A great history about another side of this beautiful world
Provence is a historical region of France,occupying the southeastern part of the country. The name Provence itself dates back to the Roman conquest of Gaul. The Romans, who owned the southern lands beyond the Alps, called “Provincia Nostra” – “our province” or simply “Provincia” – “province.” Today, this historical territory is officially part of the region of Provence – Alps – Cote d’Azur, the districts of Provence are administratively divided between six departments of the region.
The look of Provence
Provence is multi-layered and diverse. It is illuminated by unusually saturated sunlight and painted with dazzling colors that inspired famous artists. The face of Provence is painted by the sun and the sea, blown by the wind mountain plateaus and gorges of rivers, medieval villages clinging to impregnable mountain steeps, and lavender fields, filling with a magical fragrance the surrounding towns, which resemble the scenery for films about fairy kingdoms. This corner of France is a great place to travel, whether you choose to climb dry, bush-covered mountain slopes and sun-bleached cliffs, or explore the green river valleys with rapid streams and waterfalls.Provence is a luxurious sea and ski resorts, beautiful historical museums, galleries of modern art, the splendor of the architecture of ancient towns. Travellers from all over the world flock here for the days of the AvignonTheatre Festival, bullfights in Arles and Nimes,carnivals and lavender festivals in many cities.Provence is the place where the legend of a living and open French character was born. There are a lot of smiles, laughter, divine food and great wine. Market day in any city of Provence – a real noisy and bright holiday, imbued with the aroma of peaches, forest strawberries, honey melons, figs, mushrooms, spicy cheese, herbs. And just next to the noisy square you will certainly find a charming quiet cafe, where it is pleasant to relax from the bustle, drinking a glass of cool pink wine or a glass of fragrant anise tincture of pastis.
The fertile shores of the Mediterranean Sea,which overlook the southern regions of Provence, have long been known to the peoples who created classical civilizations. The Phoenicians were the first to land on the coast of Provence, and later there were Greeks, who founded numerous factors on the coast – Massalia (now Marseille),which eventually became a real trading empire,Nicae (Nice),Antinopol (Antibes), Kifirist (La Siota).
Bronze Age Dolmen (2500 – 900 BC) near Dragignan
In the 2nd century BC, the Roman senate established a protectorate over part of the region, and in the next century the Romans finally established themselves in the local area. They brought to the region their best-performing vision of urban infrastructure and architecture. Roads were built here, viaducts, triumphal arches and arenas were erected. Built for centuries, surprising the technology of engineering solutions. The most striking examples of Roman buildings can be found in the cities of Nimes, Avignon, Arle, Orange.
After the decline of the Roman Empire, this territory was subjected to an invasion of the German barbarians – Visigoth (480), then the Ost prepared and, finally, the Franks (VI V. In the 7th century, Provence was invaded by Berber pirates who came here from North Africa, and later part of its territory was influenced by the Umayyad caliphate.
At the end of the 7th century Provence was formally subordinated to the Frankish kings, from 742 to 814 was part of the empire of Charlemagne. As a result of the Treaty of Verdun, which divided the empire into three parts in 843, Provence found itself in the heart of the Burgundy kingdom, whose rulers, however, were little interested in these lands, entrusting their management to the local seniors, The Earls of Arle and Avignon.
Since the end of the 12th century, French kings, seeking to consolidate their influence in the southern regions, began to use political and marriage unions for this purpose. As a result of one of them power in Provence passed into the hands of the royal offspring – Count of Anjou. In the 15th century, after the happy years of King Rene the Good (the 15th century), who also belonged to the House of Anjou, the French king himself became the Earl of Provence. By the way, Rene the Good is known as the last king of the troubadour. At his court in Aix-en-Provence, poets, musicians and artists were well-promoted, and he was considered one of the most generous patrons of art.
