Spoiled Landscapes (1)

Markstein, Vosges, France

Pictures taken during my hiking tours usually show places as I would like to remember them. That is what most people do, of course. One does not go on holiday to make a registry of the ugliness encountered.

It remains unsatisfactory, though. So I decided to make a separate album of just those ugly places – ski runs, parking lots, malls – where the desecration of a landscape stands out as particularly pointless.

The last week of May I spent a few days hiking with my wife along part of the GR5, a trail which runs from Hoek van Holland to Nice. In the Alsace, between the Col du Herrenberg and the Col du Silberloch it runs closely along the Route des Crêtes. This road was built by the French military over the French-German border ridge during WWI. They forgot to close it when the war was over, and nowadays it carries a dense flow of motorised tourism right through the Ballons des Vosges nature reserve. During two days we had no escape from the incessant roar of motorcycle gangs, which seem to relish in curving roads and do not care much for the landscape. When they stop, it is in one of those shabbily built junk towns which have infested all skiable areas. Le Markstein is a particularly depressing example.