Visiting Bergues, France: with town walls fortified by Vauban and preserved gates
Recalling past, military campaigns
This town in northern France was fortified by distinguished military engineer Vauban (1), responsible for many, similar fortifications also, particularly on France's borderlands. In France, republicans speak of the natural frontiers of the Hexagon (French: l'Hexagone), but, some centuries back, the borders of France were far from obvious or natural. Realities on the ground were basically created militarily and by the periodic treaties which ensued. Flanders — in its broader definition — was for many years a scene of conflict.
Thus, Bergues is a town which became part of France in 1668, following successful French military activity. To defend it, massive fortifications were put in place by Louis XIV's celebrated military engineer, although the town — already a prosperous port in the Middle Ages under the Hanseatic League — had previously been fortified under Spanish rule.
The fortifications have largely survived, and their thick walls are punctuated by a number of town gates: the Dunkirk Gate (French: Porte de Dunkerque), the Cassel Gate (French: Porte de Cassel), the Bierne Gate (French: Porte de Bierne) and the Hondschoote Gate (French: Porte d'Hondschoote).
Bergues is located in an area of northern France, not far from the Belgian border, which is known as Blootland, a Dutch word referring to the Flemish maritime plain. In the Middle Ages, sea-going ships were received at the town. Today, Bergues is situated administratively in the Dunkirk arrondissement of France's Nord department.
I walked out to Bergues from Dunkirk, although I would probably not advise this unless the visitor had plenty of time both to cover the distance, and to do justice to the town's noted visitor attractions.
February 25, 2013
(1) Sébastien Le Prestre, Marquis of Vauban ( 1633-1707) gave distinguished service to French King Louis XIV in the design of many military defensive structures.
Also worth seeing
In Bergues itself, its belfry and Town Hall are striking structures, as are also the church of St. Martin, and the remains of St. Winoc's Abbey (the full name of the town is sometimes given as Bergues-Saint-Winoc; Dutch: Sint-Winoksbergen — the area was formerly Dutch-speaking, and a few local people in this area of France still have a knowledge of Dutch).
Dunkirk (distance: 9.3 kilometres) has a number of noted buildings, including some impressive belfries, an old tower called the Leughenaer and the church of St. Eloi.
How to get there: United Airlines flies to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, where car rental is available, and the French SNCF railroad company maintains a service from Paris to Bergues (distance between Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport and Bergues: 262 kilometres). But the nearest large international airport is Brussels Airport (Brussel-Nationaal / Bruxelles-National), where car rental is available (distance between Brussels Airport and Bergues: 173 kilometres). Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Reference to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities is also advisable.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
Other of my hubpages may also be of interest
- Visiting Bergues, France, with its Belfry: memories of a prosperous Flemish town in the Middle Ages
- Visiting Dunkirk, France: city of magnificent Flemish belfries
- Visiting the Old Town of Calais, France: memories and architecture from centuries past
- Visiting Hondschoote and its Town Hall: 16th century Gothic symbol of the state at an extremity of F
- Visiting the Calmeynbos, Belgium: nature reserve as psychological barrier and healer
For your visit, these items may be of interest
More by this Author
- 0Visiting Lougheed House, Calgary, Alberta: a National Historic Site of Canada, this sandstone mansion dates from 1891
Lougheed House, Calgary, has been a real witness to the history of Alberta. Associated with a dynasty of Provincial leaders, its 19th century sandstone walls have harboured many distinguished visitors
25,000 people are said to have perished at this concentration camp on French soil, functioning between 1941 and 1944. 25,000 people. Albert Speer, later Hitler's production supremo, was linked with it
- 0Visiting Laguna del Sauce: An Uruguayan 70 square km reflecting pool of multidimensional refractions
An inland lagoon in Uruguay reflects light, hills and history. Nearby Punta del Este - whose airport is named for Laguna del Sauce - served as an ideological crucible pitting JFK against Che Guevara.
No comments yet.