| by Flemming Funch|
I like the Pyrenees, particularly the foothills. Very green hills and valleys, with the mountains rising up into the clouds further back. Yesterday we visited St Bertrand-de-Comminges, which is a village in the foothills. Today just a small sleepy village. I don't think I even saw any stores. But it is obviously a well-preserved fortified mideaval village on a hilltop. And on top of the hill you find a large cathedral, which obviously indicates that it has been an important place in the past. A great view from there as well. Eagles were hovering over the green valleys. The main parts of Cathedrale Sainte Marie were built in the 11th century by Bishop Bertrand, a cousin of Count Raymond IV of Toulouse, whom I happen to be reading a book about. The church is full of somewhat strange and humorous wood carvings. Lots of pagan influences, The Green Man, mermaids and monkeys, etc. And a magnificent 500 year old organ that is still playable. Having lived in the U.S. for so long, it seems particularly strange and awe inspiring that stuff that's that old can still be standing around.
The town is much older, though. Previously, it was founded in 72 B.C. as the Roman town of Lugdunum Convenarum. It was ruled by Pompei, and grew to a city of 100,000 inhabitants. Lots of ruins have been found, like the amphitheatre and the forum. Seems like you can't dig anywhere without turning up old buildings. Even though the archaeologists can't get their hands on all of it. There's a new school right in the middle of the forum, and somebody's house in the middle of the arena. New stuff built on top of the old. Supposedly archaelogists rent fields from farmers one by one, for a year at a time, dig up what they can find, and turn it back into a field afterwards.