Quote Of The Day

"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake - Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)"

Thursday, September 14, 2023


What we know so far:-

  • France has some beautiful ancient castle cities. 
  • Carcassonne is one of them. 
  • You need to come to Carcassonne to see it for yourself. You really do.

A pig stuffed full of wheat was once thrown off the battlements of Carcassonne. The woman commanding the fortress at the time was a Muslim. The besieging Christians knew Muslims do not eat pork. What’s more, the defenders must have plenty of food if they could feed wheat to a pig and throw it over the walls. The siege had lasted five years. The attackers were starving. So they left.  

Yup, old cities gain many weird stories. And the fortified medieval citadel in the French city of Carcassonne is no exception. Pig flinging is but one. 

The citadel sits on a hill looming high on the east bank of the river Aude. The fortress city was founded back in Roman times. A few walls, some towers and a couple of barbicans have been added to the place (and some might say improved it) since then. But the mystique remains the same. Today it looks as it did centuries ago - like a chocolate box fortress citadel. 

So naturally the place gets used as the backdrop to loads of films and TV shows. 

The citadel, or Cite, as it is known locally, is actually wrapped in two concentric stone walls that stretch around it for about two miles. 52 towers in the Cite walls (with a odd mix of pointy Gothic and slanty Roman roofs) are complimented by the 52,000 or so daily tourists who traipse through the streets below. Stuart and I were lucky. We went on a weekday. Weekends get ‘busier’ apparently 😳

The only freshness in the air is the ’garrigue’, the scent of southern France, that rises up from the surrounding vineyards - the scent of pine, spices and flowers. Luckily it is intoxicating. It needs to be with all those sweaty tourists. 😅

Tourists aside, the Cite itself is the largest and perhaps best preserved medieval fortress in all of Europe. Within its walls are churches, a basilica, a castle, a meandering maze of cobbled streets lined with ancient buildings and squares. Oh and an Inquisition Museum. And of course dozens of restaurants to feed all those sweaty tourists!

Basilica Saint Nazaire is nice. The count's castle and Narbonnaise Gate are good too. But everyone really comes for one thing really - the views. The views of the surrounding town and countryside from the battlements are truly spectacular.

Gustave Nadaud, a French poet once lamented about Carcassonne: 
"My prayer will ne'er know fulfilment
I never have seen Carcassonne!"  

Don't grieve like Gustave, see the walls, the towers, and the views of (and from) Carcassonne for yourself. They are awesome. 

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