We have a board game, Carcassonne, which involves assembling roads, fortresses, and cities in a medieval countryside. Who knew that it was modeled after a real medieval fortress-town in the south of France?

Fortifications at Carcassonne.

The real Carcassonne, as it turns out, is a medieval hilltop town enclosed by stone fortifications. Except for damage caused by an ambitious artist (look up “concentric circles Carcassonne”), the walls are in surprisingly good shape.

Entryway with drawbridge.

The Carcassonne town walls enclose a small cathedral, a few hotels or bed and breakfast inns, some restaurants, and quite a few shops. And it includes a museum of torture for the tourist trade. The entry shown above is the only access for (small) cars, and we saw one or two to cross the drawbridge, perhaps on their way to the hotel.

Cathedral in Carcassonne.

The cathedral (technically a minor basilica) forms the spiritual if not physical center of the town. Its furnishings included a pipe organ and some strikingly beautiful stained glass windows. Worship service times posted at the door show that it is still in use.

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