What I knew about Avignon was only a little song that we have learnt at the secondary school during one lesson in French. „On the bridge of Avignon you dance, dance, dance…”

Now I know a liiitle bit more.

Avignon is a little town with a population of about 90 000 citizens situated over the Rhone river. The bridge is not the only thing the town is popular with. In 1309 Pope Clement the Fifth has chosen it for his domicile (instead of Rome) and in the next nearly 70 years 7 Popes have taken turns to govern. For that reason one of the most remarkable sights is the Palace of the Popes. The whole central part of the town is surrounded by stone walls that have protected it. But actually their height is way too insignificant for any serious defense. Mainly they have relied on the strength of the palace itself whose walls are up to 5 meters in thickness.

In my opinion this part of the town looks a little like Venice with its narrow streets wrapped like a labyrinth. Most buildings are old and peeling, and almost everywhere you can see scratched graffiti. However everything seems way more beautiful and romantic when the night falls and they switch on the street lights that are actually street lanterns hung up on the walls of the buildings. The interesting little shops and pubs, whose only furniture consists of few chairs and tables, also make for the pleasant atmosphere.

The bridge of Avignon is actually called the Bridge of Saint Benezet. Saint Benezet was a shepherd-boy before whom appeared God with the order to build a bridge over the Rhone. He managed to find financial supporters through the miraculous lifting of an enormous boulder and that way began the construction of the bridge whose length is over 900 meters and that had to connect Avignon with Villeneuve-les-Avignon. The bridge has had great strategic significance because it had been the only one between Lyon and the Mediterranean lands but the frequent high waters started taking away parts of it on regular basis. The destroyed parts were replaced with wooden ones but after one great inundation in 1668 the bridge was stopped from running order. With the passage of time only 4 of the total number of 22 arches remained. Saint Benezet himself was buried at a little chapel on the bridge that is still there.

But it turned out that the song is not completely true. Most probably the people have not danced on the bridge but below it, on the place where it goes over a little island in the river.

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