Our Barge, Odysseus

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Saverne and Lutzelbourg -July 27 - 30

I think I've quoted Hugh McNight's "Cruising French Waterways" before regarding this section of the Canal de la Marne au Rhin but it needs repeating; "Given one day to convert a person to the delights of French canal cruising, I would choose to take them along the 20 km of Canal from Saverne to Niderviller in NW Alsace. We would climb through the locks into the steep-sided and thickly wooded valley of the Zorn to Lutzelbourg; journey onwards to where the St. Louis-Arzviller inclined plane lifts our boat up a cliff face, voyage through the pine trees, and finally dive underground through two tunnels towards the more gentle countryside of Lorainne. It is a 20 km microcosm of all that I find irresistible about French waterways."
McNight would do it in a day. It took us a week. All we can say is, "Amen!"
We left Saverne on a cool, overcast Tuesday, negotiated the lock out of town and headed for Lutzelbourg.

Waiting for the green light.

After about 4 hours and 9 locks we were tied up on the bank in Lutzelbourg, surely one of the most beautiful villages in France.

We would spend about four days here, hiking and biking around the Vosges mountains.
Unfortunately, Wednesday we woke to pouring rain. Inez would be catching the 1:30 pm train back to Saverne. She was going to head back to Colmar for some touring of the Alsatian wine country before her flight back to the US at the end of the week. Luckily, about noon the rain stopped so we didn't get soaked on the walk to the station.
Since the rain had stopped, we decided to take a bicycle ride up to the Inclined Plane and check out the flight of locks it replaced.
More from McNight, "Built between 1838 and 1853, the object of the canal was to connect Paris and the north with Alsace, the Rhine and Germany. Considerable obstacles had to be overcome in hilly terrain, hence the many locks and several tunnels…. During the 1950's barge use had practically reached saturation point with many craft being…lumbering..vessels, mainly hauled by the towpath tractors…. The 1960's saw the replacement of the 17 locks in the Zorn valley by the St. Louis-Arzviller inclined plane and the substitution of 6 further locks by a single deep one at Rechincourt. On the 151 km Nancy-Strasbourg section the … journey time improved from about 94 hours to 53.
The ghosts of the abandoned locks replaced by the Plan Incliné are accessible by the old tow path made perfect for bicycles. It was a memorable ride.

An abandoned lockkeepers house and lock.

The old canal is now filled with vegetation.

We got back to the boat just as the heavens opened and escaped being soaked by minutes.
Thursday and Friday were taken up with hikes into the mountains surrounding the village, including one to the ruined 11th century chateau that overlooks Lutzelbourg. While walking around the site it's hard to imagine that people lived in these buildings nearly a thousand years ago.

Saturday morning it was off to the Plan Incliné.

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