From Carcassonne the railroad tracks go east, west, and south. In the last 6 years while living here we’ve used them to travel to other countries as far as London, Amsterdam, and Venice. Within France they’ve taken us to the borders with all eight surrounding countries plus the Atlantic Ocean, the English Channel, and the Mediterranean Sea. Although we’ve passed by the next station down the line from here, originally called Eburomagus (Yew Market) by the Romans in 600 BC, we were always on the way to a distant destination. With a journey time of only 10 minutes and a rail fare starting at 1 euro, it was time to hop aboard and visit the town now known as Bram.
The rail route that we were taking out of Carcassonne towards Toulouse was initiated in 1857 following the path of the Roman road, Voie d’Aquitaine, constructed over 2000 years earlier. It made sense, therefore, to make our first stop the archaeological museum Eburomagus that traces the area’s history with excavated articles from prehistoric times up through the Middle Ages. The displays make it easy to understand daily life including social interactions and funeral practices especially during Roman times.
From the entrance to the museum we had to walk only 3 blocks to move 1200 years ahead in time from those ancient relics to a creation from the Middle Ages: the circular village. Bram is the largest example of this early form of urban planning in Europe. The concept was to lay out the rows of houses in concentric circles around the town’s center of power, typically the ruler’s castle but in this case, a church. Much like a compass, a long rope was tied to a central stake at the castle and then circular building sites laid out from there.
We were now at the middle of the circle looking up at the bell tower of the 13th century church St. Julien and St. Basilisse. It’s believed that the current building stands on the foundation of what was first a 10th century church before being transformed into a castle, the walls of which have all now disappeared.
From the middle of town we started walking to the outskirts (featured photo above) where the Canal-du-Midi has been passing through since 1673. Those flat boats allowed the townspeople and farmers to transport their goods to market and also gave them a place to wash their clothes, le lavoir, that we could still see in place. Ironically, the canal even provided the water to its competition, the steam train, when the station opened in 1857.
We were now at the canal port from where, if we’d had a boat with us, we could have sailed back home since this same canal would have returned us to Carcassonne. However, with a maximum speed limit of 8 km/hr (5 miles/hr) that was going to take over 4 hours so we opted to use our train ticket to get back in just 10 minutes.