Saturday, August 25, 2012

I will take my city fortified, please

The view from our apartment

Well our luck is still holding out, we decided to go and see the fortified city at Carcassone and were very lucky to get accommodation at such a late stage. But then we received an email telling us that our accommodation had been damaged and that we were being moved somewhere else for the same price if we wanted. We accepted as we had nowhere else to go and hopped on the train to our mystery new abode. Well it was unbelievable, a fully decked out 3 bedroom apartment, with bath, fully setup kitchen, washing machine, dishwasher, lounge, patio and garden that overlooked the river, the park and the fortified city. Must have been worth at least twice what we paid, woo hoo.

A model of the city from the top
Church on the left, castle in the middle

We had only one full day here as our only reason to come here was to visit the fortified city, so after a good nights sleep we set off along the Aude river and across the bridge to see it (oh I forgot to tell you the apartment was walking distance to it). The city itself was testament to either the dangers of medieval times or the paranoia of the city's rulers, or both.

Along the ramparts
The castle
It started with a moat followed by a large stone wall. Then came an area of no man's land followed by another stone wall. Inside this area was the city itself and it is still in use today with hotels, shops, reastaurants etc. Then tucked away in a corner is another large stone wall, followed by another moat, with a huge bridge across to the castle. As you wander around the ramparts and other areas of the castle you see many other signs of paranoia. For instance the initial castle gate (before the moat) had its tower open at the back so that if the first defence was overrun then the attackers would have nowhere to hide and could be taken out by the archers. Another example was that the entrance into the castle had two large gates, each one having to be lowered from a different floor of the tower so that collusion among traitorous guards could be minimised.

The history of the city goes back nearly 2000 years and in its present configuration it was impregnable, driving away many an army. The only time it was taken was when the ruler Trencavel was tricked into it during the crusades when he was imprisoned while negotiating his city's surrender. There is even a torture museum displaying the tools of the trade of the crusading Catholics.

Cath├ędrale Saint-Michel de Carcassonne

Spending a day here made us feel like we were in a production of King Arthur and we even ate dinner within its walls, wandering lazily along the river back to our apartment as the sun went down. We needed a good night's sleep as the next day was a full day of travelling that was not even going to get us all the way to our destination. Yep it was going to take us two days to get to the Tuscan region of Italy (stopover Genova).

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