Friday, September 18, 2009

Castles south of Dijon

O.K. We're back talking about our trip to France again. So, on our first day of sightseeing, we set out in a rented car and headed toward Beaune, pronounced "bone". Why the French have to use so many vowels in their language is beyond me...

So, we head out in the general direction, and we come across this lovely castle. Yes, it is lovely. Surely they would want us to see it up close, don't you think?

But alas, it was not to be. You see, this is not a castle really; it is a... school!
I'm not kidding. It is a school. So, peering in at it through the gates is as close as we got to it. It would give a whole new meaning to public education, if my children went to the castle-school each day.

So, we kept driving along in the Burgundy countryside. We were able to finally get to another castle that was still operating at a vineyard/ winemaking establishment. I love the neat, short rows of grapevines.
This large stone wall separated the vineyard from the castle entrance.
And I have no record of the name of this castle. All I know is that if you are heading from Dijon to Beane, you'll find a converted monastery that looks like this. We're in that picture down there...
It seems like the monks were the first in this area to see the importance of cultivating grapevines for their wine. They became the first businessmen of the wine industry. And combining their religious power along with economic prosperity made them quite a powerful group during this time.

Will was particularly fascinated by the wooden style wine press that managed to crush 2 tons of grapes all with mechanical power alone. These people were extremely smart about engineering and design.
It took four men to turn the crank and lower the press, while four others added and subtracted wooden levers into the press to make sure the operation was level. It is a skill that you would have to learn by experiencing, rather than going to school for it. In fact, there's no reason, in my mind, that they could not continue to do it in the same manner today, except that this type of tradition would be very dependent on an experienced worker overseeing the entire production and training others to do the same. In other words, "a lost art".
All of these castles had a courtyard with a decorative garden and statues. This statue symbolizes the man who carries the grapes to the press in a basket, usually weighing 80 pounds each.

All of the castles we visited had a place of worship also.

Inside the courtyard, looking at the various "rooms" of the castle.

The original well that provided all of the water for the many who worked at the castle.
Justify Full

I think there should be horses and chariots, not cars surrounding the entrance.

Here they are: real grapevines ready to be picked. I was wondering this: Why are these beautiful grapes just sitting here? Why are they not being picked?

And then, as soon after I had that thought, I saw teams of workers out in the field picking the grapes, by hand, no less. They were dressed in plain clothes and appeared to be friends and family of the vineyard owners rather than hired workers. Apparently, these grapes are too precious to just let "anyone" touch them.

To think that these vines and this building have been here since the middle ages is boggling to me. It was absolutely beautiful.

If you are planning a trip to Dijon, I found this neat site:


Becky said...

Absolutely beautiful! I can't believe that was a school. It was a lovely building. It makes me want to study Frech harder and beg my hubby to go.

Mrs. Parunak said...

The age of things boggled me in Europe, too. I remember visiting a castle in Germany and walking down a stone staircase. The steps were all dished out from generations upon generations of daily wear.