Burton Dane Travels

We're traveling through Europe and parts nearby for a year. We'll be posting our pix and adventures here.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

From Digne to Carcassonne, one hotel at a time...

Ok people, the van is fine. We are only staying in hotels because its cold and we are sick. I gotta say the CNN access is pretty cool though. How about those DEMOCRATS! How about that Don RUMSFELD?

Anyways, my convalescence began in Digne-Sur-Bains after two rough nights with the Mistral winds in Arles. Mark, always thinking of me, thought he had just found a nearby hot springs to help me recover fast. Alas, it appeared closed, at least until the following Monday morning. We went on to enjoy an excellent provincial market, The Gorge du Verdon (largest gorge in Europe), and multiple Andy Goldsworthy exhibits! In the picture above, we had also inexplicably become the lucky free visitors that day at the Musee Gassendi, and the Reserve Geologique showcased several cairn installations along an outdoor trail. By Monday morning, the springs were looking too crowded to pursue so we opted out.

Our next stop was Carcassonne, a spectacular castle in South-western France. The place began as the Gallic village of Carcaso in the second century; then as the Roman fort, Castellum (they kicked the Gauls out); finally,it was held by the Visigoths for awhile and they named it Carcassona (after they killed off the Romans). The place became a full-on feudal fort with multiple defensive walls and devices enough to repel the Franks in the 6th century but not the Saracens in the 8th century. In Charlemagne’s time it belonged to the Franks, a fellow called Trencavel who lived during the 13th century. In Trencavel’s day there was a religious heresy in place known as Catharosy--as opposed to the Catholic brand of heresy--it was a fascinating thing, adherents believed the soul was God’s and the body was the Devil’s so most of them ended up starving themselves to death.

Well, anyways, religious beliefs notwithstanding, this 13th century civilization had a really big problem because Pope Innocent III sent a crusade against them and though Trencavel was sheltering a variety of besieged people (Cathars, troubadors, Jews, intelligent women) all were killed by Simon de Montfort and his 20K+ crusaders (and assorted mercenaries and tag-alongs hoping for salvation). By 1240 it seemed obvious to the French Kings they needed to beef-up the defenses and they added another circling wall that worked against the British during the 14th century, but by the 17th century, the place was abandoned and crumbling. It was “restored” to some level of fashion a hundred years later so it now resembles every fairy tale you can think of. It was occupied by the Germans during WWI and WWII, but folks moved right back after they left.

Now THATS a STORY! Its taken three days of convalescence here to figure all this out! What a blast to touch 1800 years of construction and wander it freely, though I have no idea how we are going to get the van out of here tomorrow!



  • At 3:02 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    hope you are all feeling better by now and hope Ben gets some hats soon. Kissy says Hi

  • At 2:09 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Mark, I think you need a time-out from being allowed to type the blogs. Julie I really enjoyed all the info you gave about the place and assorted people. Have fun and take care of yourselves. Love,

  • At 7:19 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Hi Jules, I loved the description of Carcasson. Did you know that the word "cathartic" originates in that absolute annihilation of the cathars, and presumably the great emotional release experienced by the crusaders? I have no idea why that factoid surfaced. Sylvia


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