We are now on the canal de la Marne au Rhin and are enchanted by it. Of course it had to be great as we are following the same route as a couple of super luxury hotel boats which are carrying Americans who have paid a fortune to be here.
Like Cath, I can’t stop myself from looking at all the war memorials and from reading between the lines of the bare facts. There is one in Hochfelden commemorating the lives of five young Brits shot down in a Lancaster in 1945. All of them were under 25 and three of them were 19. Amazingly, a sixth crew member did survive and lived until 1976. The evidence of the presence and influence of Brits in this region is all around us. On the towpath by our current mooring there is a bench like ones seen in every park in England with the inscription “In Loving Memory” and a name and dates. I had to walk past it a few times before I realised that it was out of context!
We have not met many lock keepers on this canal unless something goes wrong, but we did meet one by chance on our first day on the canal and he seemed pretty grumpy. When I commented to him that we were cruising through some beautiful countryside, he remarked that it was over-farmed and over-cultivated and that we would see some really nice country when we reached Lutzelbourg (about 25km away). Well, of course he is right! We have travelled up in the valley through Saverne which is a beautiful and immaculate small Alsace town dominated by the imposing chateau des Rohan and up to Lutzelbourg where the pink sandstone outcrops are all around us and the smell of the pine trees is in the air.
We have decided to stop for a couple of days. The moorings are very good and we got the trusty Bromptons out this morning and rode up the canal towpath to the famous inclined plane at Arzviller. This is an amazing boat lift which was built in the 1960s to replace a staircase of 17 locks. You drive your boat into a sort of basin which is then sealed and the whole basin is lifted in cable-car fashion up the side of the cliff to the top position where you drive out into the canal and then almost immediately through a tunnel. For us boatie folk, it doesn’t get much better than this, so we thought we would have a good time anticipating it before actually experiencing it in a couple of days time. We were lucky enough to see our Aussie friends Wendy, Ken and Claire driving in and being raised in the plane. We then rode our bikes along the old tow path and saw what remains of the former canal and the mostly disused lock houses. It was a lovely bike ride through the forest and some of the lock houses are being rescued and lived in which is nice to see.
There are a couple of other things to do here, including another short bike ride to the local Vauban fort at Phalsbourg. Boy, that Vauban, he got everywhere with his fort-building! We are also told that there is a nice walk to the local castle ruins which we can do with Bonnie. The weather is very hot and humid so we are being a bit British and wimpish about collapsing every time we complete one of these tiny little excursions. This evening we plan to try one of the local eateries. There are only two to choose from and we have had good reviews of them both. We are now just in Lorraine, but the food is very similar to Alsace – quite meaty and big portions. The bread is mostly brown and denser than in Burgundy, but quite tasty. Wine and beer are both very good in this region.