The train to Herrlisheim takes about 10 minutes. It's only 6 km according to the highway signs, though I'm sure on foot it wouldn't be that.
The town is on the worng side of the tracks for my destination up the hills to the west, but I go in search of a sandwich, in case the village uphill has nothing for lunch. One ham & cheese, check. Oh, and one of those chocolate cookies there! Breakfast was kind of light for a day of labor. Yeah.
There's a map of various trails posted in a parking lot by the bank, but no landmarks showing where to actually catch them. There's a blue, a yellow, two greens, and a red. A combination of blue-yellow-red will get me up to the Trois Chateaux. Perfect, if I can get started on the right track.
Indeed, it seems the three towers on high are not the lookouts of one massive castle, but three independent castles. How strange. They're so close together, and so obviously from the same period, they must have been inhabited simultaneously. They're like rowhouse chateaux. Wonder if there's a shared yard.
Or in fact any yard. It's steep up there.
These mysteries in mind, I go off for the immediate challenge of crossing the railway, and then the freeway. An unpleasant 20 minutes of heavily used roads later, I'm in the vineyards.
Here, oh so happily, there are no fences. There are not even indications of where one property ends and the rival's begins. Now and then I spy a trail marker, but why bother - I don't know at this point if I should go right or left. Just as good to wander about in the general direction of my goal.
Where the rows between the vines have not yet been cleared of their spring weeds, bright flowers ascend the green rows marching up and down the hills.Men with funny tractors are busy this morning taking care of all that disorder; straightening up the vines adventuring in forbidden directions, and clearing away the spots of buttercup yellow and poppy red.
In the village of Hussern, there's another map indicating a loop up to the 3 Chateaux, but again no indication of where the loop hits any of the roads. Just look around, I suppose. Up this alley and that one there's mostly dead ends, but I find a dirt track that seems accessible. Going in the right direction...
My sandwich is seeming rather a puny lunch, and my bottle of water utterly inadequate. Shops always close at 12 or 12:30, so I have a few minutes to score something, if only I can find a shop. Quite a trick around here, unless you're looking for a vintner's.
Ah, here is one, tucked away behind purple walls and not advertising its modest self at all. The woman is clearly surprised to find a shopper, or maybe just a face in her shop she doesn't see every day. Cold beverages? Er... There is a single cold soda, a Coke Zero, rolling around at the bottom of the fridge, behind the box of spare carrots. (I would say rejected carrots, but she clearly intends to sell them later.) I'll take the Coke, and the last half dozen apricots, please. Perfect.
Once you get past the last row of houses, there's a whole spiderweb of trails and tracks leading vaguely upward through the heavy woods. Soon signs appear, with arrows for the 3 Chateaux. The sun is invisible through the thick canopy. There are no views over the plain, and the Chateaux remain hidden by the trees and the extreme angle.
Even the top of the ridge is covered with pines, preventing any view of the Chateaux until you're right up on them. Impossible to get a photo of all three, since at either extremity of the site the land falls off into nothing.
Not that there's much left to see. Each Chateau was tiny; not more than the donjon (tower) and a few auxiliary rooms now barely footprints outlining their space.
The one in the middle has some solid-looking wooden stairs and platforms going up for a great view from the top, but it's all inaccessible behind a huge rusted iron gate. Alas. Otherwise it's pretty much a dull pile of rocks. The 3 Chateaux are best admired from afar, where your imagination can fill in all the missing stuff.
The various proprietors of the vineyards each have their tasting and sales rooms in the village. I'd love to stop and have a glass, escape for a moment from the midday sun that's making me think I should have brought some sunscreen. But, while you're invited to taste, this is a series of small sips destined to make you figure out which one to buy. On foot as I am, buying wine is out of the question.
The tasting also occurs in the cave, or cellar, rather than under a tree or an umbrella on a flowery terrace. So forget it. What I need is a just a simple bar with chairs on the sidewalk, but there isn't one. I'll just have to walk all the way back to Herrlisheim and then the train to Colmar for refreshment.
To get back to the train station I decide to try to follow the marked trails. Take the yellow, then change for the blue, going right, just after the yellow leaves the green. Keep on the blue until it T's, and the quick way is on the right.
That works pretty well, except for the T at the end, which isn't properly marked. By that point my feet have been seriously tenderized, and the extra 3 or 4 km to find a crossing-point under the freeway are not appreciated.
I have 44 minutes before the next train, and was really looking forward to something cool to drink. The restaurant at the station is closed. On vacation. Back in the center of town, nothing is open at all except for the bank. Feh. I go in, but the lone teller has a crowd, and in unlikely to leave his post to refill my water bottle in the back room. Near the station there's a candy manufacturer with an open sales room. Yeah, tried to avoid going in there, but what's a parched girl to do? The cashier is pleased to fill my bottle while I pick out what goodies to snack on...
In the last 15 minutes before my train, the very same train I arrived on yesterday, the sky decides to rain.
For just three minutes.