… is a phrase that can have a number of meanings.
If you’re American it implies a period of anger; for an Englishman it indicates a period of inebriation; but if you’re Strasbourgeois it is simply the (phonetic) name of a rather pleasant cycle route.
The ‘Piste des forts’ is a little know cycle path that circumnavigates the city along some of the most beautiful and tranquil byways that Alsace has to offer. As the name implies the route follows the line of some of Strasbourg’s outer defences from, one assumes, the period between the end of the Franco-Prussian war and the start of WWI (why else would the forts be on the French side of the Rhine?).
The only problem being however that the strongholds in question are now so overgrown with bushes, trees and undergrowth that even when standing on top of them – it is hard to imagine exactly where they were, or indeed what they looked like.
This does not detract from the enjoyment of the cycle ride however, which from the Château du Pourtales winds it’s way through the Robertsau forest, along the banks of the river Ill, through a collection of pretty villages and then up to a natural ridge that runs along the city’s western flank; from where you can enjoy views of the Vosges and over Strasbourg, with it’s Cathedral, to the Black Forest mountains beyond. The route then descends down to the old abandoned Bruche canal which runs east-west between Molsheim and central Strasbourg, bringing you directly back to the quartier Petite France.
At this time of year it’s truly magnificent with the fields bursting with colour and the hedgerows alive with the birds and the bees doing their thing. The entire route is very well sign-posted and over 90% of it runs along either dedicated cycle lanes or agricultural tracks. At a rough guess I would say it’s about 35km from Portales to Petite France, with only one hill to climb at Mundolsheim (Fort Ducrot).
The route is marked upon an excellent map published by the city council “Les itinéraires cyclables de la Communauté Urbaine” in 2005. Which you should be able to pick up at the Cité administrative at Place d’étoile, the Tourist office next to the Cathedral or at the ADT office on rue du Dôme.
The one possible downside is the lack of well positioned pubs along the route, which in Britain would be mandatory to truly enjoy a day in the saddle. The most picturesque spot with a well placed boozer is on the river at La Wantzenau, so if you want to truly earn your pint before you get there – it’s best do the route clockwise from Petite France.
In my book a pint is earned for every ten or so kilometres – which means you should have earned at least two, if not three glasses of large by the time you get there. Just try not to fall in the river on your way home, otherwise you could well be branded ‘pissed des forts’.