Thursday, June 05, 2008

Lyon through 2000 years

Lyon is unique in many ways. Here you have monuments going back to pre Christian times. You can walk paved roads as only the Romans could build them. You can see remains of the oldest churches in Western Europe outside Rome, and much of the city centre is classified as a UNESCO World heritage site. For those interested in European history, Lyon is worth visiting and revisiting, as there are so much to learn.

I have only passed through Lyon by train once, as far back as 1986 on my way from Avignon to Strasbourg. Lyon grew up where the rivers Rhône and Saone meet. The oldest part of what used to be Lugdunum was, around 50 BC, located at Fourvière, a cliff easy to defend. The city grew in time under the cliff by the river bank and continued over to the peninsula formed by the two rivers.

The oldest part of the city including the cathedral, the Marcanterie, and the Church of Saint Paul is located here.

On the peninsula you find many equally old buildings. The churches of Saint Ainay, Saint Bonaventure, Hôtel Dieu, and Saint Nizier, all with roots back to the Middle Ages. There are remains from the Roman era as well on the hill leading up to Croix Rousse.

Do take time to walk down the small narrow streets of old Lyon. You can easily see that the base of many of the what seem to be modern buildings are ancient.

You are also recommended to explore the old mysterious passage ways within the old quarters. The west bank is famous for its Tramboules, dark medieval passageways used by the canutes, the silk weavers to move the precious fabrics from workshop to workshop within the quarters.

If you cross over to the peninsula you find passages, as this one - La Passage De L'Abbay de la Deserte, that was built on the its present location in 1304. Mysterious, as an Arab bazaar.

So two thousand years have left their marks. As you cross the Rhône river you move into modern Lyon, with buildings from the 18th to the 20th century. Here you find the financial district in a modern city. I have to admit, I never crossed the Rhône river to visit. This as I wanted to remain in and breathe the atmosphere of a city that has been so important in our European history.

This is the Lyon I look forward to tell you about. A city of extraordinary beauty and roots deeper than most other places I have visited. Stay tuned to tales from a city of history here on Enjoy Food & Travel.

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