all problems) how the ratings were assigned, how often the ratings changed, who decided etc... They looked at us with shocked expressions and said "Oh they never change... they were assigned in the 1700's" to pieces of property." Oh well - so much for our attempt to understand great wines by applying simple logic. Nevertheless we did a lot of wine tasting and found many reasonably priced wines that we liked very much.

Our apartment in Ladoix-Sirigny
Our apartment in Ladoix-Sirigny
Vineyards near Beaune
Vineyards near Beaune
Vineyards near Beaune
Vineyards near Beaune
Rain in Beaune
Rain in Beaun
Rain in Beaun
Rain in Beaun
wine tasting and tour - Bouchard
wine tasting and tour - Bouchard
wine tasting and tour - Bouchard
wine tasting and tour - Bouchard
wine tasting and tour - Bouchard
wine tasting and tour - Bouchard
Thomas Jefferson tasted here!
Thomas Jefferson tasted here!
wine tasting and tour - Bouchard
wine tasting and tour - Bouchard
wine tasting and tour - Bouchard
wine tasting and tour - Bouchard
wine tasting and tour - Bouchard
wine tasting and tour - Bouchard
A  Grand Cru - the top tier of Burgundy vineyards
A Grand Cru - the top tier of Burgundy vineyards
A  Grand Cru - the top tier of Burgundy vineyards
A Grand Cru - the top tier of Burgundy vineyards

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 take our bikes

(in a wimpy way -   securely lashed in the back of our cargo van). It's technically possible to ride up the half-mile vertical rise to the 11th century fortress perched on top of a pinnacle, but probably not for us and anyway not our idea of the best way to spend the day.  

After a quick visit to the Roman Museum in Mengen (interesting but nothing was in English so most of the exhibits were lost on us) we drove to Burg Wildenstein. This is a fabulous 11th century fortress castle perched on top of a crag high above the Danube gorge. It has been converted to a hostel. You actually get to stay right in the ancient castle and almost the entire castle is open for exploration. The rooms are simple but the setting is spectacular.

We had a perfect day for it - bright and clear - and needless to say the views of the valley were captivating and we had the place to ourselves.  Being engineers by trade and romanticists at heart, we had a glorious time investigating and imagining the life history of the castle over the last 1000 years. We spent the afternoon exploring the entire castle and its environs, and then hiking down the almost impossibly steep trail that meets up with the DonauRadweg at the bottom of the chasm.  The trail is so steep it drops right below the castle but there is so much foliage it's impossible to get good photos.  

The castle is fascinating with lots of huge rooms (surely the knights' hall), exposed timbers, hidden passages, secret rooms and blind alleys that end in tiny balconies overlooking the courtyard. And since the place was practically deserted, we were free to let our imaginations run wild.  Above the chapel there is a room built on top of the roof with no apparent way to get to it...  the only way, we found, was through a secret round portal in the roof of the private chapel... we didn't learn the purpose of the room (there was really no one around to ask!) but were sure there was a romantic story behind it.  

The evening was eerily beautiful and another opportunity for flights of fancy over the turret tops. Plenty of  ghosts - you could feel their presence clanking around with heavy feet echoing like Lightfoot through the ancient passageways...

"'... a ghost from a wishin' well

 In a castle dark or a fortress strong

With chains upon my feet

You know that ghost is me

And I will never be set free 

As long as I'm a ghost that you can't see "

 

