Observations from the saddle of a bike: Canal cycling France: Mulhouse to Dannemarie



The most commonly ridden portion of the Euro Velo 6. Nantes is near the west coast of France and Budapest is the capital of Hungary.

Map for today. 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.

Dressed for possible rain on the smooth traffic-free bike path along the canal.

The flat tow/bike path and approaches to a lock.

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.

The rise up to the lock.

A lock and cottage.

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.

Drawing shows the profile of path we traversed along the canal.

Lock gates and bay along the canal.

A pleasure barge about to come in contact with the lock bay. It is essential to approach locks straight on otherwise a spot of crunching and scraping can be expected.

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.

Grooves in a sandstone bridge abutment made by the rope used to tow a canal barge. In the days of horse drawn barges the fence would not have been there.

Two horses pulling a barge on Finowkanal in the late 1800s. Image credit: In the public domain via Wiki Commons.

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’.

Modern day horse drawn pleasure barge. The towing rope is attached to the centre of the roof of the barge. Image credit: From a tourist brochure, UK.

Pleasure craft moored for the winter on the Canal du Rhône au Rhin. Occasionally in winter the canal freezes.

One of the many villages along the Velo 6.

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 country restaurant in Eglingen. Succumbing to the old lady’s abuse I parked our bikes in a rack outside the hotel, out of my line of sight.

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.

Tasty soup in a fancy bowl.

Side on view of the fancy soup bowl.

Main course of beef. Or was it horse?

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.

Dannemarie Marina. Wide expanses of water where boats can be moored are called ports, but it’s hard to imagine a harbour or port so far from the sea.

Cycling and boating stop on the outskirts of Dannemarie, the restaurant Aux 100 Pates. https://aux100pates.fr.gd/

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.

Low on patronage at this time of the year. Canal and bike path on the left of photo.

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 Dietmann bed and breakfast details.

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.

Circa early 1900s.

The bed and breakfast today.

Simplicity at its best, our bedroom. No fancy accoutrements, a low carbon footprint, just how we like it.

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 guest communal kitchen.

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.

A musical face and an obvious message.

What is the significance of the large 1, 3, 5, 6, 9 and an upside down 8?

The workshop attached to the house.

Inside the seldom used workshop.

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.

A fine example of the half-timbered method of building.

A decaying wall.

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.

Loved and not loved. Pigeons were flying in and out of the open windows of the house on the right.

The loved red, white and blue house.

A wonderfully restored house.

Are these two people the original owners of the house back in the 1600s?

Built in 1671, that’s 346 years ago. I think the timbers in this house have been cared for.

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.




About tbeartravels

It's been said that I know a little bit about a lot of things and a lot about little things. I hope I can share some of this knowledge with you as we travel.
This entry was posted in Odyssey #5 2017: Cycling in Europe. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Observations from the saddle of a bike: Canal cycling France: Mulhouse to Dannemarie

  1. Kevin and Sue Dewar says:

    Hi Guys,
    Another great read and great photos, especially those of the beautiful old houses.
    Cheers Kevin and Sue

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