Wednesday, 25 September 2013

A hike through Southern Europe: Langres to Dijon

Let's start with the positive: I am finally in excellent hiking mood! Things have improved a lot. First of all the weather has been incredibly good since Langres. After suffering through seemingly endless days of rain I now have the best fall hiking weather possible - and the long term forecast says it'll stay like this for at least another week! Sun, sun and more sun every day! The temperature is above 20 C during the day and hardly drops under 10 C at night. The only thing that reminds me of hiking in fall is the humidity - every morning my tent is dripping with condensation. And of course, the mornings are a bit chilly. But no rain, no wind - this is great.

Also the landscape has become more interesting. Lorraine was actually not the greatest area to hike in - too populated, too industrialised. But now I am in Bourgogne which seems to be a lot more forested. Actually some views reminded me a lot of the Appalachians: Rolling hills and forest wherever you see. Never mind that most of the forest is shrubbery. At least the ground has improved: Instead of clay there now is a bit of duff, but I still tend to end up with bumpy camp sites. No hikers whatsoever, only signs of mountain bikers (although no encounter) and horse riders.

Railway bridge near Velars
Recently the trail has even become adventurous: After weeks of hiking on forest roads and pavement the GR 7 all of a sudden went alpine. I don't know what the trail managers thought when they planned the route. All of a sudden there are ascents and descents so steep that they remind me of the Pyrenees, but at least much shorter.  And of course I encountered this new kind of trail shortly before sunset. With only half an hour of daylight left I had to hike into and out of a ravine on trail so steep my knees were screaming. What looked like an easy afternoon stroll into Dijon turned into several hours of hard work. In the end I was wondering whether I could make the midday train from Velars on the GR7 into Dijon. I did it, thanks to several shortcuts that luckily worked out. But where my map and GPS indicated a train station looked like the boondocks. I was wondering how to cross the railway tracks when a huge aquaduct like bridge appeared - and then an oversized train station with the train even being right in time.

Dijon Musee des Beaux Arts
Dijon was my second long rest day of this trip. After my great experience with the camp site in Metz I tried the same thing in Dijon. The municipal campground in Dijon is slightly more expensive with 7,80 € and a bit further out of town but still a good deal and a nice spot - especially at the end of the season when there aren't many campers. I arrived in a Tuesday afternoon which seems to be the day when French museums are closed. I therefore tried to take care of some business like mailing maps back home and buying a gas canister. I was unsuccessful in all accounts, but with the help of the tourist information I made a plan for the next day. And I was immediately enchanted by beautiful Dijon.

Dijon, Musee Rude
When planning this trip I had seen Dijon only as a convenient resupply stop. I had chosen it because it is close to the GR 7 and not because of its beauty. The more I was positively surprised. Dijon is a fantastic place with a well preserved historic centre, fabulous churches and several free museums. So Wednesday was sightseeing day and a very enjoyable one. In the art museum I even scored a big white piece of paper and after yoging some Scotch tape from the post mistress I had solved my mailing problem. Next was the gas canister. A tram ride brought me to Decathlon but to my great shock no suitable gas canisters. Like in Metz the 240 gram canisters were out of stock. No way I would carry the big size ones. Luckily the shop assistant was helpful and explained to me in which home depot store I could get them. Another tram ride and finally I held the precious canister in my hand. Then some more food shopping and back to the camp site and the end of my rest day.

Tomorrow I am of again with the next long stop now being Le Puy en Velay. Hopefully the weather will hold...

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