I left Vilnius on October 13th. From Vilnius the train in the summer of 1862 wasnít going directly to Warsaw yet. But the line had just been opened in March between Vilnius and Kaliningrad, formerly Konigsberg and then a Prussian city. Madame de Bourboulon couldnít have taken any other railway line and this is the line I followed to go to Kaliningrad on October 14th.
The city is a mess, worst than anything I had seen so far in Russia. And the worst is that it used to be one of the finest cities in Europe before the Second World War. It was so depressing that I went through without stopping and turned south along the Baltic Sea to cross into Poland the very same day.
The city of Braniewo where I stayed for the night was a pleasant surprise after seeing Kaliningrad. So close and so far apart. I left Braniewo the next morning. Within a few kilometers I realized that the motorbike had already covered 10 000 km since the day it left Japan more than four months ago. As a reward I decided that I would give the bike a slow and short ride.
At Malbork, I turned south and stayed in a very nice B&B, in the small hamlet of Wirty. It was so nice that I decided to stay for an extra day. On the 17th, I continued to follow the railway line that goes from Tczew to Krzyz. In 1862, Poland wasnít independent and Pomerania was then entirely in the kingdom of Prussia.
On October 18th, I crossed the Oder River and entered Germany. I went through Berlin the next day and stopped in front of the Reichstag. I had visited the city 17 years ago when the wall went down. I still had the memory of those very old cars coming from neighboring eastern countries fully packed. Western and Eastern Europe had finally been reunited.
I spent the night in Burg, a city where Clausewitz was born, at the Pension Villa Wittstock, a very nice B&B built in 1900. The two following days, I continued to follow Madame de Bourboulonís path through what was then northern Prussia all the way to Aachen and then LiŤge in Belgium.
After reaching Namur, Madame de Bourboulon had two options to reach Paris by train: the longest via Brussels and the shortest via Charleroi. But she could also have taken a shorter way and followed the Meuse River through the Ardennes. Although the railway line wasnít entirely finished between Namur and the French border at Givet, a distance of 47km, she could have taken either a coach or a boat. In 1862, from Givet, the line was already opened and then direct to Paris.
I followed the Meuse River through Belgium all the way to Sedan in the French department of the Ardennes. This region is typified by a steep-sided valley, the Meuse Valley, named after the river. I stayed in Sedan for a few days and, on November 10th, I left that city for Paris, which was Madame de Bourboulonís final destination. But this time, it wasnít by motorbike but by car that I covered that distance of just over 300 km.
The sun was just setting over Paris when I finally stopped in Montparnasse ending a journey of five months across two continents; covering a distance of 20 000 km among which 12 000 had been done by motorbike.
The aim of my trip is to follow as closely as possible the journey Madame de Bourboulon made in 1862 on horseback between Beijing and Moscow though Mongolia, and to stay wherever she stayed. She was supposedly the first European woman to have made such a voyage. Although she stopped taking notes after reaching Moscow, she continued her journey all the way to her ch‚teau south of Paris. Iím planning to end my trip there as well.
For those who can read French, I have another blog with a daily report, more details as well as pictures (and a link for even more pictures on Flickr) which is updated more often. It can be found at the following address: Sur les traces de Madame de Bourboulon
There are also some stories (in English) regarding the visits Iím making along my journey to some confluence points for the DCP (Degree Confluence Project). The goal of this project is to visit each of the latitude and longitude integer degree intersections in the world, and to take pictures at each location. The pictures, along with a narrative describing the adventures it took to get there are then posted on the DCP web site. My stories appear at the following address: Fabrice Blocteur's confluences
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