It was supposed to be a super scorcher in the Lower Rhine on our hiking day, so my trusty walking partner Stefanie and I took the 6:50 a.m. train to Lutzelbourg in order to avoid walking in the heat all day. Neither of us had slept the night before for whatever reason. We must have looked like hell to the commuters on the train. No bother, the day was gorgeous.
Lutzelbourg is a tiny village tucked into a steep valley with the Canal de la Marne au Rhin cutting right down the middle of the valley. The town is completely differently architecturally from it’s neighbor Saverne – it lacks the Alsatian charm and instead feels more pragmatic (whatever that means).
The hike literally starts as you leave the train station…well about 100 meters away. Up we went to the chateau of Lutzelbourg. Then we were on a constant up and down rocky path for the next few hours. While we were in the forest above Lutzelbourg we crossed two walkers, who were in their 60s, with dogs. We chatted a bit and I told them how I was using my favorite hiking book for the Vosges (it’s by the Club Vosgien for hiking and using the regional train). One of the walkers, surprised that I knew the book, told us that had he helped write the section that we were walking. I should have told him that a few of the instructions for the hike were a bit vague, but I instead just gave him my compliments.
Halfway through we started naming animals we would like to see on our walk. We were excited to see two gigantic hares crossing the path ahead of us as though they were leading the way. We frightened a young deer that leapt in front of us only a few feet away. Then jokingly I said that my day would be complete if I could see a snake. A few minutes later Stefanie yelled up ahead…a snake! Turns out it wasn’t a snake, but a legless lizard called a slow worm (Orvet fragile in French). Nonetheless we got to see a new reptile that I’d never seen in the Vosges.
The most beautiful portion of the hike was discovered at a chateau ruins called Grand Geroldseck not far from the chateau of Haut-Barr. It was as if we had stepped into a fairytale ruins once we climbed the stairs that had been laid 900 years earlier. A rebuilt dungeon tower and the skeleton remains of a once expansive chateau were perfectly laid out. You could walk along the interior walls and down steps, wander through archways. The water well was still visible. Flowers, nut trees and tall grasses had taken over most of the open spaces, while stinging nettles filled the lowest levels of the ruins. Nature was now king of this castle and it was good.
Once we reached the outskirts of Saverne, I called to an old man walking through a field to ask him what the fastest way to the city center was. He came over to us and our quick question turned into a 15 minute discussion about stress and bone realignment. Since he was 85 years old, I didn’t worry too much when he started giving me a hand massage and telling us about pressure points. It did get a little weird when he asked for bisous (kisses)….but hey! when in Alsace…