Backpacking through Europe. The idea sounds great, in theory. Trekking through the mountains on foot, soul searching your way through the European mountain peaks. Sounds like the prime adventure. Sure, unless you’ve seen any movie…ever. So, unless you’re aspiring to be Reese Witherspoon, I’d recommend a rental car or train. I don’t mean to cheapen the experience but, I am directionally challenged and in Europe. I would much rather have the added security of GPS or someone else driving. Takes some of the stress out of getting from point A to point B.
Personally, a trip by train through the French Mountains sounds perfect. Starting at the Ardennes, making my way through the Vosges mountains, then on to Jura and ending up in Mont-Blanc to end in Chamonix, France. With so many options on how to get there deciding which adventure I actually want to take is what is taking the most time.
Ardennes in Belgium is the start of this particular adventure. The Ardennes mountains are covered with greenery as far as you can see, covered in forest. The allure of the mountain is its history in relation to past wars. Its dense forest interiors were used by armies in the past to provide cover during battle. Today, our strategies have changed. We don’t practice face to face combat anymore so this area no longer appeals to military strategists. But, it is great for its outdoor activities like hiking and canoeing. Spending the afternoon exploring the beautiful valleys would not be a waste of time.
Then on to the Vosges mountains. This mountain is in Alsatian plains of France but borders Germany. Its ambiance is a mixture of both German and French. It’s a very natural atmosphere. But, my destination here would be Saverne. The Chateau de Rohan’s and the Place of the Unicorn. Right in the center of town legend says that over 1000 years ago a Unicorn dipped its horn into the water in the center of the town of Saverne. So because of that, the water is said to have healing power. Another afternoon well spent.
Next is Jura which borders Switzerland and France. It’s full of natural scenery. It has great hiking paths where you can see natural formations like the Creux du Van. It was formed by natural water erosion and kinda reminds me of Europe’s version of the Grand Canyon.
Finally, the mountain de jour. Mont-Blanc. Mont-Blanc borders France and Italy. Where there are insane tourist attractions on either side of the mountain. It’s safe to assume that since both towns border the 11th largest mountain in the world, that skiing is in abundance. Mont Blanc is 4808 meters above sea level. If having that told to you in metric’s isn’t impressive. Allow me to translate. That would be about 15,774 feet. A little more impressive? I agree. But, with that in mind, the mountains here are great for more experienced skiers.
The town of Courmayeur, Italy, borders one side, the with some of the buildings date back to the 17th century. But, there are new enough attractions to keep the youth of the world happy. Skiing, nightlife, quaint little cafes, and shops all around. And you can’t beat Italian cuisine, especially when you’re in Italy. Nothing like it. You have to take your time when you’re making your way through this little town. It has the Skipass, the ski lift that gives you an awesome view of the mountains and can take you from Italy to France in 20 minutes. And you can’t leave until you see the Saussurea Alpine Botanical Gardens. The scenery is unlike anything you will ever see.
Leaving from Courmayeur to Chamonix, France on the other side of the mountain kinda reminds me of the Jersey turnpike. Really. With exception to the view of insanely high mountains surrounding the Mont Blanc tunnel that connects Italy to France, the traffic and the ambiance is the same. The tunnel is a toll booth that connects the town of Courmayeur, Italy to Chamonix, France. Since, neither side has ever really decided who the mountain belongs to, “being in two places at once” can be scratched off of your bucket list.