EUROVELO 6 ADVENTURES – – ZURICH to BESANCON FRANCE
DAY 3 MULHOUSE to DANNEMARIE
Today was a cool overcast day and the ride for most parts was along the edge of the Canal du Rhône au Rhin. The travel publicity shows images of riders being kissed by the sun but this is not always the case as we found out today. The region has an annual rainfall/snowfall of around 1180mm (47 inches) spread over 140 days and although there was no significant rain today it was cold and we were prepared in our wet weather gear.
The ride was basically flat except for when the path approached a lock, or where the roads led to villages away from the path. To understand the lock path configuration I have prepared a sketch (below) and it is easy to see how useful the Add-e motors were in helping us up the rise prior to each lock. At each lock there is a cottage where the lock keeper is on hand during the summer months to help both novice boaters and commercial barges through the locks.
There are approximately one hundred and twelve locks along the portion of the Canal du Rhône au Rhin we rode (from Basel to Besancon). In summer the canal would be ‘chockers’ with all manner of boats including commercial vessels making their way across France from the River Rhone to the Rhine and vice versa.
The distance between each lock varies but it seems it is around one to two kilometres between locks. The following drawing shows the path and canal profile.
In days gone by most of the traffic on the canal would have been commercial and horses would have walked along the present bike path pulling their load. Evidence of horse days is still present, the following image shows where the towrope came in contact with a bridge abutment and wore grooves.
It’s interesting to note that the towline goes from the horse harness to the top of the mast on the barge, which was done to make steering the barge easier. If the towrope was connected to the bow of the barge then it would be difficult to keep in the centre of the canal.
Prior to horses being employed gangs of men pulled barges as horses had advantages: they were less expensive and easier to control. The phrase ‘being taken for a mug’ (made a fool of by someone taking advantage) evolved from when men pulled barges. It related to the owner of the barge negotiating with a group of men to pull his barge from one destination to another. The negotiations were usually done the day prior to the task being undertaken and to seal the deal the owner would buy the men a mug of beer. If the men contracted to do the job didn’t turn up the following day the barge owner was ‘taken for a mug’.
Today was not a good day for a picnic so we headed for the village of Eglingen where we found a restaurant.. I usually like to keep an eye on our loaded bikes when we leave them so in this instance I leant them against a fence. An old lady immediately flung open a window and began abusing me (in French of course) and I assumed she was raving about our bikes damaging her fence. My reaction was to act ignorant and I congratulated her on her fine garden and commented she must have spent a lot of time there and she should be proud of it. The net effect was the window slammed in disgust.
The décor of the restaurant presented itself as an upmarket establishment and certain French food presentation protocol was observed. An example was the first course, soup served in a huge bowl.
Horse meat is gamey and a cross between beef and venison. The meat from young horses is a tad pinkish in colour and darker in older horses. In Australia I know of nobody who eats horse meat, however there is a story relating to the eating of horse meat that I will now take the opportunity to write about. In 2009 Bev and I were living on an Aboriginal community in East Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. An Aboriginal family befriended us and the elder often took us out bush. Buffalo, pigs and wild horses abound in East Arnhem Land and on one occasion a mob of horses crossed our path and I asked the elder if they ate horse meat. His reply was a positive no. Upon enquiring further, he told me his great grandfather had died after eating horsemeat which had been laced with strychnine by the early European settlers who occupied the land with the result that two hundred aborigines died: from that day on they have never eaten horse meat.
At 1280 kilometres from Nantes on the west coast of France (where the Velo 6 starts) we came across a cyclists’ respite and because it was afternoon and the town of Dannemarie was nearby we decided to find accommodation for the night. The café (https://aux100pates.fr.gd/ ) specialises in pasta but at closing time at 3pm a hot chocolate had to suffice while we enquired where to go.
In Europe it has been realised that if you provide facilities for cyclists they use them, except in winter of course. The above restaurant and bar is an example, outside winter this establishment would be humming.
Over the past four years that we have been encountering the past there have been two occasions where the accommodation has been simple but filled with character and provided us with all the comfort we needed. One was in Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina when we stayed in an old apartment in a building that still held the scars from bombing during the 1990s war. The warmth of the residents and the memories they shared of that horrific period added to our travel experience. The second was on the island of Kythera Greece, a simple self-contained room with cooking facilities outside in the garden. Tonight we added a third to our list, the Dannemarie bed and breakfast located in an old house near the centre of the town.
The house in the following photograph was taken in the early 1900s and has changed little. It was set up as a restaurant by the grandfather of the present owner.
The mattress enveloped us, the eiderdown was heavy and the loo was down the hall but it suited us just fine. The bed was reminiscent of a ‘grandma bed’, the sort I slept in when I visited grandparents sixty-five years ago. The night was cold and we slept well and I do hope we find more beds like this one. It was best described as homely and cosy.
Staying at the Dannemarie house was a step back in time. The communal kitchen located in a semi-open area had basic facilities and an air of the 1950s about it. I do believe cycling groups avail themselves of the accommodation during the summer season and it was easy to imagine the raucous air at mealtimes.
The owner of the lodging had what I consider a quirky personality as he had an obsession with time and temperature. There were clocks and thermometers on every vacant piece of wall space. The following images show a unique collection of timepieces.
In the town of Dannemarie there were some very old half-timbered cottages, some rundown and some restored, many dated back to the 1600s. The following photographs show examples of both.
When the horizontal timbers in a half-timbered house get to the above state of decay it is a major project to do a restoration. It is not a simple matter of plastering over the rotten timber, it’s a whole rebuild. Plastering over a wall traps moisture and eventually the plaster falls off, such as the case here.
Fortunately not all half-timbered houses in Dannemarie were in a poor state of repair, although poorly maintained houses do give the town a certain ancient appearance which is one of the contributing factors as to why we like France. Following are a few images of houses of Dannemarie.
That’s the end of this post. The next post takes us from Dannemarie to Longevelle-sur-Doubs, a village on the Canal du Rhône au Rhin. The day turned out to be one of the coldest days during the ride and accommodation was not easy to find but a good samaritan came to our rescue and helped us find a place to rest. If you have not already clicked on FOLLOW please do so but only if you want to be alerted each time we do a new post. Make a comment too if you wish.