Tuesday, November 20, 2007
The Fall of France
So, this past weekend we decided to go for a short hike with our friend Sami the Finn. Sami the Finn is a pretty active guy – our most ambitious and delicious ventures into the local countryside tend to be at his instigation.
This time, he suggested a relatively moderate three-hour hike near Saverne, slightly to the north of here. This in itself would not provide sufficient “extremosity” to qualify as a true Sami the Finn hike. However, I believe our dour Nordic friend was counting on the forecast fifteen centimeters of snow to provide the challenge he requires for such endeavours.
Sadly, it was not to be. The day dawned as pretty much all days dawn when we’re doing something that will require us to be outside a lot: cold and foggy.
Don't leave me here!
While I was delighted with the fog, Amynah pointed out that there was hardly any point in climbing a big ole hill in order to see a thick mist that would be equally well viewed from the interior of a cozy restaurant.
Nonetheless, we came to climb, and climb we did. Due in part to the fog, and in part to somewhat unclear trail markings, we ended up taking a shortcut that effectively eliminated most of the actual trail.
We weren't the only ones confused, apparently
We saw fog enshrouded trees and fog enshrouded rocks, and a few fog-enshrouded trails, none of which were those that we were supposed to be on. Eventually, roughly at the moment we were going to give up, we stumbled upon the fog-enshrouded castle that was supposed to mark the last 1/8 of the planned hike. At this point, we’d only done, by my estimation, 1/4 of the distance we were supposed to so evidently the local fog was the result of a rip in the space-time continuum.
Yawn. Another romantic castle ruin.
We hiked up to the castle, snapped some photos, and then decided to wander a little further along a side trail which turned out to be the tail end of the trail we were supposed to have been on all along.
Here we stumbled upon the Grotto of St Vitus, a medieval pilgrimage site for those seeking the Saint’s protection against epilepsy. The site is still very much in use, with a well-tended garden and pond. The grotto itself contains a small chapel, which holds services right up until September.
It's a trap, I tell you! A trap!
This is a risk of hiking in the forest around Alsace. I have, by my count gone on at least four pilgrimages since coming here, all quite by accident. You never know when you’re going to stumble onto one of these things – chapels litter the forest like bear-traps, baited with the promise of redemption for the unwary. I don’t think it’s quite right that one should be at risk of having one’s soul saved when all one wants is a nice walk in the woods, do you?