Monday, January 21, 2013

Ride to the roots


Juniper bushes and grave mound

The bike ride wasn’t to be philosophical but historical, or rather prehistorical. Instead of making the obligatory Sunday afternoon walk to the centre of the town when we were there in that little provincial capital, I proposed my wife to make a bike ride through the fields and woods east of the town. I knew there a few interesting sites and I wanted to take photos.
So a few minutes later we were cycling along the street that leads to the park where once a manor had been. What had been left of the house had been torn down long ago and only a tomb remained.
Arrived in the fields we passed a farmhouse with a striking architecture not typical for the region. We crossed a brook and turned left. The centuries old farmstead had gone. It had become a victim of arson, just after it had been restored. Nobody knows what the reason of this act was. We followed a muddy path, trying to avoid the puddles and pools, and suddenly I saw what I had come for: a grave mound, there in the field. As such it is nothing spectacular but the idea that people had built it millenniums ago for honouring their dead and that it still was there … And then, in the wood behind the field many more: dozens of grave mounds that had withstood the ages.
The toadstool-shaped signpost showed that we had to go left. Again fields, again a little wood and muddy roads. A fence indicated the border of the nature reserve and archeological reserve. It was a place where I loved to come and play as a little child, with my parents. Later, when I was older, sometimes I made there a bike ride after the classes and before I started to make my homework. Nothing had changed since then. Only the fence was new.
We put our bikes against a tree, opened the gate and walked to the heather field. Not just a heather field but one of the few places where you could see juniper bushes. And in front of us the remains of prehistoric farmlands. With some effort you could still see the low embankments that once separated the parcels. Who were the people who had lived there and had struggled to survive on the very poor soil? Where did they come from and where did they go?
When we followed the path to the right again some grave mounds, rather high. The places where these petty farmers had been buried? Or only their leaders? Or maybe they were quite rich then? And what did these people think and think about? But the dead don’t talk anymore so we’ll never know.
Before us a marsh with a mere stretched out. Somewhere behind the trees on the other side there was a dolmen. I took my photos. Then we cycled back from prehistory to history. To the left we saw what remained from the low rampart raised for protecting the tent of a military minded bishop who had attacked the region. In vain. Returned to the present the coffee was waiting for us.

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