Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Olbier and Montreal de Sos (updated)

“There is a green hill far away, without a city wall” used to by one of my favourite hymns. “Jesus bids us shine” was another one. Of course now I believe there are lots of new, happy, clappy hymns. Not that this has anything to do with anything. A few months back, the phone rang. It was the French family. Are you doing anything tomorrow? Would you like to come with us to visit £^$&&* ?
And so it came to pass that I set off once again into the unknown. As usual, the unknown was to be found up a steep hill, in blistering heat.
We parked the car in a small village called Olbier. There were only four of us, as the father and the eldest daughter stayed a la maison.
We scouted about for the path. Well they scouted, as I didn’t know what I was looking for. The word fouilles was mentioned a lot, and sounding similar to feuilles (leaves), I assumed that I was facing the exciting prospect of looking for leaves, up a hill.
We wound our way up a steep, narrow zig-zag path, which seemed to be made of du;ped rubble. Our first encounter with wildlife was to meet 3 dung beetles who were busy rolling dung balls. This was a first for me, hence the photo.


We continued up the hill and on a plateau, we found a string of horses or ponies with strange metal hoppers on their backs, and another horse which was tethered to a tree by a long rope.

A short distance in front of us were 2 groups of people. One group with little trowels and small paint brushes were, prodding at the ground, whilst another group were sieving soil.
Having watched “Time Team” I now realised that I was witnessing an archaeological dig.
This particular site is where the remains of a small chateau is being excavated, using volunteer labour. This has been happening every summer for the past several years. Stone walls have been exposed where there was once only soil.

scratching the surface
As we stood watching the slow work taking place before us, the string of ponies with their shepherd, set off down the hill with their hoppers full of rubble.


If you are going to work outside, it is always a bonus to have Impressive views like this to look at.

We wandered around the site, reading the information panels. The castle had been there from the end of the 12th to the beginning of the 15th century and in it’s day was one of the most important castles belonging to the Counts of Foix.
There are also some small caves in the hillside, which allegedly have paintings (we couldn’t see anything) of what could be the Grail, or sheep....
We had a picnic looking out over a valley with the small village of Auzat sparkling below us.

There was little tranquillity though, as two helicopters constantly buzzed along the valley, collecting and depositing building materials to a site in the distance.
Auzat's tannoy system also started up and details of the forthcoming festival, with couscous and dancing, inscriptions to be made by the ?th of July.
After the picnic we had a chat with one of the archaeologists, who showed us items that they had found so far that day. A few bits of pottery and some large rusty square-headed nails. They had recently found a dagger or sword blade. In just a few years, over 13,000 items had been uncovered, some of which could be viewed in the small visitor centre / museum at Auzat.
The eldest of the two girls got very tearful as she wanted to stay and help the archaeologists. It didn’t seem to matter that she knew that she knew that she was a year below the minimum age, to help and that you had to arrange to assist at the dig in advance by letter and perhaps a follow up interview.
She really dawdled down the mountain.
We decided to explore the small village at the foot of the hill. It seemed that many of the houses were not inhabited all year round. :any of them still had the snow boards blocking their entrance doors, and this was July! No wonder villages die out with all these absentee owners.
Here are a few photos of the place.

place de l'apero

the village houses have very thick walls

several houses still had their original bread ovens
 Some of you might be interested to know that this was my 300th post on this blog. No? Oh well, suit yourselves.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to send me your comments or suggestions