Having hit 130 days of nonstop travel, our EU Austerity Drinking Tour needs a moment of sober solace. The last three days in Burgundy have climbed Beaune’s premier cru vineyards, visited the Hospice de Beaune, and Dijon’s medieval gems.
Today we wake at 9am, feast on chocolate croissants, then hop train to Montbard. Our small map puts famed Fontenay Abbey nearby. Since UNESCO declared Fontenay a World Heritage Site on our birth-year, it must be worth a day trip. But the 6 kilometer march, without sidewalk, near freezing, turn this into surprise penance.
Halfway, our tired feet discover a lovely ancient chapel:
But then we enter a time capsule, a world trapped between the Romanesque and Medieval. Here poor, pious Cistercians worked a self-sufficient life. They founded it in 1118 because their founding Abbey wasn’t austere (aka miserable) enough.
First stop, church:
Albeit amazing, we soon realize we have yet to see any of the typical anthropomorphic carvings or delights of other chapels, churches, or monasteries. Fontenay was a deprivation chamber. Only thought of the divine had a place here.
But there was always work. Like a bookend to the Basilica, on the other end of the campus, was the forge:
However, these monks were as smart as they were hardworking. That hammer is attached to a massive, churning, hydraulic wheel: making it Europe’s first metallurgical factory, possibly its first industrial plant.
Later years saw English kings and Popes visit Fontenay. The French revolution turned it into a paper mill. Turn of the last century restorations returned Fontenay’s austere charm.
I freeze outside trying to draw it, while my smarter wife enjoys the museum. Then we face our hike back to Montbard. The world turns from Burgundian pale grey to something more brooding, deep, blue, and fired with pink flame.
We soak for our three hour our walk back to Montbard’s station (with a grocery store dinner between). But the day and abbey cleared our minds, preparing fresh ground for a trip out of France, to stick our toes in Luxemburg. Although only in Burgundy four days, we must leave before we get too attached, and before the fish starts to stinks as my grandmother once said.