Our Barge, Odysseus

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Up the Doubs to Besancon, June 22

After spending Sunday cleaning up and generally re-preparing for departure, Monday morning at the crack of 9:30 we were off. Herr Benz was purring away nicely, and a good thing, too. All during the week of the engine replacement it had been raining and a good portion of the next two days travel would be on portions of the River Doubs.
Construction of the Canal Rhone au Rhine was begun in 1784 but not completed until 1833. Most of the canal was enlarged to it's present size by 1882 but it wasn't until 1921 that the last portion was updated. From Dole to Dampierre, the canal ducks in and out of the river. If it has been raining, as it had been, the current can be quite strong. In fact, the canal authorities had closed the canal for several days the week before because it was running too strongly. We found some of the river stretches on Monday and Tuesday something of a struggle, making only about 4 km per hour against the current. Since we were trying to be gentle with the engine for it's first few hours in the boat, we didn't want to push it too hard.
By about 1:30 Tuesday afternoon we arrived in the city of Besancon.
From McNight: "Originally established in Gallo-Roman times, Besancon has a long and rich history, sometimes as the center of an independent province, sometimes under Spanish rule. It's most notable feature is the hilltop Citadelle, fortified by Vauban in the 17th century.
Notable feature is right.

The entrance to town on the Doubs.

The city occupies a giant bend in the river; in fact the Doubs almost doubles back upon itself and the fort occupies the high ground at the narrowest point of the "buckle." Two tunnels, one for cars and one for boats, pass underneath the Citadelle, eliminating the need to go all the way around.
We tied up at a nice free mooring right under the walls, deciding to spend a couple of days.
Of course the next day we had to make the hike to the top of the hill to take in the view. Besancon was spread out below us and if you look carefully, you can see "Odysseus" and "Zee Otter," another barge from Saint Symphorien owned by Peter, a hot air balloon pilot, and Judy, a former ballet dancer, tied up on the pontoons below the fort.
The fort had most of the comforts of home so the soldiers and their help would be able to withstand a seige. The complex was really very elaborate.

After dark, the fortifications are illuminated, making a very dramatic scene.

Thursday night we watched the US soccer team defeat Algeria to move on to the second round of the World Cup. The only problem was we were in a bar full of Algerians so we had to be very circumspect when the US scored the only goal of the match in extra time.
We decided we really liked Besancon. It is a university city so there is a lot of activity; there was a nice "buzz" about it. We wouldn't mind coming back here sometime in the future. But for now, the river level had dropped, the current had decreased and it was time to move on.

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