Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Vienne, France

Another fun fact (apparently that's my favorite way to start blog posts): Vienne is the French name for Vienna! So again, this is about Vienna France, not Austria (yet...Max and I are going in August!).

Vienne is another ancient city that, like Grenoble, was also a Roman city roughly 2000 years ago. Saturday, June 8, we took a day trip to see the town and to go to the museum, complete with Roman roads/ruins/people dressed up like Roman soldiers. The town was very similar to Grenoble overall in architecture and size, minus the mountains, but it was really nice still to see a different French city.
Up on the hill are the ruins of an old fortress over looking the city.

Really cute street in Vienne.

The first thing we did was go to the weekly marché to look around and to buy food for our picnic lunch. And let me tell you, this market was huge. There was pretty much everything you could think of, clothes, bags, kitchen appliances, shoes, flowers....and then, the food: dozens (maybe over 100) types of cheeses, strawberries and cherries for days, as well as bananas, oranges, peaches, apricots, limes, lemons (all fresh), veggies (again, anything you can think of: asparagus, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, radishes, brussel sprouts, green beans, corn, etc), meats (fish/chicken/beef/pork/more) and anything else you could possibly think of. It puts American farmers' markets to shame.

I apparently forgot to take pictures to show y'all just how huge this market was, but I loved these flowers (and thought Grandma would too!). We went to a really lovely park for our picnic lunch after poking around the market streets all morning (Natalie and I had chocolate dipped merengues for a snack...needless to say, they were amazing). We had so much wonderful food for lunch - rotisserie chicken, olives, fresh bread, cheese, strawberries (French strawberries are out of this world), and cherries. It was all so good, and the park we ate it was really nice.
Some of the picnic food.
photo credit: Holly
Our whole study abroad group! Love these people so much.
After our picnic we headed over to the museum to see the Roman reenactments and ruins.
Roman soldier reenactment.
Seeing all the Roman stuff everywhere made me miss Italy so much - it was kind of strange to think that the Romans were also in France way back when, I tend to forget how much of the world they controlled. The entire outdoors area behind the museum was once the wealthy part of the Roman town, and all the roads and foundations are still there, though no original structure walls remain. I wish I knew everything those roads have seen over 2000 years. It still blows me away every time to think about how long ago those roads were forged. They were once smooth and even, though today they are not remotely that way. 
Roman bath that housed both hot and cold water.
What really blows me away is just how advanced the Romans were. They had underground sewage systems with pipes and everything; bath houses with both cold and hot water (in the wealthy parts anyway); they built dehumidifiers; they built buildings that today's engineers say weren't possible with their level of tool technology. Yes we have electricity, and the 21st century has definitely brought about the fastest progression of technology the world has ever seen, but those Romans, man, they were so far ahead of their time. I don't think I'll ever stop being impressed.
Small section of a wall of a house.
Roman road
It was definitely apparent that this was the wealthy part of town. The technology, first of all, and also the homes. While there were some ruins that were once apartment buildings, there were a few that had obviously been huge mansions, with courtyards in the center with beautiful gardens, ponds and trees.
HUGE courtyard garden of the
biggest house in the neighborhood
 There is a river in Vienne, and this side of the river was the wealthy side, while the opposite side was where the commoners would have lived. I definitely would have preferred the wealthy side, haha. After walking around the ruins with Patrick (that man is knowledgable about everything) we went to look around the tents where people where further demonstrating how the Romans lived. We were able to try wine made exactly how it was made in 1 BC, just as it would have been drunk by Jesus and his friends. In my humble opinion we have greatly improved wine since then; it was very spicy but had no added sugars and it drastically changed to over all taste. I wouldn't want to buy a bottle, but it was neat to taste it and realize how much it has changed in a few millennia. There were also a lot of crafstmen, selling swords, shields, blankets, cloth, and games. There were games set up for kids to play right there, too. We were too old for that apparently, but it was fun to watch.
I'm gonna call this game
"Throw the Penny in the Jug"
It was kind of funny to us that people are so into the Romans that they like to dress up as them and pretend they're them...until we realized Civil War reenactments are no different. Everyone's a nerd about something!
Roman weaving tools

After wandering through the museum itself (basically a lot of tile floors that have been preserved just as they were when they were found; not boring, but not very versatile) we hiked back through town (Vienne is much hilly-er than Grenoble, that's for sure) to see the Roman amphitheater, which is still in use for concerts and plays today! There is a huge jazz festival every summer in Vienne held at the amphitheater, and they were already setting up for that. The contrast of the ancient seats and the modern speakers was really cool - such a commentary on the town and its history. We also got to see a beautiful cathedral, St. Maurice's, as well as a still-standing Roman building that was originally a temple, but over the centuries has been used for everything from a church to a library. It stands empty now, though, I'm assuming because its 2000 years old and they don't want to break it (or something like that). It started to rain just as we were leaving the amphitheater, so we ran to a cafe to get crêpes before getting on the train to head back home. It was a lovely day full of history and culture, definitely a good way to spend a Saturday. :]

Temple turned church turned court turned library
turned museum turned empty.
In front of St. Maurice's Cathedral

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