Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Amazing Cities with Beautiful Walls - Part 1


Avila, Spain

Avila, 75 miles northwest of Madrid and 3,700 feet above sea level, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and with good reason: The city is completely wrapped in well-preserved granite walls built in 1090. Surrounding the city are 88 towers and nine gates, and within the fortification are many religious sites, including the Cathedral de Avila and the Basilica de San Vicente. St. Teresa of Avila was born here in 1515 and is honored each October with a solemn festival, and every day with the egg-and-sugar confection known as yemas de Santa Teresa


Carcassonne, France

Stunning Carcassonne stands sentinel over France’s Languedoc countryside, and its hilltop vantage point made it a strategically important city since Roman times. The city is wrapped by two miles of double walls and more than 50 towers. In fact, the old city is part of a huge castle called La Cite de Carcassonne. (Most of the population now lives outside the wall.) Centuries of neglect almost resulted in the walls being torn down, but an architect was commissioned to restore them. The same architect also restored another famous French landmark. As you stroll the medieval streets, be sure to stop for a traditional meal of cassoulet.


Dubrovnik, Croatia

At the crossroads — and sometimes in the cross hairs — of the Near East and Europe, Dubrovnik learned early to protect itself. Over the centuries, the city walls grew to 80 feet high and 20 feet thick in some places. The walls, forts, bastions and towers were all in keeping with its role as a major maritime power.  Today, the walls are a reminder of all the rivals it has fought off since the seventh century — the Saracens, Turks and Venetians, among others. They also make great venues for the popular Dubrovnik Summer Festival, when people flock to the terrace of Revelin and Lovrijenac forts for theater and live music. Enter by the Pile Gate if you want to walk on the walls and get unique views of this Mediterranean port city.


Naarden, The Netherlands

When visitors look down on Naarden from the air, the fantastical walls seem like something out of a Peter Jackson movie. In fact, the star shape was a popular style of fortification in Europe during the 16th century; it originated in Italy and is sometimes called a "trace italienne." Naarden is only 10 miles east of Amsterdam, making it an easy and worthwhile day trip. Take a boat trip around the moat (an actual moat!), and visit the fortress museum inside the walls


Taroudant, Morocco

This fortified city in southern Morocco has long been an important point on the caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech, and its nearby gold and silver mines meant it has enjoyed a flourishing culture since the 11th century. Backed by the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, the red mud walls seen today were built during the 16th century and still encircle the city. Visitors can experience Taroudant’s thriving trade and market culture, especially carpets, jewelry and handicrafts

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