We are Richard (English) and Anne-Sophie (French), we met in England and after too many years living the rat race in London we decided to finally take the jump and start a new life in the French countryside (Alsace). We moved to a small town called Cernay at the end of 2009. This blog is about us settling in, to keep in touch with our friends and hopefully also to give some inspiration to other people who are thinking of changing life!
Sunday, 21 February 2010
A walk through the tranches
On a few rare occasions in the last month, it has crossed my mind that moving might have been a crazy thing to do - missing friends back in the UK, missing the pub after work, missing curries and also sometimes missing shopping too (and without saying missing my London salary!). I had a bit of a nostalgic moment yesterday, but a day like today reminds me why we came here and makes all other sacrifices worthwhile.
So far cycling and hiking has been made rather difficult by the snow that still covers all the mountains around here -although Richard has been doing a fair bit of snowboarding. So when we realised that the sun was shining this morning and the snow had started to melt, we decided to go for a walk in the nearby Vosges. We drove passed the lovely villages of Wattwiller (famous for its spring water) and Jungholtz and Rimbach Zell, further and further up a small valley, where we found somewhere to park the Honda.
Following the signs of the Club Vosgien (all the paths in the Vosges are indicated by this association, by signs to follow on the trees) we climbed up and up through the mud and finally the snow, following animal paths and hoping to find a good view of the Black Forest and the Alps.
We were actually walking through a forest that had been a fierce battlefield during WWI, very close from the Hartmannswillerkopf - 18 months fights during the French and the Germans, between 25,000 to 30,000 dead.
It is amazing to see how the landscape is still defined by the war. The ground is uneven; one can see clear paths through the forest where the tranches were; somewhere lost amongst the trees and the snow, a German war memorial.
Sometime struggling to walk because of the steepness and the snow (still about 50 cm in places), it is hard to imagine that in this quiet and freezing forest once took place the most bitter fights, in January 1915.
Carrying our explore further, we found, alongside the ruins of an old castle, a side of the mountain literally covered with old bunkers and old tranches entrances. We could not resist to have a closer look, braving a good half a meter of snow !
We promised ourselves to come back when the snow has gone to explore more of this amazing place.
Later on, as we had stopped to enjoy the quietness and the sun glaring on the snow, we heard noises coming from the bushes. A dear emerged from nowhere, only about 5 meters from us, quickly to disappear into the forest. A few seconds later, its foal passed even closer, looking absolutely terrorised: we could not believe our eyes! Suddenly a dog that had been chasing them through the trees appeared, stopped, stared at us (I got really scared it might attack us for a moment!) and finally, luckily, realised that it had lost the track of the deers and went away in the opposite direction. What a magical moment!
On the way back I noticed how all the kids in the pretty little villages we crossed were so amazingly polite - all saying 'Bonjour' to us. Oh, and there were lots of horses and stables around too, just to make everything even more perfect. What a gorgeous and fascinating part of the Vosges, I just can't wait to explore more!