April 15, 2016
2459 FRANCE (Grand Est) - The Route of the Fortifications
Located at the crossroads of Germanic world and the Latin world, the Ardennes, named after the Celtic word for deep forest, is dotted with the witnesses of a tumultuous and fascinating history. It is hard to believe that these benign landscapes of wooded hills, looped by the Meuse and Semoy rivers, has seen so many bloody battles down the centuries. The Route of the Fortifications follows the trade routes from the Middle Ages, through places where not rarely was played the fate of Europe.
Today, the French Ardennes, the département that rises north-east from the Champagne region up to the Belgian border, wiggling a finger of land into its northern neighbour, is a peaceful backwater, its landscape roamed not by invading armies but visitors in search of a holiday in a beautiful rural setting. The landscape is littered with evidence of empires past, from the Romans to the medieval princes and the German occupation in WWII.
The population here is sparse, the main towns of Charleville-Mézières, Sedan, Rethel and Vouziers are called home by barely more than 50,000 souls a piece. Yet there is a quaint network of communities to explore, all blessed with a historic castle, mill or church, and diverting sights in larger towns, such as the region's capital, Charleville-Mézières, originally two towns which amalgamated and are joined by a bridge over the river Meuse.
Mezières is the more ancient, a Gallo-Roman settlement and frontier post. The town still retains fragments of its 6th century ramparts, and the Basilique Notre Dame d'Esperance is worth visiting for its modern stained glass windows. Across the river, the younger community of Charleville reveals its story of 17th-century grand designs in the Place Ducale, a vast square lined with 27 Louis XIII-style pavilions, fashioned after the Place des Vosges in Paris, a delightful display of symmetry.
To the east is Sedan, always on the front line of every conflict and occupied in both world wars. Its most famous moment was the disastrous fall of Sedan in 1870 when Napoleon III lost the Franco-Prussian war. The fortress has been constantly enlarged until it is now the biggest fortified castle in Europe. South of Sedan is Fort de Vitry-la-Ferte, once the end of the Maginot line which was supposed to be an impregnable barrier to the German army in WWII.
About the stamps
The stamp belong to the definitive series Marianne de la jeunesse, about which I wrote here.
Traveller's Guide: French Ardennes - Independent
Sent from Autruche (Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine / France), on 23.12.2015