Burg Wildenstein
Burg Wildenstein
HIstory of Burg Wildenstein - 11th Century - half mile up
HIstory of Burg Wildenstein - 11th Century - half mile up
Burg Wildenstein the Legend
Burg Wildenstein the Legend
Burg Wildenstein built right into the rock
Burg Wildenstein built right into the rock
Burg Wildenstein
Burg Wildenstein
View of the Donau Gorge from Burg Wildenstein
View of the Donau Gorge from Burg Wildenstein
View of the Donau Gorge from Burg Wildenstein
View of the Donau Gorge from Burg Wildenstein
View of the Donau Gorge from Burg Wildenstein
View of the Donau Gorge from Burg Wildenstein
Admiring the view
Admiring the view
View of the Donau Gorge from Burg Wildenstein
View of the Donau Gorge from Burg Wildenstein
Trail down the face of the gorge
Trail down the face of the gorge
Trail down the face of the gorge
Trail down the face of the gorge
Burg Wildenstein from the trail
Burg Wildenstein from the trail
Trail down the face of the gorge
Trail down the face of the gorge
The inner gate of Burg Wildenstein
The inner gate of Burg Wildenstein
Inner gate - view from the mote
Inner gate - view from the mote
Burg Wildenstein
Scale that wall, men! ignor the boiling oil...
How did they build this thing?
Built into the crag
Built into the crag
Built into the crag
Built into the crag
My private courtyard at Burg Wildenstein
My private courtyard at Burg Wildenstein
Passage to the private Chapel
Passage to the private Chapel
Door to the Chapel at Burg Wildenstein
Door to the Chapel
Private Chapel
Inside the Chapel
Inside the Chapel
Look up! - secret portal to the secret room
Look up! - secret portal to the secret room
The "secret" room over the chapel - only one way in!
The "secret" room over the chapel - only one way in!
The Knights' Hall
The Knights' Hall
Timbers inThe Knights' Hall
Timbers inThe Knights' Hall
Courtyard from my secret perch on the roof
Courtyard from my secret perch on the roof
Burg Wildenstein
my secret balcony
like a ghost from a wishing well.
Dining hall
Dining hall
The door to our room
The door to our room
OK - not so romantic in here!
OK - not so romantic in here!
oh, but the view from the window!
Evening in Wildenstein
In the Evening the ghosts walk
Evening in Wildenstein
Evening in Wildenstein

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.

 

We arrived back in Sigmaringen hungry and thirsty, but as usual too late for lunch. So we loaded up the car and drove to Mengen where we had a reservation. We were hoping to check in and find a grocery store to pick up a snack - but no such luck. The town was clogged with a street market that we couldn’t find a way to get through to the hotel, and when we did get through the hotel was all locked up. We waited and waited and finally at 4:30 called on the phone and a woman came down and checked us in. By this time we were hungry and cranky, but no stores in sight, and the streetmarket food did not look at all appealing. So - Mengen was not our favorite hotel room or town, but finally 7:00 came around and we did get a good dinner at a Brazilian steak house.

Findingen
Findingen
Donau Radweg leaving Findingen
Donau Radweg leaving Findingen
Donau Radweg leaving Findingen
Donau Radweg leaving Findingen
Donau Radweg leaving Findingen
Donau Radweg leaving Findingen
Castles above the Donau Radweg
Castles above the Donau Radweg
Trails gets a little steep in places
Trails gets a little steep in places
Jagerhaus on the Donau
Jagerhaus on the Donau
The way to Burg Wildenstein - straight UP!
The way to Burg Wildenstein - straight UP!
Burg Wildenstein towers above the Donau
Burg Wildenstein towers above the Donau
Burg Wildenstein towers above the Donau
Burg Wildenstein towers above the Donau

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,

where the Donau disappears into limestone. Most of the water surfaces in Aach and from there flows south to the Bodensee but apparently at some times of the year at least some of the Donau continues to flow through the gorge. At Findingen we checked into the Gasthof Sonne hotel, and lunch at ScharfEck (artists corner) the oldest halftimbered house in this area of Germany. No stores around so bought a bottle of wine from the bar at Sonne, napped, then had dinner at Sonne.

Riedingen
The pretty but unfriendly town of Riedingen
Climbing to the Hanging Gardens
Climbing to the Hanging Gardens
View from the Hanging Gardens
View from the Hanging Gardens
Upper Donau
Upper Donau
Umleitung through the farmers field
Umleitung through the farmers field
Crossing the tracks at Immeldingen
Crossing the tracks at Immeldingen
The Donau Versickerung
The Donau Versickerung
The Donau Versickerung
The Donau Versickerung
Third Breakfast at The Donau Versickerung
Third Breakfast at The Donau Versickerung

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