Hiking and pilgrimage in Burgundy
Burgundy is one of the most historically significant regions of France: Here, in Alesia, the Romans sealed the fate of free Gaul, later Cluny was born here and Bernard of Clairvaux called for a crusade. In addition, Burgundy is known for its wines and good food, so made for a pilgrimage with exciting cultural impressions.
Our hike starts in the small town of Auxerre with 35.000 inhabitants: Auxerre also has a very well located pilgrims' hostel a bit out of the way, where you can conveniently stay in quadruple rooms during a hike, but we stay at Hotel Le Maxime right on the river and take us the time to discover the sights of the city:
Auxerre and Irancy
Saint-Germain Abbey, for example, an old Benedictine abbey founded in the 5th century by Saint Germain d'Auxerre with one of his pupils Saturnin. Or the Saint-Etienne cathedral, which was built between the 13th and 16th centuries with its bell tower. Finally, the half-timbered houses in the city center are also worth seeing. You can eat very well in the very good star restaurant Le Rendez-vous.
And then our pilgrimage begins: It leads through the Vallée de l'Yonne out of the city. The path crosses the vineyards of Auxerrois, which are criss-crossed by cherry trees, then ascend like the vine-covered hills and go up and down slightly for a while. However, the hike is never really exhausting and therefore recommended for the inexperienced. Finally we reach the small wine village Irancy with houses from the 17. Century and visit the winery Christophe Ferrari. Irancy is also the birthplace of the architect Soufflot Pantheon, after which also the only very good restaurant in the village is named.
The famous caves of Arcy
Our next stop is Cravant, a medieval village located at the confluence of the Cure and Yonne rivers, a formerly important port of rafting of Morvan wood. A few kilometers further through the Cure valley we hike to Arcy-sur-Cure. Here we have a great view of those cliffs that house the well-known prehistoric caves of Arcy.
From Arcy, the path takes a few kilometers from the river to cross the village of St-Moré and the fortress hill of Cora, which also brought to light prehistoric finds. We meet again at the Cure in Asquins, where Aimeri Picaud wrote the first pilgrim guide.
UNESCO World Heritage Site Vézelay
Pilgrims traditionally gather in front of the relic bust of the Saint Jacques forest to climb the “eternal hill” of Vézelay, which has been an essential stage on the way to Santiago de Compostela since the eleventh century and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This way you also pass the cross where Bernhard von Clairvaux once called for the crusade and the first Franciscan monastery in France.
The Way of St. James to Vézelay connects to the Way of St. James from Cologne through the Eifel to Trier. It leads you through the Mosel valley to Lorraine, then across the Champagne, Burgundy and Chablis to the Basilica of St. Mary Magdalene in Vézelay. In Vézelay then begins the classic route of Via Lemovicensis to St. Jean Pied de Port.
Basilica of St. Mary Magdalene
In Vézelay we stay at the Hotel de la Poste & Du Lion d'Or with a more luxurious ambiance and very good food. A simple pilgrim hostel is here but of course. So we have time to explore this important place of Christianity extensively, which is also a popular destination today.
The ascent to basilica is almost a ritual experience for some people. In the Romanesque cathedral, as legend has it, bone fragments of the eponymous Virgin Mary Magdalene are relics.
Nature and wine on “sacred” soil
The cathedral is surrounded by beautiful parks that offer a fantastic panoramic view of the Morvan and its vineyard. Many artists and writers have found inspiration here over the centuries, from them still announce the panels on the houses. Whether spiritual, literary or poetic, in any case, pilgrims here inhale the spirit of Romanesque art.
We recommend a trip to the winery La Croix Montjoie. Ten years ago, the still young owners deliberately chose the fertile soil of Vézelay and built a modern business here that also attracts many tourists as customers.
Then it goes on to the excellent food in the restaurant Hotel les Deux Ponts - not without having previously caught a glimpse of the picturesque stone bridge over the Morvan.
The destination of our trip is the small town of Avallon, which also offers some exciting attractions such as The Costume Museum, the Marche Couvert or the Church of St. Lazarus. Here we stay overnight at the Hotel Relais Fleuri, before returning to Germany by train via Paris.
Accommodation and organization
If you want to complete your pilgrimage as comfortably as we do, you can contact the agency Richoux Voyages in Auxerre. There several days pilgrimages including luggage transport and accommodation are organized - from 399 Euro.
If you prefer to organize your accommodation in hotels and or hostels yourself, we recommend the fernwege.de Hotel Directory, which lists hotels and hostels along the Way of St. James.
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