There are old, medieval stories in which Burgundy plays a big role. The action also takes place there in the German Nibelungenlied, although the capital of the kingdom is Worms. However, the city is about 400 kilometers away on the Rhine and there is also Xanten where Hero Siegried comes from. But the Burgundians have migrated west over the centuries.
Burgundy is of course famous for its wine. But I don’t see any of that on the drive to Dijon, after I’ve finished my breakfast in Luxeuil-le-Bains and set off on my motorbike to the south-west. Only wheat fields far and wide. And small villages.
I wasn’t aware that Dijon was in Burgundy. I only know the city from the labels on the mustard jars on the supermarket shelves. I’m excited to see what the city has to offer.
Is the city more about than just mustard?
I go chasing owls
I treat myself to lunch in a small bistro: pasta with asparagus. I have to wait for the tent with the wine. I park the motorbike at Place de la République. The friendly waitresses in the bistro give me tips on what to see in the city.
The girls draw my attention to the fact that in Dijon there are little owls on the ground that you can follow for a city tour on your own. Little owls? Good, then on the chase!
From Republic Square I walk in the direction where I see most of the towers. I want to drift through the old town without a fixed plan and count on stumbling over one of the owls sooner or later.
In Dijon lies the administration of Burgundy Free County, in French Bourgogne-Franche-Comté. Also, Dijon is mustard capital, but so far I haven’t seen any of that.
Where’s the mustard?
As soon as I reach the cobblestones, I also notice small bronze arrows on the ground. Finally the owls are here! The birds are cute.
The Path of the owl: Le Parcours de la Chouette
The route along the owls is called Le Parcours de la Chouette and follows the most important sights of the old town.
Unintentionally I end up on the central square of the old town, the Place de la Liberation in front of the Ducal Palace. From there I stroll past the Great Market Hall and come across Notre Dame Cathedral. In the beautiful park Jardin Darcy there is even a triumphal arch in the square of the same name. A touch of Paris.
I get lost in the alleys of the old town. When I think I’ve traversed all the streets now, I still find some that seem unfamiliar to me and at the end of which a promising old building looms.
In Germany, most cities lack this dimension after their destruction in World War II.
For such a small town, the old town is remarkably large.
Notre Dame particularly catches my eye because of its impressive facade
One of the city’s most famous sons was Gustave Eiffel. The legendary engineer and master builder, who gave his name to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, was born in Dijon in 1832.
Seriously, where’s the mustard?!
But I don’t come across a monument to him or a souvenir shop with a selection of mustards. Wandering aimlessly, I’m sure these things exist in the city, but I would have expected more of the Dijon stereotypes.
I’m happy to talk to people on the street again and ask them to take a picture of them. Everyone is happy, but not everyone agrees that the pictures will be published.
I love street photography
In the park I meet Tony who is very surprised about my offer. Marion is reading a book in Darcy Park. Masha is smoking in front of a fake salon and Muriel serves me in the bistro and drinks a tonic water with me at the end of her shift.
Ich bin überrascht, dass die meisten Leute sehr gut Englisch sprechen. Das Klischee sagt über Franzosen, dass sie außer ihrer eigenen Sprache keine andere dulden. Doch ich begegne sehr offenen und kontaktfreudigen Leuten, mit denen ich mich gut unterhalten kann.
I thought that I could easily walk through the old town in one or two hours, see everything and continue on my motorbike for half a day. But the small town with just 160,000 inhabitants has so much to offer that I can spend six hours here without getting bored.
In the end I pack my things and leave. I still have to find a place for my tent for the night. Impressed by the city and its people, I leave Dijon.