Arc de Triomphe in Orange (1st century AD)In 1486 Provence was legally incorporated into the French royal domain. Local seniors lost many of their privileges, and the region itself was involved in the “war of religions” that engulfed France in the 16th century. The following centuries brought suffering and oppression to the people of Provence, which led to protests against the authorities in the 17th century, during the Front, and in the 1990s, during the French Revolution.In the 19th century, Provence entered a time of prosperity. The ports of Marseille and Toulon connected it with the colonies of France in North Africa and the Middle East. In the second half of the 19th century, Napoleon III annexed Niceto France, which had been part of the Duchy of Savoy since 1338, restoring the region’s former integrity. At this time the railway connected Marseille with Paris,then from the capital went trains to Nice and Toulon. The coastal cities of Nice,Antibes, Yer have become prestigious resorts, a favorite holiday destination of the European aristocracy.
The dramatic events of the twentieth century were not spared and Provence. The region was particularly affected during the Second World War. In 1942, the Germans occupied all of Provence, and thousands of people, mostly Jews and members of the Resistance, ended up in concentration camps. After the war, Provence faced a huge challenge in rebuilding infrastructure. In the early 1960s, French citizens who had fled Algeria after independence from the former colony, as well as immigrants from North Africa, poured in. Numerous North African communities have settled in the major cities of Provence, mainly in Marseille and Toulon.
The construction of new highways, in particular the Paris-Marseille motorway, which opened in 1970, marked the beginning of the development of mass tourism in the region. In 1981, these cities were connected by the VGA rail network, where high-speed trains in just 3 hours deliver passengers from the French capital to Marseille.
The historic region of Provence includes various landscape zones of the south of France. In the north and east it is limited to the Alps, in the west – the river Rhone, in the south its coast washed the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Accordingly, the terrain of this multifaceted region is very diverse. The background is blown by the wind high mountain plateaus, hills on the slopes of which olive trees and grapes grow, valleys where the fields are dotted with myriads of flowers, herbs, marshy lagoons in the Rhone Delta, the sea and the sun, illuminating the amazing light of coastal cities.
If you try to describe Provence from the point of view of modern administrative division, it turns out that it is “split” into the areas belonging to the departments of the Upper Alps, the Alps of Upper Provence, the Seaside Alps, the Bush du Rhone (Rhone’s Estuary), Var, Vaucluse. These departments form the region of Provence – Alps – Cote d’Azur. A kind of geographical curiosity: a very miniature corner of historical Provence was in the department of Drom, part of the neighboring region. This area is called the Provence Drom.
The largest cities in Provence are Aix-en-Provence,its historic capital, and Marseille,the main city of the Provence-Alpes region, the Cote d’Azur.
The climate of Provence
The climate of Provence reflects the diversity of its geography. Thus, the climate on the coast is much milder than in continental areas. The difference between the average minimum temperatures on the coast and in the northern part of Provence exceeds 7 degrees Celsius.
In the alpine foothills and high mountain ranges the climate is much harsher. Winters bring frequent snowfalls and long periods of low temperatures – on average from -15 degrees Celsius to -12 degrees Celsius. In summer in the mountainous area the day is very hot, by the evening it is noticeably cold.
A striking feature of the weather conditions of Provence, or rather, the region located in the Rhone Valley – the famous Mistral, the wind blowing here at a speed from 55 km/h to 200 km/h. In Marseille,for example, he hosts an average of one day out of three. A very strong wind can be in any season, but in winter, when it carries masses of cold air with great speed, the cold at times becomes almost polar.
However, the Mistral has a great advantage – it disperses the clouds. It is to him Provence owes the glory of the most sunny corner of France. The summer months are considered to be high season in Provence. It is especially pleasant to relax here in June, when the daytime temperature does not exceed 30 degrees Celsius.
Good Provence in spring and early autumn – at this time it is warm and sunny. The rains begin in November. In winter in the valley and on the coast the temperature fluctuates within the range of 8… 12 degrees Celsius, snow is not to be expected here.