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Monday, June 27, 2011

France/Spain 2011 - Day 2, Part 6 - Hike to Perdition

"Any man who afflicts the human race with ideas must be prepared to see them misunderstood." - H. L. Mencken

***

France/Spain 2011
Day 2 - 18th March - Hike to Perdition
(Part 6)

I started hiking towards the Castle of Haut-Kœnigsbourg. Luckily I did it alone so I didn't slow anyone down.

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Roadside Shrine

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Châtenois church

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Grape vines

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Path and vines

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In the distance, the Château de Kintzheim

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Various destinations, including Santiago de Compostela, 2,259km away.

Having walked to Kintzheim, it was time to attack the path sloping up.

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Path

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Leaves looking like they belong to autumn

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The trail then went off the paved road

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And became a dirt track again

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Continuing through the forest

Tourist information had said the route was not too hard. The woman was WRONG.

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Both sides led to Haut-Kœnigsbourg. I took the shorter, hoping it was not deceptively so.

When I finally got to the castle, I found that it was under renovation.

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I also found that I had arrived at about 5:05pm, which was 5 minutes after the castle had closed; the supposedly 1 hour hike had taken 2. I tried telling 2 attendant my sob story, but neither was impressed and I was not let in (I was tempted to try crawling past the ticket booth, but among other things it was hard to do so after a difficult hike).

I was comforted by the knowledge that the most impressive part of a castle, from previous experience, was its exterior - and I could still see that. No, this is not sour grapes. Really. All in all, I rate this as my second most tragic travel story (the most tragic is when I walked what must have been 20km to the wrong lake and back)

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Portal of Honour

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South facade

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On the design of the South Facade

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Panorama

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Inside the courtyard (before ticket check)

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Ticket check (entrance to château)

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Site plaque and history

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Star Bastion

As I was being driven away from the château by a taxi driver, he suggested to me that a better idea would've been to take a taxi there and hike down. Ah well, hindsight. The taxi driver had come from Yugoslavia 45 years ago, and he confused me by saying that Yugoslavia had sent aid to Japan (he still referred to the group of countries as such). When I pointed out there was no more Yugoslavia, he said Bosnia and Serbia were the same (I doubt people in the Balkans would feel the same way now). Also he still had no local accent.

The taxi driver was tuned to France Musique, which I found a bit surreal because I subscribed to the same show (Histoire de... [la musique]) on podcast.

Adding insult to injury, I just missed 2 trains to Strasbourg, and the next train was supposed to arrive 1/2 hour late (in the end it came only 1 minute late - as opposed to Italy where the delay just keeps increasing). And for the second time in as many days, when I opened Orangina from a dispenser it overflowed on my fingers.

I'm not sure why people pay 2,5€ for a bottled drink from a shop when the vending machine a stone throw's away sells it for 2€.

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"A la memorie et en hommage aux français d'Alsace morts, victimes de leur incorporation de force dans l'armée allemande en violation du droit des gens
Ici
a commencé en octobre 1942
Le long cheminement de souffrances et de sacrifices qui les a menés vers leur destin tragique
Notre fidélité à leur souvenir restera garante de leur honneur"

("To the memory of and in homage to the dead French of Alsace, victims of their press ganging into the German army in violation of human rights
Here began in October 1942
The long road of suffering and sacrifice which led them to their tragic destiny
Our faithfulness to their memory guarantees their honour")

Another verbose World War II memorial. Given that conscription lasted in France for almost a century, this seems odd, to say the least.

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"Hotel-Wifi"
They're promoting their hotel for its wifi. That's sad. And it was locked anyway, bah.

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"Brules ta banque"
("Burn your bank")

An apparently homeless girl was sitting on the sidewalk with a dog on a leash. She was quite young, and usually homeless people are middle-aged and older and male. I had my suspicious. I gave her my pain aux amandes (almond pastry) I had bought with lunch and the dog growled at me, though it looked friendly. I would've petted it but it didn't seem like it would've been happy; homelessness does that to you. I wanted to take a photo but the flash might've made the dog angry (and the girl didn't want herself to be documented in my exposé of the failure of the welfare state [though she was fine with the dog] - maybe she wasn't really homeless), so I demurred.

I then made arrangements to meet locals for dinner and the next day over the phone. International SMS always had problems, so I called. Pay as you roam at $1.80/minute is an expensive way to practise a foreign language (especially given the indistinctness of telephone calls), ugh.

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Somehow unaccompanied minors cannot use this lift (they'd repaired the lift, and the wifi too!) And I don't know why there's a button for "appel d'urgence" (emergency call) - for a lift. In any event, 5 hot German teens ran into the elevator so I had no chance to take a proper shot.

When I got back to my room, I discovered a Taiwanese student on a Grand Tour of Europe. However he was eating what looked like Madeleines. He said he didn't like baguettes as they were too hard. I suggested he take advantage of 10€ lunch sets, and he said even 5€ for lunch was too much. Go figure.

For dinner I got driven to a restaurant in a ruined castle near Saverne - Haut Barr.

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The thinnest Tarte Flambée ever

I don't know how people just drink an apéritif during a meal - and no water. Alcohol just makes one more thirsty, no?

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Choucroute
I didn't like this, despite it being assorted pork products, as it was too bland (the mustard and horseradish didn't really help)

Talking to my host(s) I found that Alsatians still seemed upset at the Germans, not just for the annexation but also for conscription during the war. So they had to fight relatives in the French army.

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Crème brûlée

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Restaurant interior

Getting back to the hostel, I found that Haut-Kœnigsbourg used to have a shuttle in winter, but last winter there was snow and there had been a bus accident, so they changed the shuttle's availability. The guy added that the shuttle's details kept changing.

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Hostel restaurant menu. It's actually very interesting, and not just for the translations (their German seems better than their English).
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