A Little History Lesson, July 16, 2011
Stage 16, R131 (Refuge de Furfand à Mont-Dauphin/Guillestre)
10.85 miles, 1,194’ up, 5,297’ down
Go to this map and hover over the triangles to see where the stage we just completed is relative to the entire trail. (The stage beginning and end locations are probably backwards, as we are doing the trail in the opposite direction.)
It took a while to figure out why the Via Alpina route (not so much "trail" today) took us way far down from the mountains into a relatively urbanized area, with a lot of paved road walking (my feet are NOT thankful). But, once we got to Mont Dauphin, we realized the logic.
Mont Dauphin is a UNESCO Historical Site, and really a quite wonderful place to wander (after stashing the backpacks in the souvenir shop storage room). It was designed and built by the Marquis of Vauban between 1694 and 1704, as a strategic outpost (fortified village) to protect the Kingdom of France against invasions from Italy.
The walled fortress of Mont Dauphin
The fortress was never finished, the village was never fully populated, and the stronghold was never actually besieged (although it apparently did serve as a good deterrent).
Vauban was the first to systematize building design -- all barracks and armories, etc. were built the same, instead of the design-build approach that was apparently taken before then. Also, he designed buildings to take advantage of the geography, so that the barracks have one story at the top of the hill, but three stories further down.
In the present day, Mont Dauphin is a combination of historical site (you can walk through the old buildings of the fortress), but it is also a thriving artists' community, with ateliers/shops, restaurants and two places to stay (both of which are full because of the Bastille Day long weekend).
Tomorrow we have to start really hoofing it to make up for the past three "short" days, so that we make it to Modane in time to make it to Geneva for the plane.
View frp, Refuge de Furfande