A Heroine, A Pig and A Tale to Tell in Carcassonne.
Carcassonne is a Medieval Fortress with a Heroine, a Pig and a Story
Today’s destination was Arles but our plan was to first switch to a later train to Arles in Carcassonne, so as to have time for a quick visit. Leaving our luggage at the tourist office, we caught a taxi to the medieval castle town (we had three hours before our next train).
The walled town of Carcassonne is a magnificent, and strategically placed, medieval fortress with double-walled fortifications and numerous watchtowers. Continuing maintenance and reconstruction are assuring those in the tourism industry it will remain so. Three million visitors a year cross a dry moat and file through the “S” curved entryway. The “S” curve was designed to squelch any enemies’ thoughts of ramming the main gates.
There are many impressive citadels, fortresses, castles and chateaus in Western Europe but not all come with story about a heroine and a pig.
The legend of how Carcassonne got its name goes something like this:
King Ballak ruled La Cite [today’s Carcassonne] some 1,200 years ago when Charlemagne’s troops began their siege of this fortified town. The dry moat kept the enemy from wheeling mobile towers filled with attackers up against the outer wall. Never-the-less the fortress underwent numerous assaults by impatient and frustrated forces whose main weapon was time … time for those trapped behind the walls to ran out of food or water or both.
During one of these squirmishes King Ballak was mortally wounded. His wife, Carcas, assumed his position as leader, but time was passing and it was reported to her that there was little grain left. In one last attempt to save her people, Carcas, went to each storage bin and swept up what few grains of corn remained. She fed these last handfuls of grain to a pig and then had the pig flung off a high wall in sight of the enemy. Upon impact the stuffed pig burst and its stomach contents were revealed.
Seeing the castle evidently still had enough corn to feed pigs and thus thinking it would be a long time yet before starving them out, discouraged Charlemagne forces packed up and left. Carcas happily sounded the victory bells and the citizens yelled with glee “Carcas sonne! Carcas sonne!” [Carcas sounds! Carcas sounds!”] The name stuck to the town.
A taxi delivered us back to the tourist office in time to collect our bags and catch the train to Arles.
SIGHTSEEING IN CARCASSONNE
Carcassonne Tourism Office
28 rue de Verdun
11890 Carcassonne Cedex 9
Phone: 33 0 468 102 430
Website (English): tourism-carcassonne.co.uk
FOOD & DRINK IN CARCASSONNE
La Maison du Cassoulet
Proud of its authentically prepared Le Cassoulet (a traditional Southern French slow-cooked soupy-stew-like cassorole (from which the restaurant and the dish derives their names) containing meat, foul, white beans and pork skin). Their recipe for this comfort food is not a secret, it’s written on a wall inside the restaurant. They serve other dishes but when in Soluthern France … . Tables close to each other encourage conversations between travellers.
Address: (within the walls) 6 rue du grand Puits, 11000 Carcassonne, France
Phone: +33 4 68 47 61 03